“They were on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed and those who followed were afraid.” -Mark 10:32
Lately, Biblical passages that describe, talk or discuss about roads, paths, or taking a journey have struck me in an unsettling kind of way. I have spent time in prayer to try to squeeze out or grasp the Lord’s message for me, but He answered me in silence. However, in one noon mass in the days leading to the end of May, the priest talked, in his homily, about having to climb our personal Jerusalem. In the Gospel reading during that day, Jesus and his disciples are on their way, “going up to Jerusalem.” Jesus also told his apostles that in this place, He will suffer and condemned to die – “Behold, the son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles who will mock him, spit upon him, scourge him, and put him to death, but after three days he will rise.” It is not a pretty picture, if not scary. Jesus knew of His death in Jerusalem, and yet He still chose to continue, and pursue entering the place in which His death is inevitable.
The priest went on to impose a question on us which is particularly arresting – what is OUR personal Jerusalem? “What is MY personal Jerusalem?” I quietly asked the Lord. The question lingered, as I continued with my prayer time, wrestling with God. I have to admit that I am oftentimes hard-headed and steel-hearted that when the Lord asks uncomfortable questions I try to evade them. Thankfully though, I have become mature enough (I hope) to know that try as I might in evading Him, my efforts will end in vain. Thus, the lingering thought was presented to me again in another biblical passage, at the start of this month of June. The words in 1 Kings 19:11-15 became alive to me – “Go take the road back to the desert near Damascus.” – that I hear the Lord personally whisper these words in my ears as He did to the prophet Elijah. Go, take the road back to the desert. It is more striking the second time. What is MY desert? I asked the Lord In the same manner I’ve asked what is my Jerusalem? Whether it be my personal Jerusalem or desert, I know that they are both uncomfortable places. Places of challenge for they are hot, dry and bare. A place of suffering, hunger and thirst. But somehow, a great place to be pruned and to grow an oasis of faith and love. Maybe at this point in my life, the Lord is inviting me to fully and joyfully embrace a cross that is already wounding my back, or take a leap of faith and decide to tread a path which I may perceive to be thorny and fearsome, but which will make me fall deeper in love with Him. Whatever it is, I am at peace in knowing that in the “Jerusalem’s” or deserts in my life, the Lord is my companion, and He even takes the lead.
“Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on stony paths He will provide us with strong shoes, and He will not send us out on any journey for which He does not equip us well.” -Alexander MacLaren