I went to college at Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary on the campus of St. Mary’s University in Winona. While down there, a couple of buddies of mine from back home in Duluth decided they would come to visit.
The drive from Duluth to Winona is usually about four-and-a-half hours long. About four hours after they left, I was sitting in my room at the seminary when the phone rang. It was my two friends, who said they would be a little late because they were calling from a gas station in Michigan.
They were what some would call “typical men.” They did not ask for directions, nor did they look at a map. Maps, of course, are important when you are traveling to unfamiliar destinations, whether that is in a foreign country or apparently for my friends even in Minnesota.
Life itself is a journey — we hear that regularly — but it’s not a journey in space; it’s a journey in time. Our conception in our mother’s womb is Point A, and our death and where we go after death is Point B. And this journey from Point A to Point B is far more complex and far more important than driving from Duluth to Winona, so we most certainly need a map.
There are two Gospel passages that come to mind as we search for life’s map. First is the obvious one: Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Even more important is the scene of the Transfiguration, when Jesus manifests his glory as God to his apostles, and in the midst of this truly awesome event the voice comes from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.”
I don’t normally like stooping to cheesy analogies, but it works: Christ is our map. He directs us from Point A to Point B. God said, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.”
But there is a problem. Christ is no longer with us in the flesh. He is with us in the Eucharist, and in other ways to a lesser degree, but he is no longer with us in his human form. We can’t tune in to the radio to hear what Jesus has to say. We can’t Google him to get directions.
So has Christ left us to our own devices? Of course not. The Second Person of the Trinity did not come to earth just to leave us hanging after he left. There are so many Scripture passages that make that clear, but the main one that comes to my mind is what he said first to Peter alone, then later to the apostles together: “What you bind on Earth, I will bind in heaven. . . .” What you say on earth, I will say in heaven!
Christ clearly gives us assurance that we are not left hanging or left to our own devices. He loves us too much to do that.
He said clearly on two separate occasions that what Peter (the pope) and what the apostles (the bishops) in union say, he says. Now that Christ has left us in the flesh, it is the pope and the bishops who become our map, our GPS. They are the ones who guide us in the all-important journey from Point A to Point B that we call life.
Yet in all of this, some people object that we have had some pretty corrupt and sinful popes, not to mention all the corrupt and sinful bishops over the past 2,000 years. And this is true. History is littered with corrupt church leaders.
But where in the Scriptures does Jesus say, “But if you sin, I’m out of here, you will be on your own”? He doesn’t say that. As a matter of fact, we need Christ the most when we sin. That goes for Joe and Jane Six-Pack in the pews or the pope himself. That popes and bishops have been sinful (as we all have been) doesn’t mean they are no longer our guides. Jesus never made allowance for that.
There are many voices in the world today that are trying to misdirect us on our journey through life, from our government to friends, the media and even our own egos.
“This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” Christ did not leave us to our own devices. He gives us direction still through his church. If you have a problem with that, take it up with him: He is the one who designed it that way.
We should never be tempted to think that the president (especially nowadays), the media or even we know better than God and his divinely appointed church leaders. He loves us more than all of them combined, and he will direct us in the most certain route from Point A to Point B. But we have to listen to him.