When I was a Boy Scout in the 1970s, we learned orienteering, the art of finding one’s way through unfamiliar territory with the use of a compass and either a map or travel instructions.
For example, I might be dropped off by car at the edge of a strange forest and expected to use my compass to follow directions, say, “Proceed to checkpoint one, 1,320 yards west-northwest of your drop off point, and there receive further instructions.” I’d then have to find checkpoint one. But it was rarely as simple as walking 1,320 yards west-northwest. Instead, there’d be barriers: a ravine, a hillside, a swampy area—obstacles that might delay or defeat attempted travel. I’d have to look around and use my wits to guess the best way around the obstacles, without losing my sense of where I was in relation to “checkpoint one.”
The Church of Pittsburgh, On Mission for The Church Alive!, is a little bit like an orienteering exercise. We’ve been instructed to enliven the mission of the Church with respect to our Sunday worship and hospitality, our outreach, and our Christian formation and education. But there are impediments along the way and we’ll have to use our wits to reach our goal.
We may be tempted to fear getting lost, or we may grow angry at our teammates as we dispute the correct path. We may even despair of finding our way. Thus the prophet Baruch in today’s first reading announces to a people in “mourning and misery” because of exile the good news of an otherwise unforeseen return to Temple worship, the reassembly of God’s people, and the restoration of their land.
Can we look forward to what God might be doing with us, no matter the ups and downs on the path? Even if we can’t yet imagine how God could restore us, can we at least be curious as to how the Lord might be leading us? We’ve seen a few signs: A lively “meet and greet” at St. John of God, a joyous Thanksgiving Day Mass at St. Malachy, and a zealous parish mission at Holy Trinity. And it’s not all about us: We managed to get a bus to Amen to Action to share prayer and meal-packing for the needy with many other Christians.
The apostle Paul writes of our “partnership in the gospel” and anticipates that God will bring to completion the good work he has begun in us. Amen!