Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Chasing the Fox

Have you ever been to a fox hunt? Me neither. In fact, as a city girl, a fox hunt is about as foreign to me as a game of stickball is to an English country gentleman. The idea that a spiritual lesson based around a fox hunt could in any way resonate with me is a stretch, but a few years ago at a faith formation program I was attending, that is precisely what happened.

Here's how it went: In a fox hunt, the hounds who lead the pack have seen the fox they are chasing. They have sniffed his scent. These hounds have encountered the fox and this encounter motivates them to chase him with abandon - always keeping him in their sights. There are other hounds in the hunt as well who, by contrast, have not actually seen the fox for themselves. Instead, this second set of hounds are chasing the first set  - caught up in the excitement and frenzy of the pursuit. After a time, however, the second set of hounds loses interest and drops out of the race. Why? Because they do not have a clear vision of what they are chasing - they have not encountered the fox.*

If we liken our spiritual journey to a fox hunt - we need to examine which category of hound we fall into: the first set who have encountered Jesus personally or the second set who have not "seen" Jesus for themselves but are merely following others who have. 

Many of us begin the journey in the second category - we may hear a powerful testimony, or be inspired by a family member or friend's conversion. In some cases we may be part of a vibrant faith-filled community and enjoy the camaraderie and fellowship that brings. Perhaps our spiritual life is largely cultural  and we participate because it is a tradition and expected of us. We may be drawn to a spiritual leader - a priest, or preacher who touches our heart.  None of these motives are wrong in and of themselves, but ultimately all of them will be insufficient if we do not personally encounter the Lord Jesus himself.

In the story of Jesus' dialogue with the woman at the well in John's Gospel, we read of how this encounter touched the woman's heart so powerfully that she immediately returned to the town where she was considered an outcast and boldly proclaimed what Jesus had done for her. The townspeople were intrigued by her testimony and they invited Jesus to remain with them for two days. The passage concludes with the townspeople telling the woman: “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.” (John 4:42)

In the span of two short days, the townspeople moved from wanting to meet Jesus because of the woman's testimony to believing in him because they had experienced him for themselves. The went from being the hounds who chase the other hounds, to the hounds who chase the fox.

How does this encounter occur? For the townspeople, and the countless others in the 2000+ years since them - the first step to a personal encounter with Jesus is hearing someone else share their story of what the Lord has done for them. Personal, humble, honest witness is the single most effective evangelization strategy there is. But it doesn't end there. The next essential step, which John's Gospel tells us that townspeople took, is to invite Jesus to stay (John 4:40) and to hear him for ourselves. (John 4:40-42) This second step of personally inviting the Lord to "stay" is an ongoing process. None of us can keep up the pace of the spiritual fox hunt without encountering the Lord on a daily basis in prayer, in the sacraments, through the scriptures and in silent meditation. Without this we will quickly slip to the back of the pack and eventually out of the race altogether. Instead we must daily ask the Holy Spirit for grace to see the Lord and to stay with him in order that we, like St. Paul might boldly declare at the end: "I have finished the race; I have kept the faith." (2 Tim 4:7)

7 comments:

  1. This is a great post full of sense. Of course, those who have "seen" Jesus have a responsibility to tell others about it. Even if all we do is maintain and up-date our Christian Blogs. We never know who might visit us without commenting. It is possible that they might meet Christ through what we say.

    God bless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting Victor. You are so right - we need to use all means available to spread the Good News! That is our mission as the Baptized!

      Delete
  2. Very true. Thanks for your post and the comments. Helpful for our spiritual growth and evangelisation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting Gemma! God bless your Holy Week!

      Delete
    2. Debbie, A Blessed Holy Week to you, your family and all who visit your and other inspirational blogs. God Bless!

      Delete