After many, many months of retirement, I finally ventured out onto the roads again.
When I mention roads, of course I mean footpaths, more accurately the pathway along the Foyle.
Being weak willed and easily swayed, I had organised to meet with a friend on Monday, to attempt my first tentative running steps. My first major hurdle was trying to squeeze into my running gear again. I should be honest and admit I’ve over-indulged, resulting in a colossal amount of weight gain. This admission would be too straightforward and candid, instead I’m doing what any Derry man would do, I’m blaming my mother’s washing machine for shrinking my running clothes.
Believe me, I sweated more and expended much more effort trying to dress in my running gear, than I did on the actual run. The last time I had this much bother, was when my mother brought me a pair of skinny fit jeans, which needless to say, never made it past my knees.
This was the drama even before I left the parochial house, and I hadn’t even factored in the weather conditions yet. You need to realise this was last Monday morning and there was the small matter of storm Brendan. For over an hour I was hoping my running companion would cancel; alas the man in his sixties is hardier than me. Reluctantly, I ventured out of my car after parking along the quay. For once in my life, I experienced some benefit to being short, which resulted in less wind resistance.
However, this advantage was somewhat offset by my width, making the conditions for running up the riverfront somewhat of a challenge. Not a word of a lie, it was like running up hill, I had never experienced running conditions like it. There are parts of the walk-way, which offer shelter and then other areas leave you totally exposed.
I was never as glad to reach the safety of my car after my battle with big Brendan. In all honesty it was an unfair fight, I felt like a lightweight taking on a heavy weight, and I had the aches and pains to prove it. What struck me when running up the quay was the sight of the boats along the river being tossed about on the full tide. If the sea craft were taking such a battering inland on the river, you can only image what it must have been like out at sea. Contending with the elements and the forces of nature, visibility must have been at a minimum. It’s during the storms of life, when plunged into darkness, we appreciate the significance of light, as a symbol.
Especially when the road ahead becomes obscured, and treacherous conditions make every step or decision fraught with danger. As the darkness threatens, we can feel overwhelmed and crippled with fear. In the dark, every hidden noise and movement becomes amplified, our sense of anxiety increases as our imaginations run riot in the face of the unknown. Who are the people who provide light and guidance in our lives, the women and men we can point to, who reveal God’s presence? John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, who would fulfil Israel’s vocation, to be a light to the nations. Baptised into the people of God, we too have inherited this vocation, to be a light for the world. Through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, we are granted the necessary gifts and graces, to become a Christlike presence in the world. It is the Holy Spirit, alive and active through the celebration of the sacraments, in the listening and responding to the Word of God, in the life of the Christian community, who manifests the reign of God. Can we use our gifts and talents by surrendering our lives in service of one another? At the end of our days, what legacy will we have created, what testimony will have been left through our words and actions. Will we have fulfilled our vocation to become a Christlike presence, will God recognise us as his child, or will God encounter a stranger?