Over the past couple of Sundays the foot stamping antics of the bold John McEnroe questioning the referee decisions at Wembley seem very appropriate. It is easy to imagine Peter and the other disciples talking among themselves saying “He can’t be serious?”
“How could He possibly mean that the whole adventure will end in total failure? – on a Cross! Surely not!”
“And what does he mean by saying we must become like a stateless child, one who has no say and that’s the way to leadership!”
“And we must work with others who are outside our group and not shut them up!”
He can’t be serious – but maybe He is.
A number of years ago with a small group we visited the Basilica of St Francis in Assisi – it was a most moving occasion. What stayed with me, however, aren’t the beautiful frescos by Giotto or even the image of Francis himself but the question put to us by the American Friar who led us around the building. “Before we begin, can I ask you; “Are you here as tourists or pilgrims?” Rather shame faced we replied “Pilgrims”. Then he said “Great – I will try to bring you into something of the experience of Francis.”
The question has continued to haunt me. Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? – The tourist goes on a journey and tries to capture the moment taking the photo before even looking at the scene, trying to capture the moment – a journey of refreshment and hopefully excitement but essentially the tourist doesn’t change. The adventure just adds to his or her levels of experience and possible knowledge. The Pilgrim on the other hand sets out on a journey where hopefully he or she will experience change, possibly radical change, and come back seeing with different eyes, becoming, in the words of St Paul, a new creation.
These past few weeks are definitely an invitation by the Man Himself to get off the tourist journey into becoming an Adult Christian and move away from a rather shallow discipleship – away from the pick and mix of many a market based media approach to spirituality with instant formation and preference. The invitation is to step into deeper waters, to reflect and grapple with the riddles and ambiguities of the Man from Galilee – a task not just for one or two evenings but for years to come.
How is it possible to die and rise again – to be open to complete failure– and make that a creative way of life?
If we are caught up in the language and behaviour of “Who is the greatest?” what hope is there for true peace?
The great Mohammed Ali, used the phrase “I am the Greatest” not simply as a sign of personal vanity but as a profound challenge to the prejudices and bigotry of his own nation at a time when black people were very definitely second class citizens. Is it possible to use the language of dying and rising, becoming like a child, working with those outside of our group, beyond the pale, in a similar imaginative way?
The challenge to catechists, inquirers and catechumens is to allow the gospels of these weeks to find a deep home within and to resist the temptation to water down these radical sayings of Jesus and like the disciples to hide behind: “We don’t understand what he’s saying and we’re afraid to ask”. Or like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane to simply run away.
Surely! He can’t be serious?