January 10, 2020

Reflection / John Shaughnessy

Go the extra mile on the road to walking together forever

John ShaughnessyOnly moments remained before the players left the locker room for the game that would decide the championship. Picking up a piece of white chalk, the head coach scrawled on the blackboard, “Win today, and we walk together forever.”

Hours later, the players stormed into that locker room again, smiling, shouting, hugging, dancing—knowing they had achieved a moment in time that would bind them all their lives.

Yet to “walk together forever” is not just reserved for championship teams or the world of sports. All meaningful friendships have the quality of “walking together forever.” Such friendships frequently begin in the challenging times and transitions of life. In our youth, the uncertainty, fear and intensity of a new beginning in high school and college often lead to bonds that last a lifetime. These friends welcome and support us when we desperately need someone to be there for us. And even if the years, miles and changes weaken that connection to some degree, there’s still a fondness for that person, still a sense that in the mind and the heart we “walk together forever.” It’s the same way with friendships later in life when people reach out to us, support us and stand beside us through the tough times.

We are in tough times again—times of uncertainty and fear caused by the coronavirus crisis. And once again, our shared humanity is shining through to support and uplift us. People are reaching out more and more to “be there” for friends, and to be a friend to people they have never met. My wife and I have increased our efforts to connect with friends, and they with us. Our children share virtual “happy hours” with friends and virtual “holy hours” with strangers. Our younger neighbors stress that they will be there for us whenever we need them. Our parish offers an outlet for parishioners to keep in touch by phone or e-mail. Our neighborhood association puts a flyer in our mailbox that carries this message, “Reach out if you need ANY help.” The list goes on and on. At a time in our lives when 6 feet is the measuring distance of separation, people are going the extra mile to show we are all in this together.

Christ gave us the ultimate example of going the extra mile, of “walking together forever,” on his path to Calvary. That walk changed everything for us in our relationship with God, fulfilling God’s promise of salvation. It’s a walk that was also strikingly marked by the fact that Christ didn’t make it alone. The night before, none of his friends stood by him, two even betrayed him. Yet as he carried his cross to Calvary, some of the people he loved—and who loved him—were there for him. And a stranger helped him carry his cross.

That sharing of the cross adds another defining dimension to the connection between God and man—the two walking together toward a moment that would change the world forever. In the same way today, God is there to help us carry our cross.

As we prepare to enter Holy Week, go the extra mile in your relationships with God and others, knowing that when you do, you will walk together forever.
 

(John Shaughnessy is the assistant editor of The Criterion. This reflection has been adapted from his book, Then Something Wondrous Happened: Unlikely encounters and unexpected graces in search of a friendship with God.) †

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