The desert is the place of silence, of solitude; it is the absence of the exchanges of daily life, its noise and its superficiality. The desert is the place of the absolute, the place of freedom, which sets us before the ultimate demands. Not by chance is the desert the place where monotheism began. In that sense it is a place of grace. In putting aside all preoccupations we encounter our Creator.
Great things have their beginnings in the desert, in silence, in poverty. It is not possible to share in the mission of Jesus, in the mission of the Gospel, without sharing in the desert experience, its poverty, its hunger. That beautiful hunger for justice of which the Lord speaks in the Sermon on the Mount cannot be born in the fulness of satiety... And let us not forget that for Jesus the desert did not end with those forty days. His final, extreme, desert was to be that of Psalm 21: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And from that desert sprang up the waters of the life of the world.