- Fr. John Jennings
Our Sacred Stories - Of Being Disciples: Climbing Hills in the Midst of Life’s Challenges
The island of Grand Manan NB is situated out in the Bay of Fundy, about 50 kilometers from Black’s Harbour on the mainland. A few years ago, with a small group of friends, we embarked on a cycling tour of the island. On one particular day, we decided to head across the island to Dark Harbour. The final section of the route took us up the Dark Harbour Rd from the east coast to the west of the island, a distance of about 6 kilometers. We really did not know what we were in for.
Turning onto the Dark Harbour Rd, we started up a steep grade. It was not long before we could see the top, and we ground onward. As we came over the top, we realized that there was another long, steep grade. After a brief pause, we laboured onward, pedaling hard. The top was in sight. Or was it? No, after about a kilometer of hard pedaling, we were greeted by, another hill. Pausing, then onward and upward we went. There were two more tops and two more grades before, exhausted and somewhat discouraged we finally reached the end of this grueling climb. Dark Harbour and the coast lay beneath us.
Life often seems to be like this. We think we have reached our goal, and yet discover there is a further challenge, and another, and another. Our current experience of the Covid pandemic encapsulates this challenge upon challenge. The virus is there, we isolate and then move on, to discover it is back. We hear of vaccines and the promise of a defense from the virus. The supply is inadequate or the distribution is so complex or we are told, the virus is mutating. There seems always, another hill to climb.
The Gospels present this as the experience of Jesus (e.g. Mk.1:29-39). His life and ministry is aimed at revealing the Kingdom of God is near and among us. We hear it in what he says and we see it in what he does. He teaches the message of love and life and he shows it again and again through his compassion and readiness to reach out with healing and reconciling – building peace among those he encounters. The mission of Jesus, does not reject the changing world around him. It is an outreach to this world.
What we discover in the Gospels is indeed that Jesus proclaimed in word and in action that the Kingdom is near, among and around us. But it is not complete and fulfilled, for the Kingdom is all about our relationship with God. Like all relationships, it remains ever unfinished. Or put another way, the Kingdom has such potential that it is forever changing and growing. It can always be more.
Disciples are about the continued building of the reign of God in creation, in humanity and in each of us. Such a call requires patient effort. Mark reveals this for Jesus as he journeys with the message and is called upon for more healing, more reconciliation, more liberating. Like all relationships, there will always be more - another challenge, another need, another hill to climb. It is no different for the disciple of Jesus, for we live and work and build the Kingdom, where we are, in a changing world, and there are certainly many hills.