by Fr. Matthias
I pound the last tent stake into the hardpan and toss the rock-turned-hammer down the hill. I pull a knife and a jar of peanut butter from my bag. Digging into the golden spread, I realize that I’m the one being carved—cut and chiseled—by the beauty that surrounds me: an evening sun that sends its Midas touch to golden the hills, the shimmering stream spilling across amber sand at my feet.
In the distance, red hues of rugged bluffs blaze the horizon. Suddenly, an unexpected insight inflames my heart: the Lord of the Universe chose to live in a place much like this: crystal water, rock-strewn hills, jagged cliffs. A region that glimmers with light and grace!
The Holy Land is here.
Three years after that campout, I am assigned as pastor of this wondrous place. New responsibilities in a new assignment challenge and invigorate me. When Friday evening arrives, I am exhausted, but exhilarated. I realize that a haunting phrase of the Lord has been ringing in my mind all week: To those whom much has been given, much is expected.
I leave the office and enter into the garage to grab a stack of files from the floor of my truck cab. The dinging alarm from the open door carries with it a familiar voice: Follow Me .
I hear the summons and obey. I grab my wallet from inside the house, climb into the cab and head for the lake!
The pickup bounces off the pavement. Shadows darken the dirt road and clouds of dust float in the rearview mirror. Beyond the bend, a wide-angle view of the lake stretches across the pane of my windshield. Blue-green water stretches for miles beneath the glow of the golden hour. Stone-studded hills roll in the distance. I stop to take it in. The same voice beckons me to descend to the shore: Come, and you will see!
I park the pickup beside the boat ramp and follow a trail along the lakeside, my eyes on a jetty that reaches west toward the sunset. A rustling sound emerges from tall grass on my right. I glance down and my heart constricts: a rattlesnake poised to strike!
His beady eyes meet mine. Time stops. Breathing stops. I jump back just before the serpent strikes!
Heart pounding, I grab a softball-size stone and creep forward. The rattler, convinced of victory, resumes reconnoitering the trail: forked tongue stabbing the air, oval head bouncing from side-to-side.
I take a deep breath and launch the stone. The neck snaps. The body coils. The rattle rings. More stones. More throws. The snake flings its head, writhes on the ground. The needle-like fangs spark like matches.
I drop a large rock on its head, then cut off the tail.
Still shaking, I ease toward the water. Seated on a rock, I lift my eyes to the hills and remove my shoes. A breath of wind carries the voice of the Master: Oh you, of little faith!
I place my feet into the coolness and recall another phrase, another summons, not to rest but to resilience: I give you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions and on all the power of the enemy. And nothing—nothing—will hurt you.Those Catholic Men.