I was forced to go on the weighing scales during the week and ever since I’ve been in bad form. I was asked only a few days ago to take part in a locally run health and fitness programme based on the television programme ‘The Biggest Loser’. When I was asked to take part I didn’t take it personally, thinking I did’t really need to be involved - sure I was at the gym four weeks ago! I had deluded myself into believing I was being included to provide moral and spiritual support, especially for the four other men among the thirty women taking part. As competitive as ever I wondered what the prize for the winner would be - hopefully a meal voucher or a hamper. Fortunately or unfortunately I had a reality check when I visited home and my brother insisted I ventured on to the scales. When I looked down I wasn’t happy with what I saw as the dial kept spinning and it dispelled any doubts about the housekeeper shrinking all my clothes in the wash.
My lack of exercise, over recent weeks in particular, was brought to the fore when I caught someone to help me remove all the branches and cuttings which had gathered from the last tidy up around the grounds, from the garage. After filling the trailer twice and making the trip to the skips in the council refuse site I was exhausted, even though I spent most of the time watching as the trailer was being emptied. On the first visit to the skip I met someone I knew who stopped their car and started laughing at the thought of me doing some manual labour. Worse was to follow she took a photograph of me as I leant against a shovel which was doing a great job of supporting my weight. It was only then I noticed how my friend’s car was occupied. In the front passenger seat was her tiny house dog, whilst seated in a backseat was her mother along with her sister’s larger dog which she was dog-sitting.
All this talk of exercise and dogs bought me back to reality this week because at home it has been like a wake after one of the family dogs was put down. We’ve had a boxer for more than twelve years. My brother brought Ally home from ‘the Pound’ and my father has been looking after the dog ever since. Every evening for twelve years my father walked the dog up ‘the line.’ The routine became second nature unless my parents were away on holidays. Then the poor dog would have been lucky to get out and about once a week as my brothers, sister and I left it to each other to walk the dog. Over the years Ally became nicknamed the DLA dog because she had developed so many health problems. In the last number of weeks it became very evident the dog was struggling and in pain. The silence and the emptiness in the back garden was a poignant reminder of her absence, even our house dog seems lost at the moment having no-one to fight with over food or annoy in the backyard.
In our journey through life we have been accompanied by many and varied companions. From family members, friendships, class and workmates, neighbours, acquaintances and even through family pets we have encountered different personalities and characters which have made life more bearable. Our memories have been shaped by the experiences of those who have kept us company, ensuring life was that little but less lonely. Where we encounter God in this life is never predictable, if we have the eyes to see and ears to hear, God can be recognised in the strangest of places and the most unlikely of people or creatures. The world as God’s creation has the potential to reveal to all men and women the presence of our heavenly Father who cares for all, especially the weak. God sent his Son to recreate and renew the world, to free all people from the bonds of sin and death, from all the forces which imprison us. In light of this revelation do we help or hinder each other as we seek to live out our faith.
Baptised as brothers and sisters we have a responsibility to reveal Christ to the world around us through the way we live our faith and welcome and treat one another. Too often we live in fear, and through jealously and envy we want to label and exclude everyone else as sinners without confronting our own faults and failings. Together we pray we can be instruments of healing for one another, realising we all need God’s mercy and forgiveness and recognising how we all have the potential to reveal God’s presence to a broken world. We journey together; we need and rely on one another to live out our vocation of being God’s chosen people.