My husband and I will reach a milestone of sorts this summer when we celebrate another decade of married life together. We have discussed how to mark this occasion over the past few months. Finally, we have a plan. We will spend our anniversary with our family and then embark on an Alaskan cruise sometime afterward. We have just completed the final travel arrangements and made our deposit. My dear husband is noticeably pleased. He loves to travel. As for me, I am breathing a sigh of relief as my next related responsibility lies a few months down the road when I will have to pack early enough to make our flight.
I laughed aloud as I filed our bright yellow “Alaska Folder” for future reference. My husband assembles a folder every time we travel anywhere of any distance. As I slid this folder filled with our Alaskan itinerary, e-tickets and some seemingly necessary miscellanea in front of Mike’s other travel folders, I noticed the red tab sticking up in the middle of the collection. “Ah, Croatia,” I said to myself. Apparently, I am finally overcoming my aversion to traveling afar because planning for Alaska has been far easier for me than planning for Croatia had been.
After a nearly five-year search and decades of wondering, Mike located his Croatian cousins in 2005. It took another year of communicating back and forth via letters to arrange to meet Mike’s Penić Cousins in their homeland. We managed the complications involved in traveling overseas together, while I worked on my travel-phobia as best I could. Our plans included a rendezvous with two of Mike’s American cousins who joined us for this family reunion in Zagreb. Mike’s Croatian Cousins insisted upon meeting us at the airport, and it was this first meeting that caused us more worry than everything else. “How will we know who they are?” Mike wondered. “Will they recognize us from that small picture we sent?” my son asked. Someone who waited with us to get through customs observed, “How do you know they are really your cousins?” I glared at this man as I thought to myself, “Only a real cousin would go through what these people have gone through to be with us here today!”
I replaced my scowl with a smile as I peeked through the small window behind the customs agent charged with reviewing our passports. “They’re out there,” I thought, “and I know we’ll recognize them. I just know it.” A few minutes later, we walked past that customs agent to a crowd of at least one hundred people. Still, in just seconds, a smiling contingent approached us as we walked toward them. “I knew we would recognize them,” I said to Mike. Before I could utter another word, Cousin Stjepan approached me with a beautifully welcoming smile which I returned with a joyfully tearful hug. The rest of the Penić Cousins welcomed their assigned visitors in like manner. Though our conversation was limited by our language differences, within minutes, Mike, our son and I knew that we were home.
I share this adventure with you because Jesus also concerned himself with our ability to recognize one another. John’s gospel (13:31-35) tells us that Jesus broached this subject at his last supper with his disciples. Jesus told them, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples.” Though I cannot speak for those who responded to the disciples’ love, I can tell you that my family and I could not help responding to the love of those who welcomed us to Croatia. Though we arrived in a foreign land among people to whom we were strangers, this newfound family welcomed us as though we had known one another forever. This is the love which reveals our true identities. This is the love which Jesus asks us to share with the world.
Dearest Lord, open our eyes, that we may recognize you in all of those we meet along our way.
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