While jogging through our public square the other morning the weekly message posted by the Methodist church caught my attention:
“A truly happy person enjoys the scenery along a detour.”
Coincidentally, I was thinking about this Sunday’s mass readings for this blog and that line seemed like a perfect description of Christ’s disciples. Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 13:14, 43-52) traces the steps of Paul and Barnabas from Perga to Iconium by way of Antioch. These were just a few of the detours the disciples took along their route to the Kingdom their master said would be their meeting point. The stop we read about this weekend is bittersweet for Paul and Barnabas. Although their target audience rejected their message, Jesus’ directions resonated in their souls:
“I have made you a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.” While the seeds they scattered took root in the hearts of some, the leaders of this region rejected their message and showed them the Antioch exit sign.
So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them, and went to Iconium. The disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.
Why would the disciples find joy amidst such rejection? Because they knew their destination was only reachable via such detours. It was along these side roads where they would follow the prime directive Peter received directly from Jesus: “Tend my sheep.”
“Tending” wasn’t just about preaching, but about sharing the joy they had in abundance. Our second reading from the Book of Revelation (Rev 7:9, 14b-17) reveals the source of this abundance, and it originates from our journey’s destination. The last book of the Bible is where the faithful of every age learn directly from the Master the knowledge that can sustain them wherever life’s journeys lead them:
The one who sits on the throne will shelter them. They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them. For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
But being a sheep is far from a passive existence. We follow a calling, as our gospel reading states (Jn 10:27-30):
Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”
That hand guides His faithful sheep as we map our way to Him—including all the detours along the way. This map is a beautiful mosaic our soul assembles like a million-piece puzzle we devote our lives to solving. Joy comes from the daily encounters with God as we try to make the pieces fit. Upon completion He’ll review with us the different routes we took in assembling that map—and the good things we did along those detours.