Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday in the 4th Week of Easter
From Street Directory to Guiding Hands

Readings: Acts 13:26-33; Psalm 2:6-7, 8-9, 10-11ab; John 14:1-6
Picture: CC Mundozeli

I’m thankful for street directories. Especially for those of us who don’t yet have the luxury of GPS, street directories are an invaluable aid for getting to new and unfamiliar places. Even when someone who knows the way volunteers to sit next to me in the car, I usually can’t resist having a peek at the directory before we set out. I prefer to know the way, to have the route mapped out, in advance. All this is fine and good, except when I try to transpose this preference into how I live my life. For isn’t it true that there aren’t really any reliable roadmaps, any detailed directories, for life? In choosing a spouse, for example, can we really say for sure what a particular person will be like ten or twenty years down the road? Do we even have that sort of certainty about ourselves? On the road of life, if we were willing only to make choices on the basis of information that was street-directory-like in accuracy, would we set off from home at all?

Which is why it is perhaps not difficult to understand the conversation that we find in the gospel today. Here we have the beginning of Jesus’ farewell discourse in the gospel of John. And even as Jesus says goodbye to his friends, Thomas indirectly requests a street directory, a sneak preview of the way ahead. We do not know where you are going; how can we know the way? But rather than drawing him a detailed roadmap, Jesus points to himself. I am the way… Instead of giving him the latest edition of the local street directory, Jesus offers himself, the Father’s tender Hand of companionship and guidance on the journey of life.

It’s not easy, of course, to take this Hand. Not if, like me, you prefer the greater clarity and certainty of a street directory. And especially not when we recall where this Hand is headed. Jesus’ farewell discourse is a prelude to the Passion. We’re now in the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel. In chapter eighteen Jesus will be arrested and tried. Should we be surprised if, like Thomas and the disciples, we too experience some hesitation in accepting this Hand that the Father offers, in following the Way that Jesus both walks and is?

Even so, we see in the first reading what happens when people do, however tentatively, actually accept this guiding Hand. We know, of course, that most of the disciples will falter, and yet the hand of the Lord will continue to uphold them. In the midst of their disappointment and grief, their confusion and shame, the One who was crucified will once more walk among them, urging them onward. And, as Paul professes in the first reading today, the companions then become witnesses. They testify to the reliability of God’s guiding Hand. They proclaim to the world that although this Way leads inevitably through the darkness of death, it also winds ultimately onward into the brilliance of life in its fullness. But to walk this Way, to take this Hand, one needs first to forsake the desire for a directory.

How is the Lord offering us his Hand today?


  1. When I look at my hand, these thoughts come to mind. It can be employed to reprimand but also to provide a comforting touch. By pointing, I am giving directions literally, but in another context, three fingers are pointing back at me. It's all perspective.
    This week something dawned on me about my personal relationship with those I love. When my children appear rude at times or unappreciative, they are not taking me for granted. Rather they treat me with familiarity and will not think twice about making hurting remarks because they are confident of my love. Who else can you vent your frustrations on? We often take our heavenly Father for granted although we know that what we do will displease Him.
    The Book of Life is paved with memories, with no clear signposts, and each encounter is unique. Only one thing is certain, we will converge at the Source when all's said and done. Going home!

  2. Usually, even if I have not checked street directories in advance, I won't worry that much. I know I can easily approach passers-by or some information counters and ask for direction.

    In real life however, while traveling through a "valley of darkness", it's a great struggle for me to continue to trust in God's guiding hands and not to worry. Afterall, His hands are invisible! It takes a tremendous act of faith to "see" them. But ultimately, what choice do I have? As Peter says (John 6:68), "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

    Perhaps I just need to remember and trust that feelings and senses aside, God is always holding fast to my right hand regardless of where I may fly (Psalm 139:10)?

  3. This morning, it suddenly dawned on me that God's hand has been inviting me to leap out of my "darkness" into His wonderful light through four verses (v.8,18,28,38) which St Paul wrote in Romans 8:

    "...those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (v.8)
    "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us." (v.18)
    "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (v.28)
    "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (v.38-39)

    And these are all that matter in this life and thereafter, regardless of whatever dark valley I may suddenly find myself.

  4. Fr Chris, I really hope you could answer this question regarding Jesus' statement that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

    To most Protestant Christians, there's no other way to salvation except to become a follower of Christ. Some Catholics (including priests and lay leaders), on the other hand, quote Matthew 25:31-46 and said that all (Christians and non-Christians) who have done good works will DEFINITELY go to heaven.

    From what I understand, Romans 2:14-16 suggests that they MIGHT be saved, depending on God's grace. However, for most of us, faith in Christ is necessary. We need to draw strength and wisdom from the Holy Spirit to continue treading on the right path.

    What is the Church's teaching on this? In the early days, apparently, the stand is "no salvation outside the church". What about today? The CCC has some notes on this. But interpretations somehow still differ.