Commentary on Father Médaille's Contemplation on the Mystery of Jesus'Baptism

 and Desert Solitude:

This is a "transition" contemplation. Father Médaille situates us in the quiet, unfolding drama of Jesus' life and reveals the most interior of Spirit movements that inspire and activate his life directions. The call to move out of his home in Nazareth, to leave the familiar and the secure way of life, begins with an interior prompting that persists, prods, lures and calls him to make this transition from his hidden life into his public life. Now is the kairos, the right time, and he is interiorly free to move. It was "the loving will which was urging you to begin your public life in order to accomplish the work of our redemption."

Father Médaille invites us to look in upon a most tender familial scene of discernment. Jesus' own interior listening affirms that this is the time to move into his public ministry. His sense of the Father's call to this spiritual "direction" is clear and focused now, and he is ready to move forward. Mary, too, has been pondering and listening, discerning the call of God upon her Son. She is present to Jesus now as a communal support in his own discernment. "Your holy mother knew your plans and knew also the loving will which was urging you to begin." And so "the tender farewells" were a mark of mutual encouragement and abiding on-going love that would support each other in their fidelity of "calls".

Since this was going to be a major shift, a radical change in the direction of Jesus' life and ministry, he presents himself to John the Baptist to undergo his sacrament of initiation. Jesus' willingness to submit to the Law and to submit to a "baptism of repentance" is preparation for his break-through experience of hearing the confirmation of the Father's voice within: "This is My Beloved Son, is whom I am well pleased." (Mt. 3:17) This sets Jesus in his course, confirmed in his identity and destiny... and He commits himself to it with his full being. Father Médaille and Carl Jung seemed to both realize that the strength and conviction of one's vocation call was integral to the individuation process and this interior and exterior "confirmation" were signs that God's call was upon the person.

"What is it, in the end, that induces a man to go his own way and to rise out of unconscious identify with the mass...? It is what is commonly called vocation... (which) acts like a law of God from which there is no escape... Anyone with a vocation hears the voice of the inner man: he is called."
(C.G. The Development of Personality, as quoted in The Christian Archetype, Edward Edinger, p. 45)

Like Jesus, we too will need to submit ourselves first to the outer authority of another (a John, a precursor of the Lord) in preparation for the experience of the transpersonal "Other" within. We, too, need to commit ourselves with our whole being to the unique "vocation" of our lives. Have you heard the Father's voice: "This is my beloved daughter/son in whom I am well pleased"?

Have I humbled myself to be in submission to another person - a spiritual director or spiritual minister? Have I gone down into the waters of the unconscious and sought a re-birth? Am I disposed to a visitation of the Spirit upon me to give me my destiny, my true identity?

The Gospel and this contemplation remind us that immediately after Jesus' baptism at the Jordan he "withdrew then into the desert to undergo a fast of forty days without food or drink and in prayer and solitude." This sequence refers to the danger of inflation that accompanies an encounter with the Self. The "fast" will keep Jesus (and us) grounded in his humanity, interiorly disciplined to the voice of the Father and the promptings of the Spirit. He is being "spiritually exercised" to "do only the things that the Father wills." This desert experience of 40 days and 40 nights is a period of intense preparation for Jesus' public life and ministry. Father Médaille, as a wise father and spiritual director, knew that for Jesus and for us, a time of more intense solitude and prayer would dispose the soul to receive the Holy Spirit, "the Spirit who alone guides us in our ministries."

In the desert, one is emptied, purified... of one's own plans, ambitions, and egotistical desires. The prayer, fasting, and the continual mortification of the senses cause us to undergo a veritable struggle with the "false self". Besides the "desert" being the place of the great purification, it is also the place of the great transformation. Here the soul encounters the living God. From within the solitude emerges the transforming fire of God's love for us personally. Stripped of so much distraction and excess, the purity and clarity of one's "call" emerges into consciousness. There is a strong sense of being called and being sent forth on a particular mission. The soul "knows" God is the guide and shining torch-bearer leading one into one's unique ministry. The "desert solitude" then is a pre-disposition to awaken our listening hearts to our sense of mission and ministry. Father Médaille calls us in this prayer to ponder this essential truth:

"Grant that through prayers, solitude, fasting and continual mortification, we may dispose ourselves to receive your Holy Spirit in order to be guided by him in our ministries, and filled with the light of his grace
and the fire of his love."

Can you not sense Jean-Pierre's passion for ministry burning here? Only from this divine source can anyone "bring fire upon the earth... and Oh how I wish it were burning already." The asceticism of the "desert" only disposes us to receive the fire of the Spirit of Love that moves us into our mission in the world. How clearly Father Médaille grasped and thought that all true, authentic ministry must flow from and be guided by a personal charism, a pure gift of the Spirit given to a particular person for some particular service that the people/community has need of in this time. Jesus' own example of withdrawing into a period of desert solitude to pray teaches us how we can do our ministry discernments. If all authentic ministry is to be born of the Spirit, if ministry is a pure gift of the Spirit, then one must dispose oneself to receive this gift which will of its own, overflow into its complementary ministry.

Our public ministry, our works of zeal for the neighbour must spring form such a pure Source, must come from an awareness of "being sent" to these people. We can contemplate Jesus in his desert solitude being so interiorly at-one-with the Father that he "becomes formidable to demons, overcomes all their temptations." The same strength, power, light and "fire of holy love" can sustain and move us with courage and power against all the forces of darkness and evil that might attack us in our journey to be faithful to God's call. The power-intoxicated devil still active in our collective unconscious and in our culture will try to entice the soul "called by God" to divert to worldly ambitions and the snare of being recognized and honoured. One goes into the desert to be "filled with the Spirit" and to experience how the Spirit "expels the demons" - not oneself! The forces of God and evil, of light and darkness, of love and hate are conquered in God alone.

Now one is ready to leave the desert, "being enabled to work effectively for the salvation of others when called to do so." In the freedom of so much detachment from creatures, in the freedom from co-dependence, one can leave "those dearest to us whenever it is a question of going where we can help others and work effectively to promote the glory of your Father." Father Médaille's spirituality calls us to be always ready to move on to the more, to be free to leave a place, a ministry, when it is discerned that one is being called forward. We are always pilgrim souls, mobile, free, unattached - all God's! Therefore, we have no lasting dwelling place on this earth.