Monday, September 9, 2013
A Heavenly Vantage Point: 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
In college I learned to despise trail running. Now some of you may despise running period, but bear with me. Whenever our coach told my team to hit the trails I cringed. Inevitably we would run far longer than we were supposed to. It always seemed to be the hottest and most humid day and we went without water. And we couldn’t stay on the well groom trails—we went bushwacking through hip-high weeds. Worst of all, we would get lost without fail.
This summer I have been exploring the trails once more. I was in Hartley with my friend Zach and the old panic I remembered well crept into our run. We had been going for twenty-five minutes and didn’t know where we were. Luckily we got on a trail that led us to the top of a large hill, on which we could look over all of Hartley and Woodland. Because of this vantage point we were able to get back on track and as I am here today you know that I lived.
When faced with day-to-day decisions—both large and small—we at times proceed with confidence, at others caution and still others confusion. Sometimes life is like being lost on the trails—it can be tiring, frustrating and confusing. The book of Wisdom says as much: “For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty…”
It is in such moments that God provides us with a vantage point to guide us; namely, detachment from earthly possessions. Jesus says in the Gospel, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Now Jesus is not giving us permission to fight with our siblings or family, but is showing us that “anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”
I have used an activity with kids to illustrate this point. I ask them to list things they like and when they say, “My dog,” “Dairy Queen,” and “Nintendo,” I put a zero on the blackboard. Then I add my own likes—country music, fishing and running. After everyone has had a chance to speak we are left with a number of zeroes on the board. I then ask what number is there. You mathematicians know that any number of zeroes still is zero. Then I tell the kids, “Watch this…” and I put the number one before all the zeroes. Now what was nothing becomes a huge number.
This is what Jesus is saying in the Gospel. At an earthly level we have many likes, but if God doesn’t come first these are really worth nothing and can become a distraction. But if God is first, all that is around takes on eternal value. Plus we are able to have a heavenly vantage point on the path of our life.
Don’t be like me running around Hartley aimlessly. Put God first and you will receive a unique vantage point on life. Give God everything you have and are and you will have direction, especially in the moments of confusion.