SUNDAY’S READINGS | October 24, 2021
Almost everyone feels out of place at some time, the odd sense of not belonging, or perhaps belonging somewhere else or in another time. “Beloved, I urge you,” says St. Peter, “as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). Like resident aliens, we live in a land where we don’t fully belong. Woody Guthrie gave voice to this feeling among workers in the 1930s:
I ain’t got no home, I’m just a-roamin’ ’round,
Just a wanderin’ worker, I go from town to town.
And the police make it hard wherever I may go
And I ain’t got no home in this world anymore
Our home is Jesus Christ, and while we have the spirit of Christ as a shining lamp within us, we feel and know that we are going toward Christ, that his inner presence drives a search for a final homeland, which he himself will be at the close of the age. So we are not yet complete, not yet at home, not yet at rest.
Jesus is bringing us to a new land, gathering his scattered people. We hear of this in the ancient story of the return of the Jews to their land following their long Babylonian Captivity. “See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here” (Jer. 31:7-9). In this image of migration and return, we sense the call of Christ to a final fulfillment for which we live in hope. “In the world you have tribulation,” Jesus said, and yet consolations are found. “With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn” (Jer. 31:9). Addressing the same event, the Psalmist writes, “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses of the Negev. Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves” (Ps. 126:5-7).
Like blind Bartimaeus, we are each sitting on the side of the road. We hear Jesus approaching, and we cry out. We want to go with him on the way with our eyes wide open. We cry out once and then again, and, finally, Jesus stops! He stops for each one of us. He illumines us, placing his light within us, and then, as if there is no other possible response, we follow him on the way. We follow Jesus along the way because we are not yet there. He is the way or path along which we walk; he is the truth by which we live, and he is the everlasting life to which we will finally arrive. (John 14:6)
We cannot expect nor should we pray for perfect satisfaction in this life. We will have labor and sorrows, a time of trial and a fiery ordeal. But we will also have consolations in hearing the call of Christ, in receiving illumination, in going with Christ step by step and day by day. We will have joys and festivals too, happiness and celebrations, but we will always feel in this life our condition as “resident aliens” who have our citizenship in heaven (Phil 3:20). To be a Christian is to move with and toward Christ, to advance and grow.
Look It Up: Hebrews 7:25
Think About It: Christ always makes intercession for you. He stops, and he listens.