PARADOXICAL

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

 

The "desert experience"


(Detailed 09082007 retreat notes from Fr. P.'s lectures. The thoughts transcribed here are the retreat master's, not mine, unless otherwise indicated. This part draws from Carlo Carretto's Letters from the Desert)-R.)


The "desert experience" is a recreation of the desert - a hot, arid place.

In this activity, we recall that Jesus was led to the desert after he was baptized (?), where he was tempted by the devil.

In this exercise called the "desert experience," the retreatants are told to walk without any explicit purpose in mind. It is preferred that one carries no book or any reading material. One may focus on any object that fascinates him/her. The only rule is to observe silence and encounter God in silence.

Again, the other rule is to be aware of these lies from the devil.

Three Temptations of the Devil

In our desert experience, we must be wary of the three temptations by Satan.

But first, this: According to cosmologists, the universe now has no longer any single center, unlike before. This means everybody claims to be the center unto oneself.

What makes the person the center of the universe? Well, to a certain extent, we can easily quote the Bible: "It's because we are imago Dei, created in the "image of God."

This can be misinterpreted as: The human being is the center of the universe. Indeed, aren't we supposed to be timeless (not time-bound), eternal, immortal? Plants and animals have souls but mortal ones.

And, indeed, the deepest identity of Jesus lies in: "This is my son, of whom I am well pleased."

But these thoughts can be exploited by the enemy.

First temptation

"Turn these stones into bread." - This may be rephrased into, "Why can't you, being the special one of God, make spectacular miracles?" "Why is your life so empty?"

One should easily discern how the devil lies through that line of questioning. A believer's answer should be: "One does not live on bread alone." Or "I can be empty and still be God's blessed one."

Second temptation

The second temptation is all about human glory, or its (purported) absence.

Listen to the devil's second lie. "All these will be yours if you..." Or, if rephrased, "If you are so blessed, how come you're so fat/infamous/anonymous/unrecognized/etc.?"

Our answer should be: "Blessedness doesn't depend upon fame."

Third temptation

"Throw yourself down, so God will catch you." - Which means: "Prove your specialness." Or it may be rephrased, "Why aren't you special?"

We are supposed to answer, "We shouldn't put God to the test." "I'll take the stairs down just like everybody else."

Our blessedness or specialness isn't predicated on having special privileges, of having things that set us apart from many others.


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