Journeys derive their meaning from arrival at their destination; retrospectively, they appear worthwhile. On the road it is different, especially if there is some uncertainty about reaching the goal. The hope which impels us forward is a hope that cannot yet see its own object (Rom 8:24)– we are traveling blind. We must expect that the length and hardship of the journey will sometimes seem impossible to bear. We will be tempted to be disheartened, to allow ourselves to lose the sharp focus of our discipleship and drift into distracting diversions. Inevitably, given the complex demands discipleship places upon us, there will be failures, misjudgments, and periods of stagnation. In the context of the whole journey and from the standpoint of eternity these are trifling, whatever their magnitude. Locked in time and space, we cannot see this and so we are tempted to lose our nerve and give up our search for God. ”This saying is [too] hard; who can hear it?” (Jn 6:60). It is easy to rationalize such apostasy; but there is danger that something in our own spirits dies when we settle for second best. Those who remain become plodders, perhaps. They no longer trust in their own virtuosity, but let go to allow God brilliantly to bring to perfection the work begun, but in a manner that transcends human assessment or intelligence.
(Casey, Fully Human Fully Divine, 168)
Anyone who travels learns quickly that plans are made to be broken. We are precipitated into a world of contingencies, where the unexpected happens more often than not. Each situation is modified by the people we meet there– people from a world we do not know, who summon us to leave behind the world we carry with us and dare to experience something new. Somehow the fixed ideas we had on departure are stretched, expectations are modified, and our previous self-definition and discipline seem no longer fully relevant. To interact creatively with what is around us we have to become more aware of the new situation we are in, read it more closely, and humbly ask for guidance from those who know it better than we do.
Jesus does not enclose his teaching in the hard carapace of systematic thought, but sends it forth vulnerable in images and stories, told in plain everyday language. He makes moral demands that are severe to the point of extremity, and therefore easily interpreted out of existence, if we are so inclined. His doctrine was not propounded in a single ordered discourse, but offered in bits and pieces in different places and with different people in mind. This fluidity is what makes the Gospels so untidy; they each combine into a single sequential narrative all sorts of preexisting units that sometimes seem at variance with one another. On the positive side, this plurality is why the Gospel message as a whole is so readily adaptable to different cultures, and we applaud it for this. But such a spirituality challenges us constantly to keep reintroducing the Gospel into the situation where we are and reading it afresh with a willingness to change anything in our lives that is dissonant with Jesus’ teaching as it resounds at this time and in this place. We need to keep freshening up our contact with the words of Jesus, lest our discipleship become stale and meaningless, a mere formality safely confined to its own corner. As Saint John Cassian says, each day and at every moment we need to keep opening up the soil of our heart with the plow of the Gospel.
(Casey, Fully Human Fully Divine, 164-165)