Saturday, May 21, 2011

Following the Way All the Way

Every so often I try to offer some very down to earth advice in my homily. So here's some wisdom to remember: don't buy a cheap GPS.

I had a good GPS, but I leant it to Father Xavier, and it soon became clear that he needed it a lot more than I did. So when I was in Oregon last month I picked one up for a mere $99, with no HST.

Ever since, this useless device has told me to turn down one-way streets, directed me to drive to Surrey via Horseshoe Bay, and once even brought me back where I started after ten minutes of driving according to the instructions of that unpleasant voice that lives inside a GPS.

Not much point in having an unreliable GPS, is there? If we're not sure of the way, we need to be confident in the directions.

So we can understand the confusion of Thomas and Philip in today's Gospel. They want to know exactly how to get to this place where Jesus is going. And yet they don't need directions at all—because the one they're asking is Himself the way to the Father.

Think how important this is to us. No road map, no guidebook, and no GPS can take the place of having someone beside you in the car who knows the way. It takes away all the worry about getting lost or stranded.

Jesus, of course, helps us further still. He not only shows us the way, He is the Way, "the very incarnation and expression of the Absolute which we human beings seek and for whom we were made" [Glenstall Bible Missal, 301].

In other words, in His own person he guarantees that the journey we are making is the right journey: it's no good having the right directions to the wrong destination. As Christians, we're not only on the right road, we're heading to the right place. His Resurrection is all the evidence we need to confirm our decision to head towards the Father's house.

In the face of Jesus, who appeared on earth, we recognize the loving face of the Father, and we long for the Father's house, where the Risen Lord has prepared a place for us.

No-one has perfect faith, but the sure and certain directions that Jesus offers his followers really should relieve our troubled hearts from much of their distress.

Of course the journey to the Father isn't like a non-stop flight to Toronto or Montreal. We are pilgrims and travelers, and there are stopping places and turning points. The first reading shows the Spirit helping the Church at one important turning point. Traditionally, the seven men on whom the apostles laid hands are identified as the first deacons.

In our local Church we have high hopes that the ministry of permanent deacons will help many to know the Father better, and to reveal to the world the face of Christ His Son.

As you know, Archbishop Miller has asked me to direct the new permanent diaconate program in the archdiocese. It's been a big challenge to meet with many interested men and their wives, and to try and answer their questions.

One of the big questions I get asked is 'why are only men called to the diaconate.' There's not one short and snappy answer, but part of the answer I offer appears in the second reading of today's Mass. The diaconate is a ministry, not an honour. The greatest source of honour and dignity in the Church is not Holy Orders but baptism. It's our baptism that makes us all members of a chosen race and a royal priesthood.

Citizenship in the holy nation of God's own people comes from our rebirth by water and the Spirit.

This came home to me very forcefully yesterday when I officiated at the marriage of Meghan Magee and Chris Chapman, our parish's first youth ministers. In my homily I talked about the recent royal wedding to make the point that Chris and Meghan's was no less royal because of their baptismal dignity.

What I didn't mention was that their wedding was not an act of my priesthood but of theirs. I was only a witness to the sacrament that they celebrated with each other. And even the happiest Christian marriage is a holy sacrifice offered to the Father by virtue of the couple's share in the common priesthood of all believers.

What is true of our newlyweds is, of course, true of all of us. By living our baptism fully—by proclaiming the mighty deeds of God and living lives that reflect our royal dignity—we do the works that Jesus did, in the power he shares with us through His Holy Spirit.

And that, of course, is what it means to follow the Way, the Truth, and the Life, all the way to the Father's house.

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