Journeying Downward and Outward


Genesis 12: 1-4; Matthew 17: 1-9

While I was doing my train trip two years ago, I had blogged a post entitled, “Faces in the Sand” ( ).    I had written it while I was at the monastery in the desert out in New Mexico, literally in the middle of nowhere, twelve miles off the main road down a long dirt road.  I had happened to look up while I was out there and saw what looked like faces in the sand, hence the name of the blog!  In that moment, I had thought about all the people that had gone before me in that location, the desert mothers and fathers that are a part of our faith.  At that time, I felt a sense of peace because it was as if they were all praying for me at that moment to trust and to grow in faith, even if it meant going places that I would rather not go.

I thought of that post when I read this first reading from Genesis and the story of Abraham and Sarah.  Just think about it, their families probably thought they were crazy for what they were about to do in their lives.  Keep in mind that they both well advanced in age, often felt unsettled because at times it seemed as if God had not come through for them, and all of a sudden they are being directed to go out, to leave everything behind in these advanced years of their lives and head out to a new land.  The crazy thing is, they did it.  They left where they were not knowing where they were going and God provided.  God provides them with a son, Isaac, and Sarah literally laughs in God’s face.  Yet, when we leave behind and go out to the distant lands, into the desert of our lives, God somehow reaches us on new levels, trust builds and faith deepens, God provides.  They could take such a leap of faith in their lives because they have done much of the hard work and the journey within.  Up to this point in the book of Genesis it hasn’t been very good news and in comes the call of our father in faith, Abraham, to once again put his trust in God and go out.

For the disciples, who too are so often the faces in the sand for us, it wasn’t about going out to distant lands but rather a journey down, a journey that takes, sometimes, even greater trust and faith.  Abraham and Sarah had life’s experience and wisdom behind them but not so for the disciples.  They are new to this pilgrim journey.  They haven’t yet made the journey down and yet, love the experience of being on top of the mountain.  Peter wants to build tents and stay right where he is, along with James and John.  Imagine, any of us in that position would want the same thing, to stay put where they had just seen the glory of Jesus revealed, all is good in the world at that moment, and not a care in the world.  Yet, Jesus leads them down.  As much as Abraham and Sarah go out on their journey, the disciples, as it is for us in this season of Lent, we journey down into the depths of our beings, so often to the places we’d rather not go.  We know how it proceeds for the disciples as we move towards Palm Sunday and Good Friday when they face head on the evil, darkness, and shadow they face within themselves and it isn’t until they are led to those places, into the muck of life, will they be able to go out like Abraham and Sarah.  It will only be in some of the most trying times of their lives where they will learn to trust and their faith deepen.  When they do, they too will go out, but now a new people knowing truly what their lives are about.

As we pilgrims continue this journey, we come mindful of the centuries of those who have gone before us, the many “faces in the sand” which continue to encourage and strengthen us on our own faith journey and desire to take it seriously.  This Lenten season, for us, is about the journey of the disciples and where Jesus leads them, to the cross.  It will only be in facing the Jerusalem of our own lives where we will grow and deepen in faith and learn to trust God with all our heart and soul.  This is a journey, in many ways, we do alone, but at the same time, together, joined with these centuries of mothers and fathers of faith who lead us down to where we’d rather not go in order to leave what we know and trust the call to go out to distant lands being that faith and trust to all the world.  We pray, this season, for the courage to go and to respond to the call of God to let go and to respond with such conviction as Abraham to the unknown of our lives and world with such deep faith and trust.


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