Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Road (Rerun)

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Picture: cc Tim RT

There is someone sitting by the side of the road... It’s a strange sight. The road is meant for travelling, not camping. Yet there he is. Setting up shop. Who is he? Where is he from? What’s wrong with him? … No time to ask. I’m in a rush. I’m on the road. I’ve work to do. And mouths to feed. Got to move on…

And there he is again, that person along the road. Doesn’t he know how unsightly he is? Sitting there in his rags? Doesn’t he have anywhere else to go? I wish I didn’t have to see him everyday. He makes me uncomfortable. But only for a moment. I’ve work to do. Mouths to feed. Bills to pay. Got to move on…

But there’s just no escaping him. Day after day, he sits by the side of the road. Although sometimes I’m in such a hurry, I don’t notice him at all. But he’s there all the same. What to do? Can’t stop to chat. So little time. So much stress. Work to do. Mouths to feed. Bills to pay. Dreams to live. Got to go…

Then one day it happens… The market crashes… A job is lost… A child dies… A spouse leaves… A tumour is discovered… All this while, rushing headlong along this road, desperately trying to get somewhere. Thinking I really have somewhere to get. Now I’ve hit a dead end. Drained and heartbroken. Close to despair. I can’t see a way forward. It’s as though I’m blind. Darkness engulfs me… I collapse in a heap… 

Again, there’s someone by the side of the road. Someone who cannot see. And that someone is me…

How foolish I’ve been. Did I really think I could escape what the letter to the Hebrews calls the limitations of weakness? Did I think that I could cheat even suffering and death? If only I set my mind to it? If only I work hard enough? If only I focus my efforts? I never really give it much thought. But isn’t this how I live my life? Thinking I can buy my own happiness? Earn my own salvation? How foolish and how blind! Only now I begin to see that it is really true, what is written in the scriptures, that no one takes this honour on himself, but each one is called by God.

No matter how hard you work. How rich you are. You cannot save yourself. You need to be called.

So when they tell me that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by I do not hesitate. I do not care what others might think. He is my only hope, I say to myself. He is my salvation! He will show me a way out. He will let me see again. So, shamelessly, I cry out as loudly as I can. In a voice choked with emotion, I beg him to have pity on me.

And, wonder of wonders, he calls me over. Jesus of Nazareth. The promised Saviour. He actually calls me. What do you want me to do for you? He asks. I’m not sure how he will react when I tell him. At first I think he’ll simply point me in the direction I need to go. Open my eyes to a road I’ve not seen before. But he does so much more. He leads me along the way. He is the way.

It is a mysterious path. Narrow and winding. But as long as I hold onto him. Sometimes tightly grasping his hand. Sometimes barely hanging on to the edge of his cloak. As long as I cling to him, I do not fall. Steep as it sometimes is, with him leading me, I persevere on the road. And as we travel on together, I can’t help but be reminded of that verse from Jeremiah: I will bring them back… all of them: the blind and the lame… women in labour… I will comfort them as I lead them back, by a smooth path where they will not stumble.

Even so, as the road wears on, parts of it seem strangely familiar. In some ways it looks like the same road on which I’d fallen those many days, or was it months, or even years, ago. I’m reminded of that very spot where I’d collapsed by the side of the road. And fear grips my heart. But the Saviour’s steps remain sure. His guiding hands gentle yet firm.

At the crucial point where I think I will again collapse under the weight of my difficulties, he takes my place. He offers his shoulder to the dark wood. His hands and feet to the cold steel. His life in exchange for my own.

And yet, miracle of miracles, in spite of his sacrifice – or rather, because of it – he lives! And so do I!

In the words of the psalmist, What marvels the Lord worked for us! Indeed we were glad… Then was our mouth filled with laughter, on our lips there were songs. 

Yes, there is so much for which to be grateful. So many reasons to rejoice. So much to remember and to celebrate. Which is what I do especially in church every Sunday. But even as I join others in celebration, I need also to remain in motion. On the road. No longer in anxiety and ambition. But now in mercy and compassion. For there are others wishing so desperately to see again. Many more waiting to hear the call of salvation.

Yes, there is still someone sitting by the side of the road…

What am I going to do about it today?

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