Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
He spoke about the gospel. About religion beginning with God’s movement toward us and not the other way around. About brokenness and pain and crying out. About dying and selfishness and scandalous grace. His resume supported his message: he became “an aguador (water carrier), transporting water to rural villages via donkey and buckboard; a mason’s assistant, shoveling mud and straw in the blazing Spanish heat; a dishwasher in France; a voluntary prisoner in a Swiss jail, his identity as a priest known only to the warden; a solitary contemplative secluded in a remote cave for six months in the Zaragoza desert.” He later returned to the United States and served and ministered to shrimpers in Alabama and lepers in Louisiana. His message focused not on his journey, but on words burned into his life, “Once you come to know the love of Jesus Christ, nothing else in the world will seem as beautiful or desirable.” So he spoke about the love of a Father, about our inability to hear his tender voice, and our refusal to believe him when we do listen. He said God likes us, not just loves us because theologically he has to, but that he actually delights in who we are and not who we could or should be. He spoke about a heart big enough and a grace wide enough to cover an alcoholic that depends on his home group christened the “Camel Club”, since a camel can go forever without a drink.
When he was done, I asked him to sign my book, unaware that his eyes could hardly see the page before him. He pressed his pen to the title page of The Ragamuffin Gospel and inscribed “Brennan” directly over the word “Gospel”. Fitting, not because he has marked the gospel, but because the gospel has marked him.