Dead Ends Yield Rotten Fruit

(For the audio version of this blog, please visit:

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” That bit of wisdom has been credited to Ralph Waldo Emerson, but what he actually wrote in a series of essays was:

“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”

Though our life is a journey, we often ignore the wisdom faith promises as life’s purpose and focus on the seductive scenery rushing by on the way to our life’s end. Chasing our own selfish ends tends to divert our journey down dead-end streets.

In that way, we are more often a Martha than a Mary – two of Jesus’s earliest female disciples whom we read about in this Sunday’s gospel (Lk 10:38-42). While Mary recognized the prize of wisdom attainable by sitting at Jesus’s feet, Martha hoped to achieve her Master’s approval by taking the initiative and waiting on him hand and foot. 

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Such is humanity in its pursuit of greatness over wisdom. We pursue quick, rewarding short-term goals – often at any cost – to feed our pride. In so doing, we deprive our soul of the ability to absorb the slow-won wisdom the Holy Spirit offers us for a living.

Maybe another way of looking at our attraction to such do-it-yourself destiny can be found in what humanity often does in the name of science. We can all agree that medical advances in heart transplants have saved many lives. A worthy goal! But according to a report from the director of the Heart Transplant Unit of Tel Aviv’s Sheba Medical Center, (appearing in The Wall Street Journal, June 1, 2022), heart surgeons from Wuhan’s Tongji Medical College were found to have harvested a heart from a death-row prisoner before he was executed—effectively acting as executioners themselves while choosing another life more worthy of his.

In other words, the goal of saving a life came at the cost of a life perceived as unworthy to complete its own journey. The unforeseen cost may have been the souls of those involved in planning this detour. The author acknowledges that China has a history of harvesting organs from death-row prisoners—especially from religious minorities like Falun Gong and Uyghur Muslims. The author notes that making comparisons to Nazi medical atrocities may not have mobilized action against such evil because, well, SO many allegations of atrocities tend to use that benchmark! Who can keep track?

Sunday’s gospel reading demonstrates humanity’s hesitation to slow down, listen, and look; to recognize as an illusion the notion that we can choose life’s ends and to exchange that notion for the faith required to find our meaning by living.

Wisdom is the destination of every human life’s journey. It’s a long route requiring patience, strength and attention to the two-way care and feeding of others taking the trip along with us.

–Tom Andel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *