Actively Plotting a Direction
When I was young, if my mom needed to drive us somewhere new, she needed to consult a Thomas Guide for directions. It was a ringed book of detailed street maps of a given location. She couldn’t simply plug the address into a smartphone and have it provide turn-by-turn directions. She would look up the destination in the book’s index and then plot the route herself. There was no route optimization or traffic updates back in the day of paper maps. Someone needed to have a general sense of the roads in the local area and maps would help fill in details.
Answers are much easier to come by now. You can navigate a new city, state, or country with a few taps on a smartphone. In fact, the answers to most of our daily questions are a web search away. But the flip side of this convenience is that we tend to give up more easily when the answers aren’t immediate. A video taking too long to load or the answer not on the first page of search results usually results in us moving on to something with more immediate feedback.
Pope Francis had this to say on All Souls’ Day:
“From simple disciples of the Master we become masters of complexity, who argue a lot and do little, who seek answers more in front of the computer than in front of the Crucifix, on the internet rather than in the eyes of our brothers and sisters; Christians who comment, debate, and expound theories but do not know even a poor person by name, have not visited a sick person for months, have never fed or dressed someone, have never made friends with someone in need,’” he said.Pope Francis (Catholic News Agency)
Heaven Takes Effort
Many of us spend more time in front of a computer or phone instead of holding Rosary beads in prayer. We go onto social media looking for information and validation from our peers while ignoring God in prayer. We tend to want simple answers — something that can be explained in a two-minute video or a one-paragraph Reddit post. We usually don’t want to put forth the effort to develop our faith when our serotonin fix is a click away.
Our faith works more like a paper map than a smartphone. It requires time, patience, and effort to find our direction. God can’t give us the keys to happiness, peace, and true joy in a TikTok video or tweet. Those answers are too big and complex. Furthermore, there isn’t a single, turn-by-turn route to God’s heavenly kingdom. Someone who lives in South Africa will probably take a much different path than one who lives in the Philippines. We know our destination but we need to fill in our knowledge and experience to plot our route.
Tools for the Journey
How do we read the spiritual map God provides us? How do we plan our path in life so that we arrive at our ultimate destination, Heaven? Here are a few ways.
- Attend Mass regularly
- Pray the Rosary
- Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Read the Bible
None of these practices can be done in a few minutes with a simple web search. It’s a journey. It requires patience which is the fruit of the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery. Jesus fell multiple times as he carried the cross. But each time he got back up and moved forward. We have to show that same level of commitment to achieving our ultimate goal of Heaven. It will be tiring, stressful, and maybe even painful at times. It requires discipline and the ability to look past present challenges and disappointments to achieve the greater goal. Unlike following GPS directions, reaching Heaven is not something we can do passively. It requires active participation and focus.
Imitating The Saints
I know All Saints Day was several weeks ago. But they provide such a good model for consciously plotting and following a path toward Heaven. They knew their desired destination and used the tools available to them to get there. They didn’t passively or accidentally find Heaven by a stroke of good luck. Heaven shouldn’t be somewhere we stumble upon, but a goal we actively pursue.
We can’t let momentary setbacks destroy our motivation to practice our faith. It may be that certain propositions didn’t go our way in recent elections. It may be that we haven’t been “feeling it” at Mass lately. Maybe we haven’t been feeling well so we put aside our Rosary beads for something with more immediate gratification. But this is where we need to call on the holy Trinity, Mary, and the saints for the patience and strength to push forward. Like a good map, they provide all the details we need to know to enter Heaven. We just need to put forth the effort to plot the route.