The Metaphor of the Journey
by the Reverend Noel E. Bordador
One of the metaphors we use to describe our spiritual life is the metaphor of journey. We are on a spiritual journey to God. This journey to God for many of us is not often a straight path. We often take detours along the way so that we get lost from our path to God. The Exodus story of the Israelites’ idolatry in the desert is but a story of our spiritual journey taking the wrong turn. Like the Israelites, we invent, we create, we worship other gods- like money, prestige, career, to name a few, and these gods make us wander from God. Moreover, there are roadblocks that derail us from our journey. Sometimes, our spiritual journey is blocked by some crises in life that make us question our faith in God, or that make us question if there is ever a meaning in life. I can think only of our experience of 9/11. The wounds of that day are still fresh, and it is okay to admit that we’re still spiritually grappling with this. So, the journey to God is not often a tidy affair, but rather a haphazard one. The path to God is not often a rosy one, but often thorny.
One of my favorite religious authors, John Kirvan, says that the metaphor of journey, spiritual journey, is a good one, but, in the end, wanting. It is limiting. He says that when we focus so much on being in a journey to God, going to God, of reaching God as the end or goal of our spiritual journey, we can fail to recognize the fact that God is also with us along this journey. So he says, “’Journey is at best a mischievous, even an unfortunate spiritual metaphor. It implies that wherever we are, God is somewhere else and must be tracked down… [But] God is where we are. God is not a treasure hidden somewhere out there but a treasure to be discovered where we are, where God always is.” This is Good News indeed of the Scripture readings today. Not only is God in the oases of our life. But he is also in the arid, desolate, lifeless desert areas of life, right there in the wilderness when, like the Israelites wandering in that desert, we feel the seeming absence of God, sometimes feeling abandoned, feeling like an exile from God, feeling lost. In the Gospel, Jesus likens God, likens himself to a good Shepherd who hunts for his lost sheep.
This is even true when we ourselves left the path of God. God does not give up on us that easily even when we have given up on him. What strikes me about the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the woman with the lost coin is the extravagant concern of the shepherd over one sheep, or of the woman over one lost coin. God is like that shepherd or that woman, extravagant in his care, in his mercy and compassion towards us even if we have willingly strayed from him. The story from Exodus tells us how Moses ask God to change his mind from bringing disastrous punishment on his people though, strictly speaking, they justly deserved this because they betrayed him. Such is the extravagance of God who rather withdraws his judgment than to have one of us lost, separated from his presence. Such extravagance of God is manifested in history when God became human in Jesus, leaving his heavenly abode and living among us so that we (who are lost to sin and injustice) are hunted and brought back to God.
As Christ’s community, as the Church, we have the mission to proclaim this Good News to those who are lost. By lost I mean not only the alienated from God, victims of our injustices, of poverty, of violence and war, but what I also have in mind is the struggling humanity that lives in this frightening age of terrorism, an age that creates deep cynicism, a profound spiritual crisis in the meaning of our human existence, a temptation to despair by judging history as lost to violence, degradation and humanity’s inhumanity. We cannot abandon humanity to a state of spiritual hopelessness, a spiritual malaise, paralysis, or defeat, but rather, to witness to the hope that despite what has occurred, is occurring and will occur, God is ever present, that God will never abandon us to the abyss of nothingness; even in death, God will never lose us even if we feel we have lost God. In all that happens to us in our lifetime, in our history, God…his grace is ever present. This is what the Church believes, hopes and proclaims. In the words of a theologian Mary Clark, “The Church is a sacrament of (human) history making visible the presence of grace in this history.” Or more aptly, the Church is the sacrament of God who seeks to save the lost.
2012 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a gay Filipino priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
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