Last weekend I was taking part in a sponsored walk for the Ulster Project.
Every year a number of teens from across the two communities are chosen to represent the city in the United States of America. It’s an amazing opportunity which involves much hard work and fundraising.
On Saturday morning I feared the worst as the rain lashed against the windows of my bedroom. It was very early; well any time before 10am on a Saturday is early. I was taking no chances as I wore three layers of clothing including waterproofs. As luck would have determined, despite the threatening clouds it never rained. The biggest difficulty I faced was collapsing due to the heat caused by three layers of protective clothing. What kept me focused during the walk was the promise of a fry which my father was organising for my return. Thankfully true to his word my father was busy in the kitchen.
As I sat at the table I was like Our Lord between the two thieves as my nephew sat looking up at me with sad eyes on one side and the dog sat on the other side with even sadder eyes.
Suddenly I had a flash back to one of the stories my father told about his childhood. He was one of fourteen which necessitated two separate dinner sittings; even so you had to guard your plate with a surrounding arm because any hesitation could be interpreted as not being hungry. Meantime a Mexican standoff ensued as I stared at the nephew and he stared back at me. Truthfully when he was standing on the chair next to me and I had to look up at him.
It wasn’t even the child’s sad eyes that melted my heart it was his petted lip which did the trick and I relented and gave him half a sausage. Meanwhile the dog had her two paws resting on my other leg looking for the other half of sausage. Our encounters with people can change how we understand ourselves and treat others. Whether it’s a family member or stranger even the briefest of exchanges can have a profound effect, transforming our behaviour. It could be a kind word, an act of generosity, a look full of meaning or emotion which gives you a glimpse of a person’s thoughts or feelings. In Jesus’s encounter with the Samaritan women at the well we see how the woman is brought to faith in Jesus. At the beginning of the scene the woman doesn’t even address the stranger by name; soon through their conversation she addresses Jesus as sir. Gradually the Samaritan woman comes to understand how Jesus is a prophet. As Jesus challenges the woman and frees her from her past the woman begins to believe Jesus is the Messiah before coming to the full realisation that Jesus is the Saviour. Likewise in our prayer we have to come to a fuller knowledge of who Jesus is and how he was sent as saviour of the world to free us from our sins.