THE P RTAL November 2017 Page 24 We need the wilderness more than paradise Fr Ed Tomlinson has been musing about wilderness and paradise T he settings of ‘wilderness’ and ‘paradise’ frequently crop up in scripture. What we learn is surprising. Though the wilderness is desolate and wild, even scary, it is nevertheless where man encounters God, whilst paradise, despite its allure, is where humans frequently lose sight of the living God. No wonder the Baptist chose to minister in the wilderness, a few days’ walk from civilisation. No wonder David fell into adultery when loafing questions in defence of the faith via dubia, or the one around on sumptuous cushions! made head of a new institution for the family despite having constructed a scandalous mural in a church We touch on an enduring truth. It is, often, those depicting himself carried up to heaven in homosexual who dwell in the wilderness - the poor, the suffering, embrace? And in history, was the voice of Christ in the outcast - who discern a need for God, whilst the St John Fisher who paid with his head in defence of affluent and comfortable, dwelling in the paradise of marriage or the countless bishops who did nothing earthly palaces, rely instead on self. and refused to stand up to Henry? Once we grasp this biblical truth, much becomes Too often, we are swayed by the powerful at cost clear. We understand why the church currently thrives to the faith. We assume ‘the poor’ are those without in Africa, China and Asia but languishes, in moribund money. But apply the biblical test and it becomes state, in the West. clear the poor are actually those with bulging wallets but empty souls. Is it not time then for a change in Perhaps the only Christian crisis today is that the direction? narrative is being set by failing elites in the paradise of a Western secular culture in contradiction to what is Ought we not to beg missionaries from the third actually facilitating growth out there in the grass roots world to visit our shores? Not in a servile capacity to of the wilderness! fill empty parishes - but to lead and admonish and teach. Might we even go so far as to call for an African The biblical teaching on wilderness and paradise Pope when the conclave next gathers? also brings clarity to debate. When myriad voices claim to speak for Christ, we simply need ask, which The only time in Scripture - after the fall - that speaks from the wilderness of virtue and which from God is found in paradise, is at the resurrection when a paradise of corruption? Is the claim for taking up a Christ walks in the garden. We can conclude that, for cross or laying it down? Does it seek fidelity to God Christians, paradise exists in the next life, not this. In or populist conformity to the world? Motives then this life, faith is dependent on wilderness experience; become clear. the taking up of the cross; the selling of all we have… not because the poor need it but because we do; because Who is speaking for Christ today? The controversial we are so are burdened by worldly desire; so corrupted but popular Jesuit, swanning around Hollywood with by wealth and power; so disabled by entitlement as to celebrity chums and writing dodgy theology to suggest lose sight of God entirely. the church can incorporate the morality of the LGBT community? Or the martyrs of Syria who died because John the Baptist chose to dwell in the wilderness they refused to compromise the Gospel of Christ to a little removed from the culture around him. The extremists? church would be wise to follow his example. And which Cardinal ought we to listen to? The traditionalist who suffered loss of status for raising Geoffrey Kirk is poorly. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope and pray that he will be back soon.