What was so shameful to me was I didn’t even notice him! I walked right by him and didn’t see him. So when he called out after me “Hey Fr. Barnabas?” I turned around and saw him. At first it was hard to recognize him, but then he said his name, and a flood of images and memories came rolling in. He had been a part of our spiritual journey early on but had hit a rough patch in his life and drifted away.
I remember that time and I remember trying to reach out, but now that I was seeing him again after all these years, I wondered to my shame, had I done enough? He was so thin. His face was drawn and his eyes worn the weariness of someone who had fallen into the trap of addiction. It hurt my heart to see him this way. And he wanted to hug me, so I embraced him as a long lost son. I wish I could tell you a happy ending, but I can’t. Lord, have mercy.
We live our lives all too often asleep to important turning points in our lives. Over and over again God, in His love for us, brings us to a fork in the road of our lives and we thoughtlessly miss it. Maybe we were busy that day. Maybe we were worried about some financial need. Maybe we were scared or mad or just distracted by something else, but we miss the turn that would have taken us to a healthier place in our lives. It happens. To all of us.
In our Gospel Lesson today the Lord confronts a religious man about his approach to that very spot in his own life and He uses a dear woman and her sordid past to bring this man to this place in his life.
Look at Luke 7:36-50. I won’t quote the whole text, but I hope you take the time today to read the entire pericope. I will take the section that marks the spot of the fork in the road for this man:
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” Luke 7:44-47
And the key, as always, is love. What made the man blind to his encounter with the Lord, this woman and his own turning point in his life was a deficiency of Love; a deficiency of love for his Guest, a deficiency of love for this distraught woman, and ultimately an imbalanced love for himself which turned him inward and away from the awareness of his life’s trajectory. He was headed down the wrong path unaware his soul was in danger!
Today, have you stopped your busy schedule long enough to examine where you are? Has inattentiveness cooled your love for others, for God? There is no “cruise control” for the spiritual life. You have to live this life on purpose or you are going to miss some very significant signposts directing you toward the right and life-giving path. Grow your love by practicing purposeful awareness of the easy temptation to falsely love yourself which is only another way of saying “pride.” Notice where your love has grown cold and fed your sleepy inattentiveness to those around you and even to God Himself. Wake up by turning your attention away from your immediate comfort to the more lasting joy of your deepest spiritual needs. Use the gift of repentance to help you stay awake! And allow the wisdom of the Faith to apply the “medicine of immortality” to your life starting right now! Don’t “not see” what is right in front of you! It could be more significant than you know!
P.S. I really had fun on the latest Faith Encouraged LIVE program on the holy icons. And I am really looking forward to our annual parish Festival coming up this weekend. If you’re in the Atlanta area, please stop by and introduce yourself. I’ll be doing the church tours!