By John Martin, C.Ss.R.
I was driving in the Outback, in South Australia. As I drove along I was listening to a program on the radio about links between remote towns. I began to notice some of the links on the landscape around me. I pulled over, took out my camera and took a photo. There before me was a scene of a vast expanse of saltbush country AND links! There was a power line, a telecommunications tower, a water pipeline bringing water from the River Murray. There was the North-South railway line and there was the Stuart Highway. The remote towns would die without links.
We live in a linked-up world! We might not think about the links very much … but they are there. There are the physical links of water pipes and gas pipes and electricity cables and telephone wires. There are roads and railway lines. There are radio links and televisions links and the World Wide Web. There are other kinds of links in our life too – such as marriage links, family links, school links, local town or district links, national links, worldwide links. People even speak of being linked with others in a “global village”.
And then there are spiritual links. We are united by our common human nature, by our baptism, by our local parish, by our links with our worldwide church. Links, links, links.
And then there is God. God is not just a big, powerful Being. God is three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – alive, vital, passionate, always linked, always interacting. This is the heart of the Mystery of the Trinity. God is a “linked up” God!
The book of Genesis tells the story of the creation of the human race. We are made in the image of God. We are made as male and female, made to relate to others.
Moreover, we are saved not as isolated individuals but as a people. Jesus came into our world, lived our life, spread a message that all people are of great importance. He died for that message and he lives now in our world, spreading through us the message that we matter greatly to God. He, the risen Jesus, is still spreading that message, still reaching out to others, still making links in our world today.
However, sometimes the links don’t work, or they break. Mobile phones sometimes don’t work. There are black spots in remote areas. Your phone battery may be flat. Your phone may be switched off, or the other person’s phone may be switched off. The signal is still there … but we are not linked up. Or a flood may wash away the pipeline or the road or the train line, or the power line gets torn down … and we are unlinked.
In our relationships our links may get damaged or broken. There may be a quarrel in a marriage or between various family members. It might last for years. It might even lead to a permanent rupture, the end of the marriage, or a complete break between members of a family.
Bill had lots of troubles. He struggled with alcohol. His marriage had broken down. He was often depressed. He was at that stage of life that he was searching. He was searching for his father. As soon as his mother became pregnant with him, his father had taken off. Bill grew up with his mum. He had never known his father, but he greatly resented him for walking out on his mother and him. She wouldn’t tell him much about his father. He had no connection, no links with his dad.
I walked with Bill for months in his search for peace. One day Bill said, “I would like to know my father.” So he set out on his search. Was his father dead? Where was he? What had become of him? Bill searched and searched. For over a year, in three states, he searched. Eventually in a rundown Retirement Village he found him. He just wanted to see him. He no longer felt resentment; he just felt pity for this broken old man. Bill had made links with his father and was able to get on with his life. He didn’t love him, but he knew who he was, where he was and was there from time to time and was there when he was buried.
And then there was Jane. She was a single mum. When she got pregnant her mother went into a tail spin and threw her out of the home and the family. Jane left. For almost twenty years she led a crazy, tumultuous life, with many partners, four children and a constant struggle. Jane was not good at making or keeping links with anyone. But she did long to know her mother. She had moved interstate. She had heard that her dad had died. But she longed for connection with her mum.
Finally she found her, living alone, struggling to manage after a stroke. Jane didn’t know if her mother would want to see her, but she had to try one more time. Her mum wept when Jane made contact, when she restored the links that were broken so many years ago. Jane now sees her mum whenever she comes to the city. She has brought her four children to meet their grandma. Jane was able to put her life back together.
There can be ruptures in our church life too … a break with another parishioner, for example, or with a priest.
Mary was one of those people who worked hard to raise funds for the building of the new church. For years she had been so devoted to the work. When the church was finished she continued to help. She was one of those ladies who like to work and not be seen. She cleaned and polished, she scrubbed and waxed … for years.
Then came a new priest. One day in a group they were talking with the priest. Mary said, “Yes, we are very proud of our church.” The priest, who didn’t know the story of the struggle to raise funds, said, “Mary, it is not your church. It is my church. I am in charge here!” Mary was so hurt. She went home and didn’t attend that church for fifteen years.
Eventually another priest took over, who knew of Mary’s hurt. He reached out. He visited her and said, “Why don’t you come back and see what your church looks like today?” Mary responded. The link with the parish was re-established.
Maintaining our network of links can be hard work. It is an ongoing task. Yet links are a vital part of life.