youth Mass "I am the way, the truth, & the life"

May 25, 2011

Christchurch Diocesan Youth Mass

Our Lady of Victories Church, Sockburn

Sunday 22 May 2011 5.00pm

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Jesus: “the way”

I often think that some of my best homily ideas come to me about an hour after I have finished preaching. Sometimes I chat with priest friends by phone after Masses on a Sunday and they have good ideas too – but again, too late for my own Sunday homily. Not a problem really though since I save these thoughts and use them next week!

This happened to me earlier today. Fr Jack and I were chatting over lunch. He thought he had given a pretty good homily himself this morning on Jesus as “the way” until after Mass a six-year-old boy came up to him. The young lad said: “Father, Jesus is like our GPS, isn’t he?”

Now that is a pretty good starting point for a homily on the readings of today’s Mass. Both Fr. Jack and I wished we had thought of the image earlier. Thanks to that young boy I have been distracted by the GPS thought all afternoon, and now it is my starting point for this reflection tonight.

You might be familiar with using a GPS unit. I had the experience last year in Italy. A friend and I decided to rent a car so that we could travel more freely. Our first plan was to travel from Rome to Assisi (where St. Francis and St. Clare lived about 800 years ago).  My friend was the passenger so I gave her the role of navigator. She had to work the GPS.  At first the GPS voice only gave directions in Italian but we soon got that worked out. The unit was programmed to take us to Assisi and we were on our way.

choosing our own way…

One of the problems with driving in a beautiful land like Italy is that while heading up the highway on a direct route to a destination, beautiful hill towns appear in the right and left distance. When following a GPS direction, it is necessary to ignore the directions in order to detour and visit the town. The GPS voice immediately realizes that a ‘wrong’ direction has been taken, and (sounding a bit irate we thought) instructs us to “at first opportunity, make a u-turn”.

About an hour north of Rome this happened to us. We wanted to visit a town we noticed in the distance. To do this we had to ignore the voice and turn off our planned route towards the hill town. Soon the voice stops and seems to silently sulk a bit.

A couple of hours later, after wandering the medieval streets and markets, we got back into the car and turned on our little GPS. Our expectation was that the voice would lead us all the way back to where we made the “wrong” turn in order to lead us on the planned route to Assisi.

But this is not what happens.  Instead the unit devises another route starting from our new ‘wrong’ position.

God is with us, wherever we are

You might be able to see where I am going with this GPS story. This is what God does with us. We often take the “wrong” turn and follow roads and paths that God does not intend for us.  We are attracted by many things.  At times compulsively lurch at these delights. But wherever we are, God is there. Even when we feel we are a long way from God, this might be our feeling, but it is never the reality. We have simply lost sight of the reality of God’s presence.  God is always with us.  Even if I am in the “wrong” place, God is there, and God now leads me (often by a new way) along the path of life. 

The little boy was right. God is like our GPS.

so why would we fear?

Blessed John Paul II was known for reminding people: “Do not be afraid”.  He was able to say this because he knew that God is always with every person. When we forget this fact, fear takes hold in our life. But God is with us and we have no reason to fear. God is alongside us. God is leading us. When we are weak God carries us. When we are lost God seeks and finds us. God is our way.

We know that we are given this way in the teachings of the Church. In the life and sacraments of the Church this ‘way’ of life is offered to us. In the sacraments we receive and celebrate this life. The Church is the environment within which those who are saved wait for God and are fed by God. We do not need to find God. God is always finding us. We have no need to fear.

listen for the echo

Blessed John Paul II was also a realist. In his Theology of the Body catechesis he acknowledges that many people today refuse to listen to the teaching of the Church. They might think that being a Catholic means saying no to everything that is fun. Many people wrongly think that Catholicism is a religion of dated doctrines and rules found in tired books. 

But this is not the reality. If people are unable to appreciate the beauty of Catholicism in the words written to communicate our faith, Blessed John Paul does not consider this to be an insurmountable problem. If people are willing to listen to the voice of God in the depth of their own human heart, they will hear the same voice of God communicating the same truth and life as found in the catechism.

While the ‘will of God’ for us can be heard from afar, the more intimate sound of God’s voice is heard when we are able to listen for God beneath the influences of society. The pope acknowledges that this is not easy to do. Often the layers of pressures, habits and voices fill our minds and hide our hearts, even from our own vision.  But, even in the midst of this cacophony something calls us to listen more intently for the discreet and attractive divine voice sounding as an echo in the depth of every human heart. This voice in the depth of our being is the call of Jesus leading us to the fullness of life.

This ultimate, built-in navigation system has been lovingly placed in my heart by the creator who loves me and who wants more for me than I could ever desire for myself. When I live in harmony with this divine voice, then I find the happiness that I seek. God is ‘our way’ leading us to the fullness of ‘truth and life.’

In the words of that young lad, Jesus is our real GPS.

the will of God

It is helpful to draw our reflection a little further here using the encouragement of Pope Benedict. He often speaks of ‘the will of God.’  You might like to look back to his first homily as pope. This is a powerful reflection on the beauty and life found in following ‘the will of God.’

A couple of months ago Pope Benedict met with the Parish Priests of the diocese of Rome. (Remember Pope Benedict is the bishop of the Rome diocese in the same way as Bishop Barry is our Christchurch diocesan bishop). The pope addressed the priests saying (among many other things): it is essential “not to give the idea that Christianity is an immense packet of things to learn. Ultimately, it is simple: God revealed himself in Christ. But this simplicity (I believe in God who shows himself in Christ and I want to see and do his will), has meaning and, according to the situation, we enter more or less into details; but it is essential to make the ultimate simplicity of faith understood…And the truth is beautiful. God’s will is good, it is goodness itself”

invitation to personal relationship with the living God

The people of our times may not find religious rules and ancient doctrines too attractive to say the least. Living by the book does not sound life-giving to modern ears. It is true that Christians are people of the word, but our word is not primarily the printed texts of the bible and the catechism. Catholic Christians are people of the living word of God who is the person of Jesus.

While the person who simply follows the teachings of the Church and who accepts the Catechism as a guide will experience wonderful tastes of life with God, it is the one who abandons every breath of their life in desire for intimate relationship with Jesus who fill find the life they seek. 

Catholics are people who, above all else, seek to live in relationship with Jesus. Jesus is the way to God. Jesus is the truth of God. And Jesus carries us into the fullness of life with God, now and for eternity.


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