After a long struggle we boy scouts gained a high ridge. On each side we looked down upon a valley, a lake and upon people, who seemed to us to be as small as grasshoppers, (cf. Num. 13.13). What a sense of freedom -for once not to be gazing at massive city buildings, not to be trapped in a car creeping its way along jam-packed roads. The joy of breathing unpolluted air! Below were sheep grazing; above, circling birds of prey. For me, a townie, this was sheer heaven.
And now, in a small Caribbean island, whenever I see a chicken hawk on high, detached from this world's troubles, supported and floating on the currents of air, having a bird's eye view on life, I ponder on how significant to us are such panoramic views. What are they saying to us?
I have been greatly moved by the reported impressions of astronauts gazing from 'way out' upon earth, upon our world, our home...so beautiful, so serene, so small...so remote. What is truth? Where is it to be found? Is it for us terrestrials, from the peak of Mount Everest? Or from the top floor of a 'high rise building?' And, in Biblical terms, on Mt. Sinai? Or on Mt. Tabor? Or is truth, the 'real world,' to be found at ground-level in the crowded homes with paint flaking off the walls, and on the crowded terraces of a football ground?
Quite honestly, I can't answer any of these questions. To me they offer false alternatives. There is no answer to Pilate's question to Jesus, "What is truth?" Apart from what Jesus claimed for Himself on another occasion,
"I am the Way, the Truth, the Life."
The resolution of this circling around, looking for answers, comes from Jesus Himself when He told Pilate,
"I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice," ( Jn. 18. 3).
But I still ask myself, "What is this truth?" and, "Where is this truth that Jesus claimed to be -the truth to which He came to bear witness?" Is it in the stable outside Bethlehem? On the shore of the Lake of Galilee? On Calvary -nailed to a cross? In the appearances to His friends after His resurrection? Or, ultimately, in glory at the Right Hand of His Father?
In fact, the truth that is Jesus is located in every moment, every phrase and every episode of at an overarching mystery,
"The Word became flesh, He lived among us, and we saw His glory, the glory that He has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth,"
(Jn. 1. 14).
Indeed, there were two starkly contrasting 'high moments' when Jesus demonstrated the truth about Himself.
The first 'high moment' was the prelude to His ministry,
"Taking Him to a very high mountain, the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. And he said to Him, 'I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.' Then Jesus replied, 'Away with you, Satan!' For Scripture says, The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, Him alone must you serve,'" (Matt. 4. 8).
Here Jesus was being true to Himself through being submissive to the will of His Father, rather than to that of the tempter.
The other 'high moment' came at the conclusion and climax of His life,
"Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself," (Jn. 12.31).
Here Jesus was being true to Himself in that He attracted people to Himself by the sacrificial love embodied in His crucified body, rather than by offering us wealth and power.
These questions will always be important to me -more so, the answers -but especially during that slice of the Liturgical Year which is Lent, leading through to Paschal-tide.
Reality is seen both from aloft with a bird's-eye view -Jesus looking down from the cross, and, from a worm's perspective in the dust of the earth -our looking up to Him on the cross.
And mywaygodsway of recognizing and appreciating my heavenly Father is to be in and through His Son, Jesus -crucified, risen, glorious, in every word that he uttered, and in every happening of His Life in His High moments, and in His Low moments.
In a fortnight's time Isidore will reflect on how removing labels can help us to meet God.