A close shave with the bucket list

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I never heard of a bucket list until I saw the start of the film some time last year. Apparently it contains a list of the things you wish to do before you die.

It might involve travel to a far away and exotic destination. Maybe it’s a once and a life time adventure or experience, climbing a mountain, learning to fly, an achievement which you never thought possible in your life. Well one of mine was to experience a wet shave in a barber’s, with hot towels and a cut throat or open blade razor. On our recent pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella I decided not to shave until we reached our destination. I tried to convince myself it was for religious reasons when in reality it was laziness. After all another five minutes in bed is a major advantage when you have to start walking at eight O’clock in the morning. I had the same idea last year but thought I was unfortunate because when I went in search of the barbers in Santiago I discovered he was away on two weeks holidays.

The difference this year was I wished he had been away on two weeks holidays. All week I had been talking about this shave and how unlucky I was the previous pilgrimage. By the time we reached our destination I had three hapless pilgrims in my wake in search of the barbers. There’s an opera written about the Barber of Saville, we could write a tragedy concerning the barber of Santiago, well, tragic comedy. Three of the more dishevelled members of the group and me went in search of the barber’s. I had a mental image of a shop with three elevated chairs, sawdust on the ground and strong smelling disinfectant masquerading as aftershave. We got a shock when we found ourselves at a hairdresser’s. In broken English and hand signals we were told to come back in half an hour. So we had a coffee and ventured back. I should have known at this stage we were in for problems because the same man was in the chair getting his hair cut and we still had to wait for another twenty minutes.

Some people regard themselves as artists no matter about the canvass they have to work with. The first of our group to venture forward was an Italian with a beard whom we had met on last year’s pilgrimage and joined us again this year. Firstly a trimmer then a having bush was soaped, a blade was fixed to the razor and finally a cloth was unfolded and placed on the victims shoulder. To say this man was careful or particular does do justice to the fact all of above took fifteen minutes. After another ten minutes he decided to take a break and hold a conversation outside for two minutes with a friend. Forty minutes later the Italian was relived to be finished because at one stage he feared he might miss his flight at 5.30 the next morning. The Tyrone was next and his ordeal lasted thirty-five minutes and by the time he got to me the wind was behind him and I was finished in thirty minutes.

I have to say I was impressed with his speed by the time he reached me because he had to spend five minutes bringing the chair to a suitable height before he could begin. Thankfully the advantage of needing glasses and then taking them off is being unable to see what the barber was doing next with the blade especially when you close your eyes just to be sure. After every small stroke with the razor he cleaned the blade on the cloth. This was fine until he came to my throat, I never felt as vulnerable or helpless in my life, I was afraid to breathe never mind cough. Not only was the sweat rolling down my face, by the time he had finished I noticed I was so tense I had one of my legs two feet off the chair. So two and a half hours later three of us left admitting to one another how it was a once in a life time experience because it would take too long in one life time to do it again. In fact he took so long I needed to shave again by the time I made it back to the hotel.

We live in a pressurised world dominated by the economy and were constantly reminded how time is money. The vision in this weekend’s gospel concerns the nature of the Kingdom of heaven and God’s incredible generosity and mercy. No matter when we come to believe in God and open our hearts to his gifts, the Father will welcome us into his kingdom. God is not begrudging and the challenge for his disciples is being generous enough to rejoice in God’s mercy towards all men and women. By nature we can find it difficult if not impossible to understand Jesus acceptance of others because we know their sins, their past history and failures. We believe we can justify ourselves in the face of God because we have tried to be faithful, we have walked the long and hard path. Yet self righteousness and arrogance can make us hard or heart and intolerant of others.

In scripture we have been constantly reminded what God wants is mercy not sacrifice, if there is no love, generosity, true charity, mercy and forgiveness in our lives then we have failed to appreciate the true meaning of the good news of the Kingdom as preached by Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals a God who wishes to give late comers a chance as long as they have hearts hungry and willing enough to listen to his call. We need to be patient with one another, slow to give up on others or resentful of the care God embraces all people.

This is our opportunity to be saved and to know the gift of salvation, does it matter if were first or last as long as we have a place in the Kingdom of God’s love.