One of the things I am beginning to realize more and more is that picturing yourself in a situation helps to understand that situation. Picturing yourself in a situation leads to a deeper understanding than just thinking about the issues. Last evening, I was reminded that picturing myself in a situation may not require much effort. It does require openness to the moment.
Let me share with you an experience that caught me by surprise and helped me understand something that has been happening to me over the last few months. I recognized myself in an Ethiopian on a long journey.
Recognizing myself as a Treasurer from Egypt
It was my turn to preach at our daily celebration of the eucharist. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles told the story about a treasurer/bookkeeper for a queen in Ethiopia. To be in such a position he must have been pretty sharp. He was in his chariot just beginning a thousand-mile journey to return home from Jerusalem
A stranger, Phillip, dared to ask him a question. “Do you understand this bible you are reading?” His response was probably not characteristic of such a powerful person. Most people of his stature would have dismissed this stranger’s question. Instead, he asked a question in return. “How can I unless someone guides me?”
I have read this story from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8:26-40) many times. Last night the story helped me realize what has been happening to me during the last few weeks. Guides have been so helpful in my life.
Since shortly before Easter, I have been reading short reflections/commentaries about events in the life of the early church. The more I read the more I became aware that what happened then is still echoing today in our so-called modern church. I missed so much.
I never realized the degree to which they were struggling with divisions rooted in cultural mindsets. They struggled to understand Jesus’ challenge to go beyond mindsets of either contemporary Judaism or Hellenistic religion. Many of my Vincentian Mindwalk reflections have explored the challenges to “repent” or “change your way of thinking”.
My flash of insight
It suddenly became clear to me that I was asking the same question as this man from another time and culture. “How can I understand unless someone guides me?”
Now, I am not an Ethiopian at the beginning of a thousand-mile journey. Actually, I am on a longer journey… the lifelong journey of trying to “put on the mind of Christ,” to see things as Jesus, the stranger in my life, sees them. WWJD – “what would Jesus do” or think.
I can read the scriptures all I want but I need someone to help me understand them in a personally relevant way. I have often realized that there are two ways to read scripture. The historically-minded way or the dangerous way of seeing myself in the story.
During Lent I spent a lot of time with Pope Francis.
In his many writings about the “Good Samaritan” I am discovering so much by following his suggestion to go beyond focusing on the one character from Samaria. Following his advice, I have pictured myself as the beaten man looking for help, the religious leaders who thought they were justified in passing him by, the innkeeper who trusted the Samaritan, or even the robbers. I have been each of the persons.
The Ethiopian’s openness to guidance leads me to recognize some of the guides in my life who deepen my understanding.
Who are the guides in your life?