“Travelling in Life and Travelling Guidelines”
One of the most familiar and appealing similes of life is travel, how our birth points to its starting point and death marking its terminus, but with the anticipation of its ultimate joyful destiny of union with God in heaven. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that it is a theme that resonates in many sections of the Holy Scriptures, commencing with Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden and closing with their future restoration to it in through their promised redemption through Jesus Christ (Gen 2:7-3:24). Then, there is the saga of the sojourn of Abraham and the Patriarchs (Gen 12:1ff), the more gripping story of Israel’s liberation from Pharaoh and Egypt and eventual domicile in Canaan (Ex 1:1ff). It comes as no surprise that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews reprises this theme several times in his letter (Heb 3:7-19; 4:1-16; 6:1-20; 12:1ff). Added to this is the fact that Jesus’ Parable of the Good Samaritan (St. Lk 10:25-37) was exhaustively quarried to produce sermons about life as a journey by reputed Church Fathers.
It seems appropriate, then, to appropriate this theme of life as a journey at the beginning of another new year, another new decade. Two points can be proposed without further elaboration-the point of origin of this journey and its conclusion-they both belong to God alone. That is why the glorified Christ can claim that He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev 1:8, 11, 17). While humankind often finds the circumstances of their birth, and even more so of death questionable, it must be impressed that in His infinite wisdom that surpasses all understanding He has determined what is the optimum situation for each person. Parents are not infallible; yet it must be perceived that God has placed them in their position to provide what is necessary for each person. It is precisely through such a situation generated that each person understands how to grow and attain one’s destiny. Again, while in several instances a person’s death is precipitate and tragic, nonetheless, it transpires with God’s foreknowledge, never without it (Rom 8:28-30). The ultimate result is that all events transpire for the good and in accordance with God’s blueprint for the transformation of His creation (Is 65:17; 66:22; II Pet 3:11; Rev 21:1).
But there are specific directions that function as guideposts in our travel in our earthly journey. We could summarise them as follows: 1) An absolute dependence on God our Father to supply all our needs, 2) the character of our travelling companions, and finally, 3) the nourishment we consume for our journey. An elaboration of these points would provide us food for thought.
1) An Absolute Dependence on God our Father for All our Needs: From a God Who is portrayed as reigning in a distant heaven to a loving Father Who is always near and dear to us is the corrected experience presented by Jesus in announcing the imminence of the Kingdom of God. It is in this fashion that He taught His followers to call God “Abba” (St. Mt 6:9; St. Lk 11:2), an endearing term favoured by the early Christians (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). Calling God as “Abba” means that we fully recognise the fact that God is our Father, who is able to supply all our wants, even before we ask Him for them (St. Mt 6:22-32; St. Lk 12: 22-30; I Pet 5:7); the only proviso being that the demands of the Kingdom of Heaven/God is given the highest priority. This is the reason that Jesus exhorts the apostles to desist from making measures for their evangelistic journey (St. Mt 10:9-10; St. Mk 6:8). Instead of depending on our Father for all our needs (and this is different from what are our wants), we rely more on the surety of our physical resources and assets. It is only when we have exhausted these that we turn to God. But this is not what Jesus teaches; dependence is absolute reliance on God, in the faith that He knows what is best for us and provides for them accordingly. So, then, why does give us our assets? To provide a channel for God to perform miracles in the lives of others. This is how God responds to the prayers of His followers; He motivates us to share what has been given to us so that others can experience the love and providence of God.
2. The Character of our Travelling Companions: Once again it is our physical friends, we rely on most for the emotional support in our journey. We encircle ourselves with those who are best suited to our likes and provide support when we face crises. But what about the circle of friends that surround us, but are invisible? We call them saints, but they are our close travelling companions who constantly mediate for us to God for our well-being and our safety in our earthly journey. Consider carefully the meaning of Hebrews 12:1, where such a cloud of our faith ancestors are our co-travellers who support us in unseen ways to complete our journey. So, no matter what the trials and tribulations we endure, they have suffered them too; because of their experiences they now surround and strengthen each one of us and our community in its journey. Isn’t this why we pray for their intercession? Isn’t this the reason why we make pilgrimages to Parumala and other centres? Are we not strengthened in our faith when our petitions are answered by God through their intercessions? This calls for a realignment of whom we call “friends”. While we cannot have social existence without our visible friends, nevertheless, we must seek a closer relationship with this “cloud of witnesses” who are one step closer to God and continue to intercede for us to Him.
3. The Nourishment We Consume for our Journey: Consumption of actual food no longer seems to be a major item of interest to most people these days due to various factors. But what has become the most engrossing activity is our obsession with our handsets. We just cannot manage without the comforting presence of our handsets in our hands, and it would appear that it is almost as if we had lost a limb if it is not in our physical possession. And we have become undiscriminating consumers of whatever is proffered by the social media, no matter how baseless and destructive the matters are. Not only that, most people have a tendency to forward these messages to all and sundry, with little or no thought of the destructive impact these might have on others. In doing so those involved in this process unwittingly become part of the nefarious web that is spun by the social media. All the more is it necessary, therefore, to ensure the truth of the messages we receive, to subject them to verification before we accept them ourselves. In this manner alone can we prevent ourselves from becoming part of the darkness that is the character of this world.
True, we are travellers. Even so, it our responsibility to ensure that we follow the true path and to be sure that we reach our destined goal. And the above three guideposts are like lights that show us the straight and narrow path we have to traverse before we reach our heavenly home. Let us keep them in mind as we navigate through 2021.
Met Dr. Youhanon Mar Demetrios