March 12, 2021

There is an episode in the gospels (the stories about Jesus Christ) in the New Testament of the Bible where Jesus is teaching in a synagogue, and what he says so upsets his audience that they hustle him to a hilltop with the intention of flinging him over the cliff—a handy remedy for discomfort.  However, the last line of that story reads, “But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way,” Luke 4:30. A recent reflection on this passage ended with this question:  “What would it be like for you to leave the crowds and follow Jesus on his way?”  What would it be like for any of us to leave the crowds and follow our spiritual guides?

To answer that question, I had to consider who the “crowds” are in my life.  In this age of social media, don’t we all, to some extent, have “crowds” that we are part of, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, or any of the numerous other options?  How about our newsfeeds?  Which ones do we follow, shall I say, “religiously”?  How do those crowds and voices influence us?  Do they make us more compassionate? Loving? Generous? Beautiful? I spend very little time on social media these days, much less than I used to.  I found myself getting caught up in, and adding to, the noisy crowds during this past year of plague and politics, and that is not who I want to be.  I discovered that it is true that we become like the people we follow.  If we follow self-righteous, rigid, judgmental people (or institutions), we ourselves become self-righteous, rigid, and judgmental.  If we follow prejudiced, fearful, and violent people (or institutions), we become the same.  You get the picture.

The ancient guide Benedict writes in his rule for living a full life that “those who choose to follow bear the responsibility for their choice of leaders.”  That is a sage warning worth pondering in this season of self-reflection.  What kind of person does each one of us desire to be and does who we are following help guide us in that direction?  If our hope is to follow the Divine Source of our Being, whatever we name that, then it often will require that we leave our crowds to do so.  It can be a lonely journey, definitely a counter-cultural one, but if it makes us into people of light, love, compassion, and healing, then let us be encouraged to “go on our way.”  Blessings ~ Rosemary