Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friday in the 24th Week of Ordinary Time
Accepting Our Traveling Companion

Readings: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20; Psalm 17:1bcd, 6-7, 8b and 15; Luke 8:1-3
Picture: CC dontdothisathome

Those who have done it before sometimes tell us that going on a trip with a friend typically has one of two consequences. It either reinforces or ruins the relationship. This has probably to do both with the sudden decrease in space between each person, as well as the sudden increase in time spent together. Especially if you’re sharing a hotel room, there’s nothing like a trip to highlight every little idiosyncrasy, every little behavioral quirk in another person. Little things – such as snoring, or noisy bathroom habits, or taking too much time over a meal – things that may often escape notice in the usual interaction between friends, suddenly seem to take center stage. The question one is faced with then is how much one values the relationship – enough to accept these new, and perhaps less than desirable, discoveries about the other?

Listening to our gospel reading today, we may well wonder if something of the same process took place among the traveling companions described there. Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, we are told. And accompanying him were the Twelve and some women… What was it like for these followers of Jesus as they followed him on his journey? What was it like to be in such close physical and emotional proximity to the Lord, and to his other followers? We may well surmise that in addition to the geographical itinerary that they all traversed in common, there was also a spiritual journey that each one had to make, a passage into deeper relationship with the Lord.

Consider, for example, how some of them came to be followers of Jesus. Some of the women, we’re told, had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities. And it is at least probable that many others were hoping that Jesus might liberate the Jews from foreign rule. And yet, we also know well the destination towards which Jesus was heading – Calvary and the Cross. What was it like for those first disciples, as their journey progressed? What was it like to see their initial hopes gradually fade away with the diminishment and death of their chosen Master?

Quite likely, each disciple faced a similar daunting challenge. It is the same challenge that Paul writes about in the first reading. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable people of all… It is the awesome project of allowing our hopes in Christ to be deepened (and not destroyed) by his Passion and Death. It is the difficult task of receiving the grace to believe in the Resurrection of the Lord. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we should give up our work in this world. Quite to the contrary, it means allowing our otherworldly hope inform and strengthen our earthly efforts.

Journeying together with this traveling companion of ours – so human and also so divine – we find ourselves led to the boundaries of our hope. The question we face is whether or not we are willing to cross those boundaries, whether or not we are ready to accept the peculiar idiosyncrasies of our traveling companion, and move with him into the peace and joy of the Kingdom.

Care for a vacation together anyone?


  1. How is it like to travel with Jesus? This excerpt from The Secrets of the Vine" by Bruce Wilkinson gives some clues:

    [A paraphrasing of John 13, on the Passover night that Jesus spent with his apostles before his death:]

    Hey James, let's get to the temple early. I don't want to miss ten thousand angels teaching those Roman legions a lesson.

    Psst, Matthew! I'd say our money woes are about to be history!

    The disciples expect that these lamplit hours among friends in the upper room will carry on into the evening, poignant but peaceful, full of toasts to the good years to come. But things begin to unravel...

    And supper being ended.. Jesus.. .rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and begin to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (v.2-5)

    Shocked, the men can only watch in shame as Messiah swabs grime from between their toes. Water plinks into the bowl. The disciples shift nervously, not daring to speak. Why would tomorrow's king behave like tonight's houseboy?

    It gets worse. "Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me," Jesus announces (v. 21). The stunned men look around the circle. Then comes the clincher. Jesus tells Peter that before sunup, he will deny his Lord three times. An awful realization begins to dawn: Their whole mission is doomed.

    Of course, Jesus has been trying to tell them for months that His appointment in Jerusalem is with a cross, not a throne. But His warnings have been mixed with predictions that Messiah is about to return in power and glory, and the disciples have heard what they wanted to hear.

    But tonight Jesus strips away their last hopes. "A little while longer and the world will see Me no more," He says, "but you will see Me." That rules out any public triumph.

    Jesus presses on. The final blow sounds like a concession statement: "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming." That can mean only one thing: Jesus is not the ruler; He will not be King.

    Now I see pain written all over the disciples' faces.

  2. I so love "Secrets of the Vine", just as I love the subversive Jesus and how he manages to upset what's nice and conventional and fake and dead in the world, and to do and say what's genuine and necessary for REAL LIFE.

    What would travelling with such a companion be like in today's world?
    We would always find beauty on the road however impoverished the physical environment; we'd not be embarrassed to stop and look into the eyes of a beggar and feel moved to share our packed lunch with him; we might dine with dignitaries or field labourers and still hold meaningful conversations about life; we'd trust that there will be shelter at the end of the day even if it is only a dry stable.

    Most of all, we'd be free to be ourselves as it's not much point hiding our strengths or weaknesses from the One who knows and accepts us no matter what. We'd shed conventional roles and rules and regulations which do not serve LOVE and LIFE.

    On the flip side, when we get too vocal or passionate about our dreams for the kingdom and sing one psalm too many out of sheer joy, we may find that "there's no room in the inn" for us in "proper" society, but I guess we can still camp under the stars with the One who made the stars.

    Says John Eldredge in "Waking the Dead": Christianity (ie travelling with Jesus) isn't a religion about going to Sunday School, potluck suppers, being nice, holding car washes or sending our secondhand clothes to Mexico--as good as those things might be......It's about knowing God intimately, heart to heart", by travelling with Christ to wherever the joutney takes us--to the cross on the hill and beyond....

    For me, finding spiritual companions who'd travel this road together is the closest I can imagine to taking the actual journey with Christ as the disciples did.

    Travelling with such friends while seeing each other through the eyes of Jesus' love and acceptance, much of our human limitations as a travel companion take a back seat as we may be too busy enjoying the REAL journey of LIFE to see the speck in our brother's or sister's eye.

    Let's vacation! :)