People who know me would agree that I am easy to sidetrack. Students and friends know that I am one derailed train of thought away from twenty minutes of tangential, and likely trivial, conversation. This tendency sheds light on my affinity for blazes. I don’t mean fires, I mean trail markers. I love that purple square painted on a tree or the cairn (small pile of rocks) that guides your hike through a barren region. It is these trail markers that keep you on track. They are a sign reminding us how we got here, where we are going, and why we are on this journey in the first place.
This call back to purpose, back to the trail, happens in today’s Gospel. Jesus’ disciples were reveling in the authority and power that had been granted to them. Jesus celebrates with them for a moment, entertaining their tangent. Then with these words he called them back, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven”. Great things were happening around them and through them. But without the right perspective those things would sidetrack them from the path. It could lead to childish competition, inflated egos, lust for spiritual power, or an easy to tempt desire for the next spiritual thrill. Jesus called them back from that, he reminded them where the trail was.
In this passage, and many others, Jesus is revealed as the greatest trail marker of them all. St. Therese, whose memorial we celebrate today, knew this, which is why she is a Doctor of the Church. She knew that when we look at that blaze on a tree we call a crucifix or that cairn we call the empty tomb we would be reminded of how we got here, where we are going, and why we are on this journey in the first place.