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My uncle went to Hawaii and visited the leper colony of St. Damien the Leper. The only way to the village at the bottom of the cliff was by a donkey who walks a path no wider than a man’s shoulders. When my uncle got on the donkey he said, “This isn’t so bad.” But once the donkey stepped out on the ledge it was a different story. On one side was a wall of stone, on the other a 1000-foot cliff. When my uncle saw the drop he thought, “I don’t think this looks like a very good idea.” But it was too late to turn around. The path was too narrow and it was a one-way street. There were no jug handles or forks in the road. He asked the guide behind him about the conditions of the path, hoping to hear some words of encouragement or reassurance. All the guide told him was “Good Luck!” The good news is that he made it to the colony, alive.
That happens in life. Sometimes we take a misstep and get lost in life, and finding ourselves on a path withno easy way to turn around.
In the ancient world, archery was very popular. Archersset up targets and bulls-eyes as a way to measure the accuracy of a shot. Let’s say you pull back the bow. Just as you release the arrow you have a hiccup. The arrow will probably leave the path that leads to the center of the bulls-eye. The ancients had a special word for this: hatta. It means, “missing the mark.” The Jewish people used that word to best describe sin. So, sin expressed the life of one who leaves the right path. Here is the problem with sin for the ancient Jew–the arrow in flight cannot change direction.
Remember when Peter was amazed by the catch of fish? As his boat was sinking with the number of fish in it, Peter fell to his knees before the Lord and told him, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” What Peter was saying was that his life was like an arrow in flight that could not change direction. Do you remember how Jesus responded? He told him to “Follow Me.” That is, Jesus could get Peter to the bullseye if he followed Him.
Years ago my father went on a hunting trip with his buddies. One of the younger and inexperienced hunters got horribly lost and panicked in the deep woods of Maine. It is scary to be lost in the woods at night. My father could barely hear the lost man’s frightful high pitch voice over the static of the walky-talky. Once my father got him to calm down, he told him that he would fire a shot and he should walk ten paces toward the direction of the sound and stop. After taking the steps, my father instructed him to get back on the walky-talky. If he was out of range, then he would be able to retrace his steps and start again. When the lost man called my father back, my father told him that he would fire his rifle again. Once again he took another ten paces toward the sound. Eventually, he brought the young man into camp. When my father came home, he told us the story. I remembered how impressed I was with the way Dad helped the man.
We get lost sometimes in life. It happens. And when it does we know what to do. We stop and listen to the sound. We listen to the sound of the Lord’s voice. He may say, “Just pray the Our Father.” I will pray it and walk my ten steps. Then I stop and listen again for the sound of his voice. I may hear Him say. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.” That is what I will do this day, and I will take my ten steps. Then I will stop and listen to His voice again. This time I may hear his advice to give a cup of cold water to a little one. I will do that. I will be generous to someone who cannot pay me back and take my ten steps. I stop and listen again. This time it may be turning the other cheek. So today, when I am ignored or insulted, which can happen a thousand times a day, I will not retaliate. I stop, listen, and take my steps. I am no longer an ancient arrow in midflight that cannot change directions. My life is now a smart car.
When we sin, we miss the mark, the bullseye. When we listen to the voice of the Lord and follow Him we hit the bullseye no matter how many times we hiccup.Back to All Homilies