Bottom line: Jesus is the one Way to salvation, but he reserves a virgin path for each person.
I had a good retreat this last week at the monastery in Mission, B.C. I of course spent time praying for our parish - and I asked the monks to pray for us. They said they would, one in particular - Brother Joseph. He was a five year old child when his parents worked with me in Peru a couple decades ago. Now his a newly professed Benedictine monk. He assured me he would pray for me and Holy Family Parish. The prayers of Brother Joseph mean a lot.
During the week we all prayed for the visit of Pope Benedict to Washington and New York. The monks of course do not watch television, but someone did record the Holy Father's meeting with the U.S. Bishops and we watched it after night prayers. The pope gave an address of about a half an hour, then answered questions from various bishops. It was wonderful to listen to his clear, logical presentation
Pope Benedict's visit to our country could not help but evoke comparisons with his predecessor. Although they both shared a firm commitment to Jesus as the one Way to salvation, they have very different personalities and backgrounds. And the problems - and opportunities - Pope Benedict faced in 2005 are much different than those Pope John Paul II faced when he was elected in 1978. The difference between these two pontiffs underscores the fact that each of us must come to Jesus by a particular path. The Spanish poet, Leon Felipe, has a lovely verse about this:
No one went yesterday
nor goes today
nor will go tomorrow
by this path
that I go.
For each man
a new ray of the sun's light
and a virgin path.*
There is a paradox here. We hear about staying the "straight and narrow." We can get the idea that if we go toward God, he will box us in, limit us. But just the opposite happens. The person who says, "I am going to do it my way," finds himself falling into tired, predictable behavior such as overindulgence in alcohol, food and sex. He becomes bloated and bleary-eyed, impotent and bitter. On the other hand, the person who goes toward God, finds himself on a "virgin path," on a path no other person has walked.
St. Therese of Lisieux - the Little Flower - wrote about this. She proposed what she called the "Little Way" to God. It begins with the conviction of God's mercy, how he constantly forgives us and lifts us up. The Little Way is the desire to do God's will in small, everyday tasks. We can see that even with the pope. Someone asked Pope Benedict how he organizes his day. He described the discipline of each day: the time he allots for meetings, prayer, study, correspondence, etc. The pope said that when he finishes the day, he goes to his apartment and plays the piano for thirty minutes. Then he thought for a second and added, "Sometimes I play for 37 minutes!"
Well, you get the point. God has a time for everything - including moments of leisure and relaxation. It all belongs to him To do his will in small, everyday tasks, that is the Little Way to God.
Jesus tells us "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. For each of us God has a particular path - whether pope or pastor or parent - or hospital patient. Our individual paths are unique. As Leon Felipe expressed it: For each person God reserves a new ray of the sun's light and a virgin path.
*This poem is cited by Fr. Jose-Roman Flecha Andres in his fine book Dios Con Nosotros - Reflexiones Sobre los Evangelios Domingos y Fiestas "Ciclo A"
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