How do I get there from here?
That question used to be part of every car trip to an unfamiliar place, at least when the wife got her way and the husband asked for directions. About twenty years ago, a newly married couple from the parish invited me to dinner. I took down their address, but these were the days before everyone had some sort of a GPS system and everyone had a cell phone. I had neither at the time. And I got lost, roaming around developments for an hour and a half and terribly upsetting the young lady and her husband.
Well, now I have a GPS; so I don’t ask the “How do I get there from here?” question much, at least not when it comes to driving. But it is a question I ask, and perhaps you also ask, when it comes to our spiritual life.
Jesus promises us heaven. He tells us that there is a place for each of us in His Father’s House. St. Paul adds that the eye has not seen nor the ear heard the wonders that God has in store for us. The union with God, the eternal swirl of His Love, is there for us. Union with our loved ones who have gone before us, union with the great ones of history, union with the Mary and the saints and the angels is all waiting for us.
So, we join Thomas in the Gospel and ask, “How do I get there from here?” And Jesus says to Thomas and to all of us, “You know the way. I am the way, the truth and the life.”
But where exactly is there? The final goal of the race of our lives is heaven, but there is not just heaven. There is living our spiritual life to the fullest. There is overflowing with the Presence of the Lord so that we can naturally bring His Life to the world. There is being where Paul said that all Christians are when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “The love of Christ compels us.”
This what I want. This is what you want. But I, we, often fall short, very short of the goal. Distractions domineer us. We are more concerned with the minutia of life than the reason why we do what we are doing. Teens may be more concerned with going to school than the reason why they are there, to develop their God given abilities to serve Christ. Parents may be so concerned with the daily chores of raising children that they forget why they are working so hard, doing so much. They may forget that they are raising children of God and for God. Priests can get so involved in the minutia of performing their duties before the Lord, that like the Temple priests and Levites in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, they often walk right by the opportunity to serve the Lord in the man on the side of the road.
And then there is the constant noise of our society that keeps our minds from our mission. The bickering and gossip of our everyday lives is just plain noise, distracting us, hurting others. Movies and television shows are often written by people determined to promote atheism, abortion, and immorality and looking for any excuse to take a shot at Christians, particularly Catholics. They distract us from standing up for whom we are and even whittle us down into accepting their lies to a degree. And the internet with its virtual worlds, be they social networks, complex games, or the things that moral people need to avoid, not only cause us to waste hours a day, but lead us where we should not go.
We can’t get there, to the place we want to be, unless we let Christ lead us away from the distractions. We can’t get there to the place we want to be unless we focus on Christ as we go about the daily duties and chores of our lives. We can’t point others to where they also need to go unless our lives are pointing to the Lord.
Jesus is the way. When we focus on Him, He draws us to Himself. He draws us away from the distractions, away from the noise. The One who loved us to death, now loves us to life. He loves us so much that He draws us to His Life if only we let Him into our lives.
That is why we need to have an active prayer life. An active prayer life includes talking to the Lord throughout the day, but that is not enough. We also need to set time aside for prayer. We have to be a little cautious when we consider what an active prayer life is, though. An active prayer life does not mean feeling the prayers, feeling all warm and fuzzy like we do at times during retreats, or during Holy Week. All that is good, but it is simply one of many manifestations of our union with God. A prayer life is active even though we often struggle just to concentrate on what we are doing and saying when we pray.
Many distance runners purposely hold a little back during the race and focus in on the runner ahead of him or her. They let that runner draw them, then they pass the runner and focus on the next runner until the only runner left is the one leading the race. With their eyes and minds focused on the leader they draw close and use the energy they have been storing to sprint to the finish line.
The spiritual life is a distance race. Our eyes are fixed on the Leader of the race. He draws us to Himself. He gives us the energy to sprint to the finish line. He gives us the power to get there.