John 13:35 ŌBy this everyone will know that you are my disciples, I f you have love for one another.Ķ
His name is Jack. He has a warm smile, a white beard, and a gleam in his eye so that if you took away his limp and added another 100 pounds he would make a darned good Santa Claus. Jack is the conductor on the train that I take home every afternoon from Boston.
South Station has about 13 tracks. My train comes in on track 12 about 75% of the time. About 95% of the time it is somewhere on tracks 10-13, but a few times it has come in someplace else. Announcements about the track usually come too late to be very helpful, and so the press of people waiting to board the train is usually gathered over by tracks 10-13. And they wait for Jack. Once somebody spots Jack, we all breathe a sigh of relief and move like hungry cattle to start the journey home. He always has a smile, and we board with confidence that weÕre on the right train.
Making moral decisions is often like finding my train. The right answers tend to look a certain way and come in on a certain track. But every so often they come in a bit differently than we expect, and weÕre not sure weÕre getting on the right train. Is this one going where we want to go? Sometimes the wrong train can look very much like the right train. We need Jack to reassure us.
Ideally Jesus would be standing there in his robe and sandals, assuring us that this is the right decision. But that doesnÕt happen much. Instead of showing up in person, Jesus has told us what to look for when we try to decide what trains to board in our lives. Look for the love. ItÕs not that there arenÕt other trains—even other comfortable trains. But, if you have said that you want to go where Jesus went—that you want to board the Christian train—love is the unfailing mark.
Whether you are struggling with the large questions of our time (like what is a good immigration policy) or the daily dilemmas that we face (like how to respond to someone who has hurt us), the answer is the same. The train carrying the true disciples of Jesus is marked with love—love for God, love for self, and love for others.
Of course when I first began my commute, Jack was just another face. I had to take other precautions in the days before I learned to recognize Jack. I had to ask the people around me and the people on the train or wait until the last minute to board when the track was finally put up on the screen. Christian life is like that also. It takes awhile to figure out what is the loving choice and what is not. You would think it would be clear, but it isnÕt always. Sometimes we have to ask those with more experience for help. Sometimes life has handicapped us in ways that prevent us from recognizing love and we need the help of others.
But the marker is the same. YouÕre on the right track with love.
Teach us, God, to recognize your love in the decisions that we make.
HAPPY FEAST OF ST. CHUCK! (Groundhog Day for the uninitiated.)
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