I recently spoke on a Friday night at a parish Stations of the Cross. The title of the Lenten series is “The Way Walkers.” I love the image of being a “way walker”—one who walks in the Way of Jesus.
St. Paul, before his conversion, took prisoners who “belonged to the Way” (Acts 9:2; 22:4). During Paul’s trial before Felix, a Roman procurator, Paul said, “I admit that I worship the God of our ancestors as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect” (Acts 24:14). Early Christianity was not a new religion but a movement within Judaism—a movement that embraced Jesus as the Christ. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).
Wherever the early missionaries traveled, they formed small communities of believers in the Way. It was a movement that emphasized Jesus’ call to unconditional love and forgiveness and his suffering, death, and resurrection as the path to transformation. Jesus is the Son of God, but he is also “the Way”—the way of the cross which not only led Jesus from suffering and death to new life but also leads each one of us who have said yes to the Way.
Pope Francis, in one of his reflections on Lent, says, “Lent is a time when Christians are asked to return to God with all their hearts, to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord.” A way walker is on the path to deeper friendship with the Lord. So, if you are not growing in friendship with the Lord this Lent and have wavered from your Lenten plan, it is time to get back on the Way.
I offer you three ways to get back on the Way:
- Take time for self-reflection— I have learned that to be a holy person you must practice self-reflection that leads to self-awareness. The most important way to becoming self-aware is to regularly take a long honest look at ourselves—always in light of God’s unconditional love. In our noisy and fast-paced society, we need to set aside times of quiet and allow God to enlighten and transform our hearts and minds. Literally, to take time for deep breaths—breathing in God’s love and breathing out all that keeps us from being loving and authentic persons.
- Keep getting back up—Jesus fell three times on the Way of the Cross. Two things strike me about his stumbling and falling—Jesus let another person help him up, and when Jesus got on his feet, he continued on the Way. Sometimes what knocks us down comes from outside of ourselves, and other times it comes from within. No matter how far along we are on the spiritual journey or how deep our friendship with God may be, we take missteps. We find ourselves stumbling and falling. The most important part of our life journey with God is to get back up. Perhaps walking humbly with God means not that we plan on falling, but that we not be surprised when we do fall.
- Enter fully into the suffering of life and love—If we run from pain it comes back to bite us. Even worse, it can harden our hearts and isolate us from others. One of the enlightened themes that develops in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, and particularly those from the prophecy of Isaiah that we read during Lent, is the transformative significance of human pain and suffering. Jesus, the suffering servant, teaches us how to hold, make use of, and transform our suffering into a new kind of life instead of an old kind of death. Pain teaches a most counterintuitive thing: we must go down before we even know what up is.
We are in mid-Lent, and it is a good time to take some quiet time to talk with God about how you are doing with your Lenten promises and if and how they are helping you grow in friendship with the Lord. If you have failed in your Lenten plan, ask God for the grace to get back on the Way—for it is the only path to truth and life.
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.