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The Full but Neglected Backpack

This is a guest post from author and apologist Steve Ray.

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A Christian can be compared to a man on a journey.

As soon as the traveler crested the hill, he knew he was in dire straits. He was lost and desperately weary from hours of trudging down dusty paths, and his tongue was swollen with thirst. The leather pack his mother had given him grew heavier by the mile. He was nowhere near his destination.

As soon as the traveler crested the hill, he knew he was in dire straits. He was lost and desperately weary from hours of trudging down dusty paths, and his tongue was swollen with thirst. The leather pack his mother had given him grew heavier by the mile. He was nowhere near his destination.

To make matters worse, an ominous scoundrel was lurking on the side of the path. Their eyes met and the villain lurched forward. In terror the traveler shrieked, dropped his pack to the ground, and clenched his fists. The villain, undeterred by the traveler’s shriek of fear and lame attempt at self-defense, charged with his dagger raised high. With one thrust of the rusty knife, the defenseless traveler lay bleeding on the ground.

Hunters in the brush nearby heard the shriek of fear and came dashing down the hillside. The thief had barely enough time to rummage through the pockets of the fallen man before escaping down the ravine.

The hunters arrived too late—the man was dead. They searched through his pack to see if they could discover his identity. They stopped in utter amazement, looking first at the weary traveler than back to the contents of the backpack. His mother had provided him a map and compass, food and water, and most importantly, a gleaming sword of exquisite design. The pilgrim’s mother had provided everything necessary for the pilgrim’s journey.

Why, pray tell, had he not used the provisions? Surely he knew what he carried.

The parable explained

St. Peter addresses Christians in the world as “aliens and strangers” (1 Pet 2:11), and St. Paul tells us we are citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20). We are sojourners in a land fraught with danger. The word parish comes from the Greek word for sojourner or stranger. We are strangers traveling through a strange land, and our holy Mother Church has provided us, by the grace of God, with all that is needed for the journey. Our backpack is full of provisions: miraculous bread, the water of life, clean garments, impenetrable armor, a map, compass, and instructions. Holy Mother Church has provided the pilgrims traveling to the Celestial City a gleaming sword, the word of God. No need to fall prey to a poorly wielded and rusty knife when we have a jeweled sword worthy of a king.

Catholics too frequently leave the Good Book on the shelf as a gilded decoration. What did Jesus do when the villain and god of this world accosted Him in the wilderness, as he so often accosts? Did Jesus drop His backpack and run? No. Jesus knew its contents and quickly drew His sword, the Scriptures, and with great precision pierced the lies.

Too many rush out to join the latest fad or the newest apparition. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But should we leave what we know is God’s inspired word unread on the shelf to run off in search of that which is uncertain? Are Catholics afraid of misinterpreting the Bible but not afraid of believing every seemingly supernatural or even secular voice? We face enemies from every quarter: Satan and his minions (1 Pet 5:8), sin (Gen 4:7), the world and its materialism (1 Jn 2:15–17), our own self-love (Mk 8:35) and a host of others (Mt 13:3–9). We are even waylaid by enemies outwardly appearing to be Christians but are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing (Mt 7:15).

Let’s stop on the path and take inventory! Where are we going? What has our Mother provided to sustain us on our journey? Have we exerted the time and energy to learn good swordsmanship? Do we know our enemies? Have we joined a good Catholic Bible Study or sought help and resources to study it on our own? Have we appropriated the tremendous defenses that have been so freely given? Unhappily, too many Catholics are dropping to the left and right (no pun intended) simply because they have neglected the magnificent gifts of God.

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Stephen K. Ray converted to the Catholic Church from a Baptist background in 1994, after an in-depth study of the writings of the Church Fathers. He is the host of the popular, award-winning film series on salvation history, The Footprints of God. Steve is the author of the bestselling books Crossing the TiberSt. John’s Gospel, and Upon This Rock. He is a popular conference and retreat speaker, has been a guest radio speaker, and made appearances EWTN.

Read more from Steve Ray with this two-volume set, or pick up respected works by Church Fathers and modern-day thinkers in the Verbum New Year sale.

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