Some of you may remember that in one of my first posts I mentioned that one of my passions is riding motorcycles off-road. No, not OFF THE ROAD….that would be a problem and would have a whole different outcome. What I am referring to is the type of riding where you ride through the woods and follow various trails, hoping to reach a destination. Often the trails cross and there are several going in multiple directions. But you have to stay on the one that will get you to where you want to go.
How do you do this without getting lost? GPS of course! Most of you are familiar with the type of GPS that is in your car where you just plug-in a destination and let the GPS system take you there based on its decision of how best to go. When riding off-road, however, we usually follow a predetermined path that someone has found to be interesting. We want to remain on this course.
These paths can be in the form of what is called a “route” or a “track”. What is the difference? Well a route can initially give you the desired path, but if you get off that path, the GPS will come up with its own route that IT thinks you should go. It may take you somewhere that you really had no intention of going. A track? Well, think of a track as a snapshot of the desired path. It is a mapped out path of exactly where you intended to go from beginning to the desired destination. If you get off the track, well you have to find a way back. You might have to zoom out a bit to see where the track lies, but the track never deviates, never leaves the path to the desired destination. It never wavers. You can count on it. You just have to find the path back to the track. The farther away off the track you get the harder this is since there are so many paths you can take back to the desired track. The sooner you find the error that got you lost in the first place, the easier it is to get “back on track”.
In today’s reading Jesus tells us that he is the track that leads along the path to the destination that is His Father. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Jesus’ message, and the Church’s message, does not vary. It does not change. Even if we get off the track, it remains right there where it always has been for over 2000 years for us to find. What message? We have that in today’s first reading from Acts. Paul tells the Jews at the synagogue of Antioch that Jesus was raised by the Father from the dead. And in the two commandments that Jesus told us were the greatest. To love the Father and love each other as the Father has loved us.
But how we do get off track in our lives? Lose sight of where we are going? How do we end up following a changeable route instead of the never changing track. Problems of the world (illness, financial concerns, relationship issues), as well as worldly pursuits that get in the way of our relationship with God, can take precedence of our path to God. Before you know it, the evil one has altered our path so it is now unrecognizable from where we were originally headed. Thomas from today’s Gospel tells Jesus that he does not know the way that Jesus is going. Phillip, later in the chapter, asks Jesus to show him the Father. Really?! This has got to be another moment where Jesus must have slapped his forehead in disbelief. He asks Phillip, “….you still do not know me?” If the apostles have a hard time seeing the correct path, and they have the ultimate guide, how easy must it be for us to lose our way?
How do we get back on track? First of all Jesus says to us to not be troubled. Have faith. He says to us that he has not left us as orphans (v. 18 of Chapter 14), that he will send his Advocate. The Holy Spirit. The Spirit will help guide us back to the track. Listen to the Spirit through prayer, through study and through action. For those of you who have gone through the Cursillo ministry will recognize these three legs of the stool of faith (Prayer, Study and Action).
There are also the tools Jesus has given us through his Church…The Sacraments. Communion binds us to Jesus through his body and blood. Penance removes the obstacles of sin that keep us from seeing the path back to the track of life that leads to heaven. The community of our parish can support us in our journey, keeping our eyes focused on the prize. Acting as the guard rails along the track so that we are less likely to wander off.
My wife, Elise, and I leave later this month to hike 500 miles along the Camino de Santiago. We are walking from the town of St. Jean Pied de Port in France, across the Pyrenees and through northern Spain to the town of Santiago de Compostela. The goal is the cathedral in Santiago that is said to house the relics of St. James. The path along the way is well-marked but there are places where you can get distracted and wander off the path. There actually was a woman last year who tragically was led off the path where someone attacked and murdered her. A serious result of getting off the track.
So, what do we do as we prepare to head out on our track to our eternal home? How do we start? We simply follow Jesus’ words from v. 31 of Chapter 14…. “Get up, let us go”.