In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart”: by Sr Bridget O’Connell FMA Limerick, Ireland

“In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart”

21 Sunday in Ordinary Time

Once there was a native Indian chief who was nearing the end of his life. In order to decide which of his sons should succeed him, he called them together one day and said to them: do you see that mountain in the distance? I want you to journey to the mountain, climb to its summit and bring back what you think would be most helpful in leading our people. After several days the first son returned with flint stones used to make arrow tips and spear points. He told his father: our people will never live in fear of our enemies; I know where there is a mound of flint. The second son climbed to the top of the mountain and on the way found forests rich in wood for making fires. When he returned he said to his father: our people will never be cold in winter. I know where wood can be found in abundance to keep them warm and to cook their food. The third son returned very late and empty-handed. He stated; when I reached the summit I found nothing that was worth bringing back. I searched everywhere but the top of the mountain was barren rock and was useless. Then I looked out towards the horizon, far into the distance, I was astounded to see new land filled with forests and meadows, mountains and valleys, animals and sea, a land of great beauty and of great peace. I brought nothing back; for the land was still far off but I carried its beauty in my heart. This is what I want our people to experience. The chief took his hands and said that he would be the one to succeed him as the chief and leader, as he had a vision for his people.

Today’s first reading and our Gospel reading present us with the people of the Old and New Testaments who are being asked to look again at their experiences and at the vision that they hold in their hearts. What does it really mean? The first reading shows the Israelites who have seen the greatness of God in their journey to reach the Promised Land. They had the experience of God’s protection leading them as a cloud by day and a flame by night; they had been fed with manna in the desert, yet some had been losing heart, and some had joined them later in the journey and were unsure. So Joshua gathers them all together and he asks them to make a choice “If you will not serve the Lord choose today whom you wish to serve”?

For the past four Sundays in our Gospel readings from St John, Jesus is teaching his disciples about the Bread of life – the Eucharist, they have seen him feed with the five loaves and two fish; they have seen him cure the sick. Some cannot accept his teaching and move away so today he puts a question to the people who are closest to him, his chosen apostles – will you also go away?

Our vision and our experiences are tangible in the decisions that we make. In Baptism we are born in Christ, and we live out this Christian vision in our ordinary everyday lives. Our living is like the journey and the experience of the Promised Land. We can be as the Israelites were or as the apostles, we can waver at times even as we are holding on in faith – saying Lord to whom shall we go? We can also be like Joshua calling each other to remember who we are. A reminder expressed in the words of the responsorial psalm to “taste and sees that the Lord is good”.

We pray today:
May we be blessed as we live between belief and unbelief,
May we learn to hold the vision we have in our hearts so that it becomes a mirror in our search for meaning.
May the gift of hope enable us to trust when we live with glimpses of God and give us comfort when we live in shadows.
In our memories and experiences may we find the goodness of God so that we can pray: Lord to whom shall we go?

“In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart”

Sr Bridget O’Connell FMA Limerick, Ireland