This world is just a brief stop on our way to final destination

| Deacon Mickey Friesen | November 4, 2010 | 0 Comments

We recently passed through a rare occurrence on the calendar that only happens once a century. It was the 10th day of the 10th month of the 10th year — 10/10/10.

It was also the symbolic date chosen to celebrate another rare occurrence — the 10,000th anniversary of the city of Jericho. This Palestinian city on the West Bank of the Jordan River is considered one of the oldest human communities in the world.

To prepare for the event, planners envisioned great building projects, visits from foreign dignitaries and the hope that this day would lead to the final establishment of a Palestinian state. Well, the date has come and gone, but little progress was made on this plan and the world mostly passed by Jericho again.

Passing by Jericho has been a regular part of its history. Jericho is not usually a final destination, but has been a place you pass by on your way to Jerusalem. It reminds me of some of the places you might stop at in South Dakota on the way to the Black Hills, such as the Corn Palace in Mitchell or Wall Drug.

I don’t know of anyone who plans a trip to those places as a final destination. Rather, they are tourist stops on the way. Jericho is like that even to this day.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus also intended to pass through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. But, he stopped when he encountered Zechaeus, a tax collector who went out on a tree limb to see who he was.

Stepping out on a limb

Jesus, in turn, went out on a limb to enter the home of Zechaeus in violation of the ritual and purity laws that segregated the people of his time.

Jesus’ mission was more like a pilgrimage on the way to Jerusalem to “seek out and save those who are lost” (Luke 19:10). He showed his disciples, and us, an example of what he meant when he taught: “Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you’” (Luke 10:4,8-9).

Jesus passed through our world as a pilgrim among us ready to go out on a limb to meet us where we are and lead us to the New Jerusalem.  In a similar way, Vatican II described the church as a pilgrim people ready to bring the mercy of God to those we meet along the way.

I was reminded of our pilgrim mission last month when I was visited by missionary sisters from the Philippines. The sisters have dedicated themselves to seeking out and saving women who have been forced into the sex trade. Each night, the sisters walk the city streets looking for young women who may be ready to leave prostitution. The sisters offer shelter for the women and their children. They also provide rehabilitation and job training to help them to care for themselves.

The sisters said that the root of the sex trade is perpetual poverty, which leads families into desperation; even selling their own daughters to live a life of misery and loss of dignity. They say we must address this root cause if there is to be real change.

Passing through Jerichos

As we celebrate all of the saints this month, the Scriptures give us an image of a great procession of people on their way to the throne of the Lamb and the New Jerusalem. It is also an image of the Pilgrim Church passing through the Jerichos of our world, awake and ready to offer the Lord’s hospitality and mercy.

We can live with an attitude that makes us ready to meet the Lord in the faces of the hungry, blind, naked and persecuted we meet along the way.

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you? And the King will say, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for the least of these, you did it for me’” (Matthew 25:37-40).

Deacon Mickey Friesen is director of the archdiocesan Center for Mission.

Category: Mission Link