THE CALL OF THE WILD
“He said in reply, "Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased.” Mt 17:11-12
As I read through this Gospel, I can’t help but picture the prophets in scripture. Very few of them are what we would consider “civilized” or “proper.” Prophets tend to be exiled, thrown down cisterns, or sentenced to death. They are bold and righteous, but at the same time, they have their own personal flaws. What most strikes me in the image, is that none are comfortable once they are called by God.
This Summer, I was walking through a museum and happened upon a series of Late-Medieval and Renaissance depictions of John the Baptist. It was not the differences of the images that struck me most, but the similarities. John is often not well-clothed, always carries a walking stick, and he always has a wild beard. (As a person who dons a beard myself, I always appreciate this about John.) The not-so-subtle message is that he is wild; outside of civilization; a barbarian of sorts. A comedy bit by Tommy Tiernan describes him as “a wild-looking heretic, an outlaw. Someone who would come into town once a week on the back of a donkey, covered in locusts, sucking honey from a bee’s arse” (beware of the language). I love the bit because there’s a great deal of truth in it! A relationship with Jesus is wild! As much as we would like to normalize it, the examples of those people who have bought in do not strike me as “normal.”
The call, if Elijah and John are any indications, is difficult to answer. It’s a whole lot easier to ignore the call and write it off as crazy or outlandish than it is to act on it. The Gospel today continues on with Jesus telling the audience that they only see him as a sinner or a drunkard because that’s the people with whom he chooses to spend his time. Instead of listening to what he is saying, the people would rather find excuses to ignore him or call him crazy because it’s a whole lot easier than answering his call to be wild. Let us remember the prophets, and that God calls us all to be wild.
Have I ever written off God’s call because it seemed crazy?
Am I willing to be like the voices crying out in the desert?
How is God calling me to be wild today?