Meditation On Mark 1:13
By Paulette Callen


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Meditation on Mark 1:13
"...and He was with the wild beasts..."

By Paulette Callen

He went into the wilderness to fast and pray.
After forty days and nights they came
as He knew they would and hoped they would not:
fears, doubts, desires, despair.
His humanness raged within Him.
He cried for humanity and for Himself.
He fought a human battle with only human weapons.

Ragged and weary
in unproud triumph
He lies in sand,
awash in wind
and sun, asleep.
They come,
one by one,
and gather,
silent as Quakers
and just as full:
the beasts.
No angel,
Jew, or Gentile,
but the lion stands
in ageing majesty,
against the sun--
a cool shadow
for His rest.
Pariah dogs,
lupine, devoted,
he on one side,
she on the other,
lick His face clean
of tears and sweat,
awakening Him
to wolfy grins.
The lizard, kaleidoscoping
green and brown
and rose scuttles
into the shelter
of His sleeve,
while the locust,
God's soldier, flutters
to His knee to rest,
all pink and glowing
in the sunset. The vulture
with feathers tucked modestly
beneath her like a taffeta
skirt, sits, a gleaming black
matron, beside
the school-girl dove
who has followed Him
and watched over Him
since His cousin's watery
blessing. The snake,
pretty and sleek,
coils humbly, contentedly,
at His feet, shining like
a jewel in the light
of the rising moon.
The ram, escaped
from the safety and bloody
end of the flock -- gone wild,
gone free -- stands serene,
blinking in the twilight.
A desert rat, soft and brown,
climbs into His lap,
puts tiny feet up on His chest
to examine Him, close,
with earnest dark eyes
and snuffling nostrils.
Satisfied all is well with Him now,
he scurries away
on a private mission.
The jackal, shying
among the shadows,
He calls into the circle.

Who knows the mind of a beast or the mind of God?
Who can tell what flows between?

The lion weeps
as He strokes his shagged
and scarry face. Gripping
the grizzled mane, He rises
and they lead Him to water.
The rat erupts from a tiny dune
with figs for His nourishment
from a personal trove.
Refreshed, He plays
with them. The dogs,
wiggling, eager
for games, play tag
with Him. The ram
joins in. The vulture
and the dove, silhouetted
against the moon
dance and dive
to His applause
as the lizard somersaults
in miraculous circles
between earth and sky.
The locust clings
to His shoulder, informally
keeping score.
And the snake rising
in her delicate spiral
sways in soundless harmony
to the rhythm of their play.
The jackal chuckles,
sprawled like a pup
on the sand, belly up,
feet akimbo, giving in
to the joys of the romp.
Even the lion remembers
some kittenish glee
in a mock wrestle
with this gentle man.

I thought I heard an echo of something said
at a place in the desert a long time ago
where a man went to find Himself and finally
breaking His solitude before His fast sought the company
of animals. Why He did this is not so hard to fathom.
Why does anyone seek the company of animals?
For refreshment, companionship.

Perhaps this man had deeper reasons.
The echo I hear is this:
No more scapegoats, my friends.
No more sacrifices.
No more blood of the lamb
on the altarstone.
No more dead pigeons.
No more an eye for an eye,
a tooth for a tooth.
I AM the eye.
I AM the tooth.
Humans are a blood-loving race.
(The earth has never cried for blood,
nor the heavens either.)
Their hunger and thirst
for flesh and blood shall be sated.
I AM become you.
And this is the beginning of the end.
And so, the lion wept.

They came, across miles, some of them,
and formed a gathering:
the lion, the ram,
the jackal, and the locust,
the lizard, pariah dogs,
the snake, the vulture,
the dove (she had never
really left Him),
and the small brown rat.....
they were there, on the misty heels
of the angel who rolled the stone away,
before the Marys, to greet Him
in quiet, doubt-less welcome,
when He walked out of the tomb.