The day was one of the warmest we had as winter tried to turn to spring. It was Holy Saturday. I was feeling more like Good Friday as I sorted through the various reflections taking place in my heart.
I decided to go for a walk. I ended up on a path that I soon realized was still covered with melting ice. My hiking boots would allow me to navigate it ok. However, as I took in the sight of the ice-covered path, I noticed from a distance someone, who I thought was a man, sitting on a cleared space on the path yet surrounded by ice. He wore army fatigues. What is going on I wondered? Had he fallen? As I approached I saw plastic bags around him. Admittedly, I wondered if I should turn around and go another way. Although there were some other people around, the area was fairly isolated. I felt torn. Is he ok? Is he hurt? But another part of me wondered if he was going to hurt me or others. So many stories, so much violence in the world. I paused. With all of this going through my heart and mind, I kept walking on the path. I did not walk the other way. I approached where he was sitting.
I passed him on the left. As I passed him, I saw a can in front of him with a plastic protector, yet I could see it was alcohol. His clothes smelled heavily of cigarette smoke as if he had been in a bar all day long. I turned around. I looked into his eyes and in those brief seconds I saw a man saturated in pain and alcohol. Yet the situation was too much for me. I was afraid. Too many stories in the news, too isolated of a situation. I did not stop.
I so wanted to say to him, are you ok? Yet I already had my answer. Of course he was not ok. If a person is ok they are not sitting on a cold, ice-covered path drinking alcohol trying desperately to ease pain and sorrow. His eyes were full of pain and sorrow. Because I didn’t stop and ask I will never know. Was he newly back from serving our country and could not find his place in the world? Had a girl friend or wife left him? Was he alone on a holiday week-end when before family and friends surrounded him? Had he lost his job? I will never know and I will also never forget his eyes. Sad, sad eyes. Yet, that situation raised a question: How many times do I see someone, perhaps someone I see often, and miss the pain or am afraid to ask. How many times do I miss the chance to wish someone peace in word or deed?
In the gospel of John (John 20:19-31) from the Christian scriptures we find the disciples gathered together in fear and disbelief. They did not believe that Jesus’ death could bring about transformation and healing in Jesus or in themselves. Then a profound experience. Jesus came to them transformed. Peace be with you, Jesus said to them. Over and over again, Peace, be with you. Do not be unbelieving but believe.
There is pain in ourselves, in those around us, in our world. Jesus’ message is clear: believe that the power of the divine working within you can do more than you can ask for or imagine. Believe, trust, be at peace, live for peace. Embrace the path of life that leads to peace.
Blessings and peace,