By Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S.
One of my favorite stories from author and theologian Henri Nouwen has to do with a conversation he had with one of the famous flying Rodleighs, trapeze artists who perform in the German circus. Rodleigh was the flyer in the act, and he explained that the real star of the act was Joe, his catcher, who would grab him out of the air with split second precision. He said, “When I fly to Joe, I have simply to stretch out my arms and hands and wait for him to catch me and pull me safely over the apron behind the catch bar.”
Nouwen was surprised at this explanation. Rodleigh said that the worst thing the flyer can do is try to catch the catcher. If he does, he could break his wrists. “A flyer must fly, and a catcher must catch, and the flyer must trust, with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.”
The spiritual journey of life is all about learning to be a flyer. To stretch out your arms and hands and trust in God! Another way of saying this is, “Let go and let God.”
This image is woven throughout our Scriptures today: the invitation to live in freedom. Not the kind of freedom the world promotes, in which a person desires to be free so they can do whatever they want. No, the kind of freedom St. Paul speaks of is found in the life of a person of faith who can let go so that she or he can do the will of God.
Look at Elisha. He owned 12 oxen! You may as well say that he owned 12 Cadillacs! The author of the First Book of Kings wants us to know that Elisha was very wealthy. In his day he was free to do whatever he wanted with that kind of wealth. Yet Elijah helped him to know true freedom! He didn’t just leave the oxen; he butchered them, burned his plow equipment, and gave the food to his people. I can imagine that many people looked at him in disbelief. “Has Elisha lost his mind?” No, his story is our story, and it is a story that we must return to over and over again in life. Am I free enough to let go of who I am today for what I can become?
This is what Jesus was stressing in our Gospel reading for today. The disciples were offended and angered by the Samaritans. They were stuck in an old vindictive and prideful frame of mind when it came to the Samaritan people. Jesus rebukes the disciples, challenging them to let go of their bruised egos and see the Samaritans as children of God.
This call to live in the freedom of God’s children demands total dedication. Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, and he knew well what this decision was going to mean. Being true to the call we have received sometimes means letting go of the creature comforts of life for the sake of the reign of God. What must I leave behind to be sincere in my desire to follow Jesus today?
As you receive communion today with hands and arms extended, trust Jesus to catch you, to hold you tight, providing you with all you need to make safe passage on your journey of life. May the words of the psalmist by yours, “You will show me the path of life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at our right hand forever.”
Fr. Angelo Anthony, C.PP.S., is the pastor of the Downtown Dayton parishes, which include Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph. He also serves as the vice moderator general of the worldwide Congregation.