Don’t be afraid; God has heard the boy’s cry in this plight of his. -Genesis 21:17
Thereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus,
and when they saw him they begged him to leave their district. -Matthew 8:34
Today’s readings got me reflecting about loose and twisting threads. We all like our stories tied up with neat endings; the hero wins, the victims are rescued, justice is served, all mysteries are revealed. But today’s readings aren’t so neat.
In the gospel Jesus cures two men plagued by demons by sending the evil spirits into a herd of swine. Then nothing more is said about these two. Did they go on to live productive lives? Did they follow Jesus? And what about the townspeople who beg Jesus to leave the area? Why didn’t they marvel at the miracle and ask Jesus to cure their other ills? We are left with so many unanswered questions.
In the first reading we hear a poignant tale of Hagar and Ishmael. They are sent out into the wilderness and are at the point of death. But the Lord comes to their aid and saves them. From then on “God was with the boy as he grew up.” Another loose end, perhaps? Further reading, however, reveals that Ishmael is back with Jacob when he is 13 years old! The threads of this story become more and more tangled the deeper we explore. It reads like a modern soap opera, with brother set against brother, Mother against stepson. In the end, Ishmael returns to the family for his father’s funeral.
In my own life I can see many threads. Some that can be followed for years, others that seem to lead nowhere. However, I’ve often found that what I thought was a “loose end” was God working in His own time, not mine. Friends and family members that I had thought were lost to me have been woven back into my life. God alone can see the whole skein of our lives.
Today my prayer is that I too listen to God as Hagar did when He speaks and says, “Don’t be afraid.”
Talib Huff is a retired educator and a member of the retreat team at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California. You can contact him at [email protected].