The Sister, wearing a fashionable pantsuit, spoke of our life as a
journey to the RCIA class. "What I find fascinating and wonderful is that
whatever way I go, I always come back to where I am. Our life is a circle
where we return to where we are." I had to wonder, if I'm just going to end
up back where I started, why go? It's like an episode of the 'Twilight Zone',
going to visit family? Doesn't matter, you'll just end up back home. Going
to the grocery store? Nope, just going in circles. What she said sounded
so...profound; so 'enlightened', but when looked at directly, so hopeless.
When we decide to go somewhere, we decide to go there, not merely return
to were we are. Whether it's a vacation, or visiting family and friends, we
find the 'best' way there. No one decides to go somewhere without first
consulting a map to find the best way there.
"All roads (read religions) lead to God." That's absurd on a couple of
counts. As G.K. Chesterton wrote: "Is one religion as good as another? Is one
horse in the Derby as good as another?" Also consider this; at the opening of
the Battle of the Bulge, retreating American soldiers were 'fooled' into
following roads they thought led to safety. However, German Kommandos had
infiltrated and changed the road signs, leading them to the waiting arms of
the SS and the massacre at Malmedy.
Our life is a journey, a pilgrimage. We are hoping and 'traveling' to our
true and 'natural' home, Heaven and eternal happiness with God. However, some
of the 'signs' have been changed.
Like any 'journey' we go to get somewhere, not merely to return to were
we've been. That journey, like any journey, is filled with hills and valleys,
boredom and excitement, beautiful vistas and dreary scenery. It has it's
hazards, and set backs. Wrong turns, flat tires, etc. Every once and awhile,
one needs to make a 'stop' to refresh ourselves, to make sure of our
direction, to get rid of waste, etc.
Christ said; "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), not a way, a truth, and a life. (All roads lead to God?)
He also said: "the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to
destruction," (Matthew 7:13).
In a vision, St. John Bosco saw the 'way' to destruction. It was a wide,
smooth road, lined with beautifully scented roses. But the roses hid snares
which trapped those venturing near with pits into which the ensnared fell, and
the road was of a slight and unseen downward slope until it became too steep
"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If any man would come after Me, let him
deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his
life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'"
(Matthew 16:24-25) The cross is the 'way'. For some it is the 'bridge', the
'support' which gets us by the difficulties of this world. For others, as
Bishop Sheen pointed out, it is the barrier to condemnation. And for others
it's the barrier to salvation. That is, they reject the cross given them (or
as St. Philip Neri pointed out, the cross they made for themselves)
That is why the 'Way of the Cross' is such a powerful devotion; appropriate for Lent and always. It's Christ's 'road map'. Beginning with "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My
will, but Thine, be done." (Luke 22:42) And ending with "when they came to
the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified Him," (Luke 23:33).
And all the thorns, scourgings, and rebukes that accompany it.
Compare the 'way' of the cross with the 'way' of the world!
'All is good, deny yourselves nothing.' ("let him deny himself and take up
his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24-25)).
'Truth depends on what makes you 'happy', what you want.' ("not My will, but
Thine, be done." (Luke 22:42)).
'We can believe if you do what we want.' ("You who would destroy the
temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God,
come down from the cross." So also the chief priests, with the scribes and
elders, mocked him, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save Himself. He is
the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe
in Him. He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him; for He
said, 'I am the Son of God.'" (Matthew 27:40-43)).
Come down from the cross and we'll believe. That pretty much sums up the
dissident theology, the theology of the world.
So, as we prepare to continue our journey, rather than a circle, we have
two avenues. One nice and smooth, with fragrant roses lining our way, or a
rough strewn path, with the cross at the end.
Which do we choose? Which is the way home?
"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that
leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is
narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are
few." (Matthew 7:13-14).
"In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is
protection against our enemies, in the cross is infusion of Heavenly
sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in
the cross is the height of virtue, in the cross the perfection of holiness.
There is no salvation of the soul, nor hope of everlasting life, but in the
cross. Take up therefore thy cross and follow Jesus." (Imitation of Christ
by Thomas A. Kempis)