If you've ever read much from Augustine, especially his autobiography of faith, The Confessions, then perhaps you already know of his breakthrough moment of beginning to believe. In concert with a group of friends, he encounters authentic experience of Jesus in the heart of a fellow North African, Ponticianus, while visiting a villa on the outskirts of Milan.
Read how Ponticianus described the difference between serving the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdoms of the earth:
‘What do we hope to gain by all the efforts we make? What are we looking for? What is our purpose in serving the State? Can we hope for anything better at Court than to be the Emperor’s friends? Even so, surely our position would be precarious and exposed to much danger? We shall meet it at every turn, only to reach another danger which is greater still. And how long is it to be before we reach it? But if I wish, I can become the friend of God at this very moment...’
No matter what sort of day you're expecting, or what sort of week you're in, I want us all to appreciate the grandeur of that thought: 'if I wish, I can become the friend of God at this very moment.'
My friend, you are already a friend of God.
Or a daughter.
So, 'What are we looking for' today?
Only, ever, more of Him.
Jesus ministered out of His perfection (ie. His abandoned will; His will, now, to obey; His flawless obedience, moment to moment) and from His personal intimacy with His Father.
Therefore, we are learning to minister out of our discipleship (ie. our self-denial; our adherence, now, to His voice; our obedience to the Way, moment to moment) and from our personal intimacy with Jesus, our Brother.
Discipleship is nothing without intimacy.
And vice versa.
This summer and fall, I began a little writing experiment where I'd look at moments from the Gospels and then, from an oblique angle, try to give a different "glimpse" of it -- even, sometimes, beforehand or far after. What a joy it's been to imagine Jesus, and His work, that way!
Without telling too much, I wanted to share one of those with you this week. This is the "blind man from Bethsaida" in his later years, reflecting back. Hope you enjoy!
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79. Jesus heals a blind man in Bethsaida
The children gather round him in a crescent shape. His youngest granddaughter is asleep in his lap. His wife has walked down to the stream to wash the dishes from supper. The twilight is rapidly descending, outside. The little girl on his lap makes a quarter-turn; nestles her head against his beard. The others are quieting now. One says:
“Tell us how it happened, saba.”
“Oh, you children—you never tire of the same old story, do you?”
“Tell it again.”
“From the funny part.”
“From what I said—or what he did?”
“Start from the beginning.”
“Well,” the old man says, “I used to be blind, as you’ve all heard. Had never seen a single sight. Nothing. My whole world was darkness, like we’ll see in an hour or so. Then he came unto our village. Someone must’ve told him about me. So they came and took me—”
“Saba!” one of the older boys interrupts. “You’re not telling us any of the particulars.”
“How he came; what the day was like; what he looked like—those sorts of things!”
The old man smiles. “But I think you’ve forgotten something, Amos…”
“Before him, I couldn’t yet see anything at all.” He chuckles and says, “Now will you let me tell the story in order?”
The children all nod their heads. Their grandfather begins again.