JOURNEY OF FAITH
Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J
Table of Contents
In the center of a large poster, I saw recently, was the picture of a chick standing wild-eyed in front of its broken shell. The chick had just broken out of its shell and is standing there all alone curiously looking all around. At the bottom, in large, bold letters the caption read: “Now what do I do?” This is the picture of every one of us. We break out upon the scene. We did not ask to be here. We did nothing to get here. We begin to wonder: “Now what do I do?” That question starts us out on a lifelong journey of faith.
This journey of faith is not simply a journey from the womb to the tomb. It is a journey from here to eternity. It is a journey from God, with God and to God. Even if we think that there is no God and life does not have a meaning, life is a journey of faith. No one can prove that God does not exist and life does not have a meaning. You have to believe it. And that act of faith starts you out on a journey of faith.
Each journey of faith, just like each person, is unique. And yet, they are all the same. We all have the same origin, the same human nature, and the same destiny. Each journey of faith is the same as that of Abraham, of Moses, of Peter, of Paul, of Augustine of you and of me. It is a journey to the discovery, made gradually or suddenly, of the reality of God. To the reality of God who loves us beyond our fondest expectations. And so we begin to experience the transforming power of this unconditional love.
Each journey of faith begins with an invitation, a call from beyond ourselves, a call from God. Salvation history begins when God called Abraham, our Father in faith. It was a call to leave his home and family and go to an unknown, unspecified country. Abraham did not ask where, why, how or for how long. He just went. He started out on a journey of faith. And so it was when Jesus saw Peter and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, and simply said, “Come follow me.” They did not ask where, why, how or for how long. They just went. They started out on a journey of faith.
We too have been called. The call may have been as spectacular as the flash of light that blinded Paul on the road to Damascus. It may have been as ordinary as the whispering sound that Elijah heard on the mountain. Perhaps it was so subtle that we didn’t realize that we were being called. And Jesus had to remind us, “You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.” We were not told where, why, or for how long. It was an invitation to start out on a journey of faith.
This invitation, this call from God, is not given just once and for all. It is repeated many times during our journey and in many different ways. We must learn to recognize it and respond to it. The Psalmist reminds us, “If today you hear His voice harden not your heart.” It seems that each call comes to us just when we have settled down into an orderly, peaceful existence. We forget that we are not settlers, we are pioneers, we are pilgrims. And so our peace is shattered and once again we are called to fold up our tent and start out again on our journey of faith.
And each time we foolishly think that this will be the last call. But sooner or later another call shatters that dream. We realize finally that life is lived forward, but it is understood backward. We learn that life is not a problem to be understood and solved, but a mystery to be accepted and lived in loving, trusting faith, knowing that God will provide.
The journey of faith, however, is not a completely uncharted course. Our Lord has made the journey before us. Jesus is both the greatest expression of God’s love for us and at the same time the greatest expression of the human response to that love. He is “the way, the truth and the life.” Our life is a recapitulation, a re-living of his life, at least in its essential elements.
First of all there is the helplessness of “infancy.” Jesus could have come as a full grown adult, but he chose to come as an infant completely dependent on Mary and Joseph. We too have experienced the helplessness of infancy.
Then there is the “hidden life,” with its obscurity, labor, and obedience. All we know about 9/10th of our Lord’s life was that He went down to Nazareth and was subject to Mary and Joseph. During this time He advanced in age, wisdom and grace. Much of our life is also a “hidden life,” a life hidden in the labor and obscurity of the daily monotonous grind, through which we also grow in age, wisdom and grace.
Then there is the “public life.” Jesus began his public life by being led into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He was tempted throughout his life until the end when he was tempted to come down from the cross. Much of our “public life” is filled with temptations, temptations which are part of the human condition.
Then there is the glorious “mountain top experience” of the Transfiguration. From time to time we also have our “mountain top experience” and like Simon Peter we say, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” And we do not want to leave. But that is not to be, we must descend to the valley below, to the road to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane, and Calvary.
Finally there is the “paschal mystery,” the passion, death and resurrection. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught us how to live. In the Sermon on the Cross he taught us how to die. Gradually we come to realize that our journey of faith is one “paschal mystery” after another, spiraling up to the final passion, death and resurrection into the New Jerusalem.
Our Lord has not only gone on before us to show us the way, he also goes along with us as our guide and companion. His presence is like a “pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire at night.” Awareness of his presence makes our journey of faith a joyful, exciting adventure. We learn through experience that joy is the most infallible sign of the AWARENESS of the presence of God. St. Paul who made this journey before us tells us, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice. The Lord is near.” He was not rejoicing in himself, his talents, his virtues, his achievements but in the Lord, who is near.
One of the biggest “booby traps” on the journey of faith is to forget this presence of God. How foolish it is to climb mountains, cross oceans, make pilgrimages to shrines, consult this guru, read that book all in search of the one who is closer to us than we are to ourselves. “In Him we live and move and have our being.” God is the ground of my being, as the song is in the singer and the dance in the dancer.
Life is a journey of faith, not simply from the womb to the tomb, but from here to eternity, from God, with God and to God. It is a journey through conflicts and failures, temptations and compromises, disappointments and surprises, joys and sorrows.
It is a journey from Bethlehem to Egypt, to Nazareth, to the Jordan, through the desert, up Mount Tabor, down to the road to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane and Calvary and out to Mount Olivet and into the New Jerusalem.
What a journey! And it is yours and mine! Vayas con Dios! Go with God!
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