Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Map holders

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the June 10, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky Last week I had the (rare) opportunity to visit the local bus terminal to collect a friend who was arriving from the Midwest. He intentionally had chosen to travel, as he said, “on the cheap.” He well could have flown but wanted to see the country – literally. While I waited, I found myself observing the passengers as they boarded and loaded onto the buses. Greyhound – “The Dog” – used to be a frequent means of transportation during my college years. I could see that things had not changed all that much in intervening years.

One middle-aged man obviously was very nervous about his trip. The “All aboard!” announcement over the PA system sent his feet into a panicked scuttle. “Is this the bus to Missoula?” he shouted at the driver with no small measure of distrust. Still cautious, he met the driver’s assurance with a persistent inquiry. “Are you sure that’s where you are going? I’m bringing along my map – just in case.” With that he climbed aboard and with firm purpose selected the seat at the driver’s shoulder. Indeed, he had map in hand. I surmised that it was going to be a long drive.

This little scene was a bit amusing for us onlookers. Given a similar set of circumstances, however, I’d wager that any one of us would act in the same fashion. There is something about human nature that wants security and definite assurances. Most often in life we really would like to know where we are going. And we would certainly appreciate the assurance that those who give us direction or serve our needs know well what they are about. Perhaps, just like this nervous man, we are prone to take a map along – just in case. After all, you never know....

Later reflection on this scene in light of one of the Gospel readings for a recent weekday Mass drew an unexpected point. In John’s Gospel, Jesus, while seated at the table with his disciples at the Last Supper, assures them that where he is going, they are invited to follow. Thomas, the doubtful one, raises the nervous question: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” He likes the invitation, but is not so sure of the means. He wants the assurance he is on the right bus before he climbs aboard. Just in case, he wants to take along a map.

In this scene Jesus is preparing both himself and his disciples for his imminent death. Written some time after the Resurrection, the Gospel according to John allows Jesus to speak with confidence about the end of the journey, as it were. His return to his heavenly Father is the fulfillment of his earthly mission and ministry. As Risen Lord he calls his followers to a journey, to where he himself will have ended his own journey of faith. More important than arriving there is the journey itself and the trust it evokes. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” Jesus assures a nervous Thomas – and all his disciples (then and now).

Although union with the Lord in heaven is the destination of all believers, there is no mechanical way of getting there. No map, no set of blueprints, or pre-planned steps will automatically take us to the pearly gates. Discipleship – life itself – is more a relationship than it is a task to be accomplished. Heaven is gained, not by following a map, but by developing a relationship with Jesus. A relationship requires trust and emptying of self of insecurities and doubts. The effort along the way is what counts. Jesus takes us not to a place, but to a new covenant of love, a new and full way of being. Those who trust in him as his Way, his Truth and his Life will come to know the full blessing of life in God. Such a life is God’s promise to us in Jesus, the Risen Lord. Where he has gone, we hope to follow. How he got there is our way, too.

The nervous little man at the bus station probably kissed the ground at Missoula when he arrived there – if the driver knew where he was going. Sadly, his lack of trust will probably be just as great the next time he boards a bus. Thank God for Jesus, and the assurance he gives us that life’s journey need not be so hesitant and fraught with anxiety. Jesus not only knows where he is going; he travels with us along the way.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of Assumption Parish in Spokane. His book, Catholics Believe, is available from Harcourt Religion Publishers.) (Download an order form in pdf format to print)

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