September 24, 2023
From Fr. Jeff
“Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call him while he is near.
Let the scoundrel forsake his way,
and the wicked his thoughts;
let him turn to the LORD for mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
As high as the heavens are above the earth,
so high are my ways above your ways
and my thoughts above your thoughts.”
My latest hiking adventure was for three days in Colorado and Utah. I went with four other guys and we hiked at Arches National Park in Utah and at Grand Mesa National Forest and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado. In those three days, my watch told me I logged 90,000 steps! On the Grand Mesa as we were hiking to the peak of the trail, we stopped at a higher portion of the crest for a rest after the nearly 700 foot ascent. I learned that at least one member of our group had an affinity for finding United States Geological Survey Bench Marks, which are metal horizontal survey disks, usually hammered into stone, that were part of the national topographical mapping project begun 1882 (which took 100 years to complete). There are tens of thousands of these bench marks across the country that provide known survey data and elevation information for specific locations. Our search for a bench mark on the Crag Crest Trail had begun!
While in the valley we had no cell coverage, our bars on the crest allowed us to pull out our phones and start searching for information. GPS coordinates and finding them proved impossible, but we did stumble across a blog post that had a picture and the briefest of descriptions, “Before descending to the lower loop, I got off the trail and hiked over to the Finch Benchmark.” We hiked to the main peak (the usual location for bench marks) and began looking off the trail to no avail. We began to retrace our steps back along the ridge using the picture as reference and searching significantly in any area that appeared promisingly similar to the picture. One of our crew noticed that the perspective in the picture seemed further down the crest from which we had come. We finally came to the downward turn in the trail, dejected after over an hour of searching and having nearly given up hope. We began our descent. I had a hunch, however, that perhaps the bench mark could be at the end of the crest and went off to explore with one other guy the possibility. We went back to the crest and hiked off trail along it, finally reaching a boulder field that required scrambling over unstable rocks. As we ascended the last little bit, the bench mark came into view! Over the next short time, our crew reassembled and celebrated mightily. We found what we were looking for!
Isaiah admonishes us, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.” The real decision point in the story was right before we headed down to the lower loop. Would we leave where the bench mark could be found and was near? Or would we continue our search? It has long been my perspective, guided by the wisdom of others, to press into the search. When God seems distant, when I seem mired in my weakness and sin, when injustice reigns, when obstacles seem insurmountable, or when hope seems lost, I don’t abandon the crest, but push on a little further: I turn to the Bible, to the Eucharist, to prayer. When tempted to turn away, to give up hope, I continue the search. It has always born fruit. The Lord is here to be found. He is near!