The day after I returned from the community Alao to Quito, I decided to head over to the bishop’s office in Quito, to see if I could set up an appointment with him. As I’ve been going around to four different dioceses in this stay in Ecuador, it was looking like I needed some backing in the church from a bishop that would be open to my being in many dioceses and not just in their own. The bishop who had previously sponsored my visas had wanted me in just their own dioceses, and my Franciscan sister friends suggested he would probably be open to talk, so I took the hour-long trek to reach the bishop’s place early in the morning.
I arrived at the plaza in the center of Quito, and walked around to find the bishop’s house. It’s actually a palace located in the center plaza along with the cathedral, the presidential palace, and another government building. After walking by a guard and up the palace stairs, I found my way to the secretary’s office, introduced myself and asked if I could set up an appointment with the bishop. She put my name into a little book, and had me wait.
About a half an hour later, I was called into a side office to meet with the bishop’s secretary, another priest. As I entered, he asked, “What are you looking for?” And then he proceeded to pick up his smartphone and began typing and whatnot, while I began to try to give some context to who I was, what I do, and what I was looking for. He didn’t seem interested in much of it. A bit puzzled, he asked me which priests I know and who I’ve worked with. As I started to name names, he began to write them down. Finally, I said, “Look, what I’ve been doing is taking me into a bunch of different dioceses, so I’m looking to see if the bishop is willing to talk about supporting me and sponsoring my visa extension.” He said, “That’s not how it works. You have to find a bishop and diocese to be a base, and then work out of that into other dioceses.” That being the obvious reason I was there in the first place, it was another way of saying, take a hike. I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere, and so accepted what he said with an OK and left.
On my way out, I realized, hey I just traveled a half a day to stay in a poor little room with a poor family, in a village where it’s very cold, with no hot water, eating foods I have never eaten before, in a language I don’t understand, to bring great news and God’s real love to some very special people that are at the end of society’s road, and I took the day-trip to return to Quito and then got up early and took the hour and a half ride to Mr. Bishop’s palace looking for support and was treated like yesterday’s lunchwrapper! And I thought …
This is what it is to follow Jesus Christ.
I couldn’t be happier.
Following Jesus Christ? It’s not nice meals and perks and and money decisions and buddying up with religious leaders to build up the church. It’s not rubbing shoulders comfortably with good leaders and the influential to get some good project going that’s going to help people. Getting treated by leaders like yesterdays’ lunchwrapper after giving up creature comforts and support and popularity to bring good news to people that society puts on the bottom?
*That* is what it is to follow Jesus Christ.
Would that make you happy?
“The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes… If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Lk 9:22-25)