Let's Hit The Road!
The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet
And whither then? I cannot say.
Bilbo Baggins -
The Lord of the Rings by JR Tolkien
We have had quite a lot to say about travelling along the right road and how to make sure that we get onto it. The good news is that because we have been baptised we are already on the right road. Our problem is not being on it, it is staying on it.
From the time we got mobile as babies, we have not stopped moving. In the beginning walking is really quite a safe thing to do because someone is always there to tell you how to balance and where to walk.
Soon enough though, as in the words of Bilbo Baggins above, walking becomes an adventure. You set out and the road forks - which way do you go? Who can say where you will end? Now remember, we are not talking here about your road to school or home, we are talking about the BIG ROAD - The Highway - the "Road of Life".
Many people today decide to tackle the road on their own - A BIG mistake. The road is full of surprises, some welcome and others not. Remember that by giving us Free Will God has given us the choice of how we will walk and where we will walk. Not as easy as it seems! But He hasn't thrown us to the wolves.
God has given us lots of clues as to where we should walk and how. Let us have a look at Psalm 16. It says: "You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure for ever." The psalmist in Psalm 16 has discovered his pot of gold. Look at what he goes on to say: "How excellent are the Lord's faithful people! My greatest pleasure is to be with them." Now this is one big clue! - make friends with God's friends and you are making a very good start on your road. There is no need to toil on your own, walking alone as though you have no friends in the world. So step number one is to make friends with God and step number two is to make friends with God's people. That way, you have covered your base and you are ready to tackle what comes - even the wolves!
Then the next set of clues sounds very much like the talk you often hear from your Mom and Dad: "Don't do this…" and "Don't do that". These major clues are the Ten Commandments. They are forever. They were given to Moses thousands of years ago (Exodus 20:1-17) and they still work. Talk about lifelong guarantee. They have lasted many lives and are still going strong. Just like when your Mom and Dad say "Don't do this" and "Don't do that" and they have your well-being at heart, when God boomed His "Don't dos" He also knew what was good for us. And it got carved in stone to last for all time. By the way the exceptions are the first 4 Commandments - those are definite "To dos"!
We will look at the Ten Commandments more closely next time. They really are great clues for right living, but most of us just learn them off by heart and don't have much of a clue about what they mean. For example, when we look at the Commandment that is smack bang in the middle, number 5, we read "You shall not kill!" and we think: "That's OK, I'm cool. That's one Commandment I've obeyed. I haven't killed anyone." STOP! Not so fast along that track, my friend! There is more than one way to look at this. One way many of us break this rule is by killing the reputation of people. How often aren't we caught gossiping about someone, and how often is that gossip not exaggerated or simply untrue. So you see, there is more than meets the eye when one looks at the famous words carved in stone.
But God knows us very well, and He knows that we can be quite dimwitted at times. So He didn't only give us the "Don't dos", He sent his only Son to show us what to do and Jesus in turn empowered His Church to give us the "You'd betters". So we have on record, the "You'd betters" called the Corporal Works of Mercy - You'd better feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick… - and also the "You'd betters" called the Spiritual Works of Mercy - You'd better warn the sinner, instruct the ignorant, comfort the sorrowing… - and so on. Now there is also more to these than meets the eye. Everything to do with God is always more amazing, bigger and better than meets the eye! But we will have a better look at the "You'd betters" soon.
In the meantime let me just tell you that the trick to being a saint - in short, to reach heaven by the shortest road - is to do a lot more than just taking care that you do not do the "Don't dos". The saints have given us a clue - they were particularly good at doing the "You'd better" lot. They walked the extra mile for God and for God's friends and got on to the fast track to heaven.
So, to find our "true north" - that is another way of saying "not to lose our way"- we have already been given 4 clues:
- Make friends with God - talk and listen to Him.
- Make friends with the friends of God, like the saints, and the saints-in-training (that is, people like you and me that know that God is the only way).
- Know what NOT to do
- Know what to DO.
Now all this "knowing" takes quite some "doing". (Note: Notice how many times we have used "do" and "doing" in this letter - that is because Jesus wants us to act, to do, to be His hands and His feet!)
But God who knows everything also knows that we need all the help we can get just with knowing, never mind doing! So he opened the door to seven neat gifts for us. All you need to do is to knock, ask nicely and take. Say you really don't grasp the problem - you can ask for the gifts of knowledge and understanding. Now you may see things as they are but you still don't know what to decide - you can ask for wisdom and right judgment. Now you know what to do but are afraid to act - you can ask for courage. But remember that you must act in the light of God and for God. You can only do that if you have God in the right place in your life - for that you can ask for the gifts of reverence and wonder and awe. Now all these gifts come neatly packaged under one label - the Gifts of the Spirit.
Jesus said that all we have to do is "ask and it shall be given to you". Do we believe His words? Yes! He is the True Word.
At Confirmation these gifts are poured into us like a torrent. Let us prepare ourselves to receive these heavenly gifts by arming ourselves with a good understanding of the clues that our Loving father gives us and with the knowledge of the value of His gifts.
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