I have always loved the image of a journey to speak about the spiritual life. No one can escape the necessity to choose a way in life, to follow a path. We may disagree that it is spiritual or even call it by different names, but the fact remains, we are all going somewhere and in order to do so, we must journey. The decision to travel down a certain path over another means that each of us must accept the highs, lows, joys, pains, rewards, consequences, good and bad that comes along with it.
As children we are normally told by family which path to take. There are little worries or concerns. We need only to hold the hand of our loved one or keep an eye on them from a distance. If we are guided by loving adults and do as we are told we remain safe.
As adolescents we suddenly come to know everything! Thus, we think we do not need to listen as much and if we take the wrong path it is always someone else’s fault. Some can make it through adolescence having learned from elders and have a clearer image of what path to take into the future. While others may want to completely forge their own way, even if it means putting their person at risk by going down a dangerous path.
As adults we learn to accept personal responsibility. Based on life experiences we strive to do our best by making the wisest choices possible at any given point. Part of maturity is realizing that although we must take personal responsibility, it doesn’t mean we must go at it alone. We can turn to others to take counsel and direction for our own journey. We can depend on others to walk with us along the way. Whether the accompaniment is for a short time or the long haul, we need not do it alone.
As Christians there is nothing greater than knowing God’s great love for us. In love, God gives us a way and accompaniment to guide us along the way. The way is Jesus, who is our Lord and Savior. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). The company for the journey is the Church. We need others to help us along the way. People who love us enough to tell the truth, but respect our freedom to make our own decision. Along the journey God provides all we need; direction, accompaniment, nourishment, light, grace, and healing remedies. We are asked to trust and to stay the course. Yet, even if we get lost for a time or in anger leave the path, we can always come back! However, if we go off path we must accept personal responsibility and place blame on no one else, “Sometimes a way seems right to a man, but the end of it leads to death” (Proverbs 16:25). This is the gift of free will. In the end, if we stay the course and make use of God’s gifts, He will indeed instruct us, give us counsel and watch over us!
Now go forth and be a joyful witness!
Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director of the Office of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.