The light plays beautifully at Bluffview Park.
Even an invasive yucca gets the chance to be brilliant there, I noticed during a short hike with my eldest son on a gorgeously sunny Father’s Day afternoon.
Light tends to dance through the leaves of nearby hardwood trees, too. On this path, you’re not even a mile from the parking lot. But as you walk along, it’s easy to detect your day has taken a turn for the better. A turn toward beauty.
The Church calls this ‘Ordinary Time.’ And as Jan Richardson writes, “In this season, God reminds us that each moment holds the possibility of encountering the sacred.”*
But how easily such chance encounters can be disrupted by the many dark forces that also inhabit everyday life. I was thinking about that as I read today’s gospel passage, describing a long hike Jesus once took toward his capital city. Luke recounts:
…[Jesus] sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
Note well: It’s a deeply disturbing incivility we’re hearing about here. Both Samaritans and Jews valued hospitality as a core cultural value. Yet one group’s assumptions about the goals of the other allowed for some basic human decency to be set aside. Note, too, how quickly these assumptions escalate into threats of violence:
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”
Sadly, such threats are no less common today – particularly when we encounter those who are “journeying to Jerusalem” by a path that’s different from the one we prefer. And by embracing such dark spirits, we wind up pointing ourselves in a dangerous direction indeed, as Saint Paul cautions in today’s second reading:
But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.
Here’s the thing: You could argue that the yucca – a desert plant – has no business blooming brilliantly in these temperate Missouri climes. But if you pour all your energy into shouting this ‘truth,’ there’s a good chance you’re going to miss the sacred beauty that even a misplaced yucca might contain. And after all the screaming, you may find you have no energy left to fulfill God’s fundamental desire for humankind:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
*Jan Richardson, In Wisdom’s Path