This morning I drove up to Mount Buffalo (in Victoria Australia), with one of the parishioners. It was a really challenging drive because of the narrow and winding road through to the top of the mountain. I had to drive slowly especially on those sharp and blind curves. To play it safe, I just obeyed all the signs there. In a way I was being faithful to all the directions set up on the way. After many turns, we finally got to the top.
The sight was just a thing to behold. I stooped down below, looking at the gorge. I enjoyed looking at the magnificent and the panoramic view of the bluish mountain ranges as far as my eyes can see. Another thing that struck me was the unbelievable rock formation that made me think God must have been playing with them by putting all those big rocks on top of each other and more. I was just enthralled and so mesmerized that I (for that short time there) have literally forgotten the world where I come from. The beautiful scenery from the top made me forget the seemingly, long and winding road that we went through on the way up. Truly the sight was worth the trip.
Friends, I am telling you all these not to advertise Mount Buffalo. I’m telling you this because it speaks something of us being a disciple of Christ Jesus. The trip to the top of the mountain can be likened to our Christian journey of following Christ. Our journey in Christian life is narrow and winding. It is never a straight and a smooth one. We have to turn every now and then, to look at what’s going on around us. It is also important to note that we are not the only travellers on the road. There are also many people like us who are wanting to get to the top. So we have to negotiate with the narrow road by slowing down at times or even by giving way to other travellers.
Moreover, in this spiritual journey, we are not travelling for nothing. We are not going there for a holiday. We are invited to be there. God invites us all to be with him. That is why, we can never claim to be ‘alone’ in our journey. That’s why we can’t claim that it is our initiative to go on the journey. Jesus has stressed this divine calling by coming to us in person, by becoming our personal friend, and as in our gospel today, by inviting us (his disciples or would-be-disciples) to ‘come and see’ the place where he ‘stays.’ He is inviting us to ‘stay with him.’ Yet, to ‘stay’ with Jesus we have to go through the narrow and the winding road of life. Jesus himself would tell us this: ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’ (Mt 16:24). But if we just keep him before us till the end and follow him (in his way of loving and in way of living), we will end up eventually to the top of it all where we not only enjoy the cbeauty of God’s Creation but more so to behold the face of our Creator as he really is.
Jesus is inviting us today not only to ‘come and see’ where he lives but also to ‘stay’ where he is living. This means going to and being available for him or more accurately, allowing him to come into our lives.
This is a tough call because this means we are to take the narrow and the winding road. This also entails we are to stay at the foot of our only Master, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this also means we are to stand on his ground. Staying with Jesus means we are to be his witnesses even to the ends of the earth.
But there is more. Being with Jesus or witnessing for him does not only mean going through the narrow and a winding road but also to a dangerous and treacherous one. The Iraqi Christians [who ‘stayed’ and ‘remained’ as witnesses for Christ in the predominantly Muslim country] can attest to this when they had to cancel their midnight mass because of the 70 people who were killed by the suicide bombers. The Pakistani Christians had to call on 2,500 police personnel to ensure their safety in the Church during Christmas masses. The few Christians in Bethlehem ignored the conflict of jurisdiction in Bethlehem, just to stay and celebrate Christmas at the very site where Christ was born. We hear things like this everyday in the news. We can hear about all forms of religious persecutions around the world every day.
These Christians, mind you, ‘stayed’ with Jesus to the end even to the extent of giving up their very lives for him.
We who are here right now, are also invited by Jesus to come and stay with him. That’s why we are here today in this Holy Eucharist. But the gospel today reminds that we are not to be contented only by staying with Jesus all day, but to get out and bring others to Jesus as well. The two disciples went away after their time with Jesus. But they spread the Good News to others. Andrew told his brother Simon: ‘We have found the Messiah’. Then he brought him to Jesus. And we know the rest of the story, Jesus changed Simon’s name into Peter the Rock. If we are then to be serious of our commitment to Christ, then we can assure that God works something wonderful and beautiful in and through us. Let us therefore be Christ-like for others, and not acting like God. Blessed Mother Teresa, St Mary Mackillop are just few of the many unknown Christ-like people who have brought many to God, not for their own sake but for God’s sake. If they can do it, so are we. But sometimes the trouble with us is not that we can’t do it, but because we just don’t do it. Yet this is the point of our being a Christian: ‘to point to God as the meaning of our lives’ according to Fr. Timothy Radcliffe in his beautiful book ‘What is the point of being a Christian?’
This is a tough call for us today because we are in the world wherein ‘God’ is forced to stay in the corner somehow. We are in the world where God is in the bottom in the list of our priorities. We are in the world wherein ‘instant gratification’ is the name of the game. We are in the world wherein the common attitude is ‘me first’ or ‘First come first served’ basis. We are in the world wherein ‘money, fame and power’ are the goals or even the motives of the things we do.
Our First Reading today also offers us a way to respond to that invitation of God for us: that is to listen to him in the silence of our heart. We might call it ‘prayer’, but this just means allowing God to establish an intimate and a more personal relationship with us. Again, this is a big call because of the many noises that the world has for us today. We hear the noises of violence, greed, domestic conflicts, etc. But even then, God wants to tell us something about these events, in the silence of our night or in the darkness of our lives. He comes to us as our light when we felt we can’t see anything, or when we felt there is no light ahead of us. He wants to speak to us about these things that are seemingly ‘dark’ or ‘hopeless’ for us. We just have to listen to him. He’s not only got something to say, ‘But He has the FINAL say.’
If we keep on going faithfully the narrow, the winding, the challenging, the sometimes difficult and the treacherous road to Christian discipleship, we can be assured that we can get to the top wherein we not only forget everything behind, or experience the beauty from up there, but really that we can see God face to face and even ‘stay’ with him ‘there’ forever. Amen.