Long ago, a man had to cross a treacherous mountain. He was a stranger there, and he was dreading the journey. For one thing, the mountain's name frightened him. It was called Dark Mountain.
As luck would have it, another man soon joined him. His pleasant company and conversation smoothed the way and made the journey pass quickly as the two approached the mountain.
However, arrival at the foot of the mountain meant a parting of the ways. The traveler's companion wished him a good afternoon and turned to journey by another road. The man was left to go over Dark Mountain alone.
Life is that way. We are like strangers on a journey. Good companions make the going easier, but all too soon we must part company. We find we are alone at frightening points in the journey. We ultimately must cross death's dark mountain alone at the end of life's way.
In the face of this hard fact of life, it is helpful to remember two Gospel promises: Jesus promises to be present, and he promises the Holy Spirit.
Jesus says in St. John's Gospel he will not leave his disciples to go it alone. This is an odd thing for Jesus to say. He is coming to his own Dark Mountain. He is reaching his destination, Calvary. He and his disciples will part ways.
He, however, rises from the dead and appears to them during a period of 40 days. Jesus is with them again, but then he ascends. He disappears from their sight. It appears he does leave them in the end.
It only appears that way if we forget the other promise. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. It is true Jesus was present only for a little while during his earthly ministry, but he is ever after present in the hearts of believers by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus makes good on his promise to be present.
Those who love us might wish always to be with us, but they cannot make the promise not to leave us. We, too, must leave behind those we love. We must part company at the foot of death's dark mountain.
Jesus, however, has passed over the dark mountain. Where we are headed, he already has passed. And death could not hold him.
We entrust our lives to him. We entrust all we have loved and lost to his keeping. No matter what mountain we must cross, even if it be our final crossing, Jesus is a traveling companion who does not leave us to go it alone.
Scott Watford is pastoral associate at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church, Hays.