Believe it or not, once we lived without cars! We walked or else we used the horse and the buggy. The story goes that this couple was riding home when a sudden storm struck them. It was dark and the tempest was intense. The horse was scared, the dirt road was filling with water, the wheels started getting stuck in the mud. However the husband was a skilled horseman and knew what needed to be done.
At a certain point however, the wife seeing the open narrow bridge they had to cross, panicked. She managed to get hold of one of the reins. The husband resisted frantically but when he saw he could not control her terror, handed over both reins. “Only one of us can lead or else we both perish.” She quickly returned the reins and they made it home safely.
Christian life is something like this. One is the driver and the other is the passenger. As long as we let Him be the driver, then we are safe. If because of panic or contrary situations, we grab one or both reins and try to reassume control, even partially, then we are heading towards disaster.
When asked how she could handle stress when her only daughter, a teenager of 15 was dying of a terminal sickness, the response of this mother was candid. “I need to take stress more graciously. This is where the Holy Spirit needs to come into play. I know that throughout my daughter’s treatment the level of stress was always at an all time high. It’s almost as if drowning everyday. But I kept telling myself, ‘God, this is too much to bear, please teach me to swim’.”
Their daughter was born Down’s syndrome. Many thought this was unfair. They, a family in mission here in Guam, just remarked, “Father Pius, truly this is a joy that does not come from this world. When we saw our daughter we immediately realized she was Down’s syndrome and our hearts was filled with joy, peace and tenderness. Everything is in the hands of God and as you well repeat many times, He is so creative and exhilarating. We do not know how it is possible to rejoice holding a child with Down’s syndrome however this is what came to pass. We are happy and in peace and we know that she is the real missionary in our home. Our assignment was to bring her into this world, here. She, small, weak, useless for the world is the perfect missionary that reminds us why we are here and it is a sign of the love that God has for our modest family. A marvel that we do not merit. Please, pray for us…”
This is what discipleship is all about. Following Him wherever He leads us, knowing that He will never disappoint us. If He leads us to sickness, to a financial ruin, to an obnoxious marriage… He is the driver, He knows where we need to go, He does not make mistakes. He knows best.
One good thing about Jesus, is that He does not reveal his long term plans to us. He just shows us the next step ahead. It is always precarious. “Foxes have dens, birds have nests, but the Son of Man is homeless…” Discipleship implies trust in Him who is marking the way.
It means also removing all obstacles from the way. How many because of family ties, fail to do God’s will. This is why He is so adamant and when someone asks him to let him do the holy duty of burying his father, Jesus just answers, “Let the dead take care of the dead while you go and tell about the kingdom of God.”
It is all a question of keeping our eyes focused on him. You cannot look back. “Anyone who starts plowing and keeps looking back isn’t worth a thing in God’s kingdom.” The opposite of looking back is to look ahead. In my catechetical ministry, I have found it quite difficult to have Christians “look ahead”. They seem more content to look at just where they are or where they used to be, ‘the good old days’, rather than where they might be, namely a daring adventure in sanctity.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of the most insightful theologians of the 20th century, said there is a cost to discipleship. It is the cost of love. Love is drastic or else it is not love.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.