The Map and Compass

A Reflection for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C).
Wisdom 18:6-9 – Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 – Luke 12:32-48.

A man was on his way to see a friend who lived in a village way out in the sticks. His journey was going fine until he lost the GPS signal on his SatNav. That was a bad moment for him, as he was in the middle of nowhere and he’d been relying on the SatNav for directions. Suddenly he found himself unable to access information about where he was or about how to get to his destination. Anxiously he drove on, not knowing where he was going and with no signs or people to direct him, until finally he reached a petrol station where he managed to get a map and a compass. Armed with these tools, he was able to get to his destination.

I want us to reflect today upon the tools that enabled the man to get to meet up with his friend at the scheduled time: the map and the compass. They represent the two tools that can make our earthly sojourn both purposeful and meaningful. These are faith and hope. When we ourselves are equipped with both of these tools, the confusion and doubt we encounter as we journey along life’s road are replaced by joy. As we persevere and keep going towards our destination of heaven, our living faith and trusting hope work together as effectively as do a map and compass this side of eternity!

From today’s First Reading, we learn of the faith and hope of the people of God while they were in captivity. Although they were stuck in Egypt, far away from home, nonetheless they continued to offer sacrifice and to live in accordance with the divine Law. Despite the oppressive conditions, they continued to live in hope (v.9), and from that hope they joyfully took courage. The source of that courage was the Covenant that existed between God and themselves as His people. When you know that God has made a covenant with you, you too will be able to take joyful courage day by day and to persevere. You will understand that God is always faithful to you, no matter what; and that understanding will give you joyful courage to go forward in faith in your daily life in accordance with God’s will. That joyful courage is the fruit of placing your faith and hope in God.

The Second Reading gives examples of the interactive dynamic of faith with hope, like using a map and compass to find out where we are now and which way we should go. St Paul declares that faith is the sole guarantee, the assurance, of the blessings that we hope forthe existence of realities that at present remain unseen (v.1f). He presents the example of Abraham and Sarah, whose faith in the hope of God’s promises being fulfilled kept them going forward despite all the odds. They put their belief in God whom they served, and their trust in His promises. They went forward in faith, not knowing where the next step would lead them (v.8), because they had hope of salvation. He (Abraham) arrived as a foreigner in the Promised Land (v.9) … and he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God (v.10). Abraham and Sarah may well have felt apprehensive, but didn’t allow fear of the future to hold them back. We know from our country’s experience of the last couple of years that fear has the capacity to choke people’s lives and constrain them from acting freely. Do you know how many instances there are in the Bible when God tells us not to be afraid, not to be fearful of what is happening around us? 365 times. That’s once for every day of the year. God comforts us every day: “do not be afraid!”. He wants so much for us to place our faith and hope in Him. He is in control!

Just think that, without faith, Abraham wouldn’t have moved to the Promised Land, nor would he have hoped for a moment that he would have a son in his old age and thus have more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore (v.12). If Abraham hadn’t placed his trust in the word of God, he would neither have accomplished God’s will for him, nor would he have had the satisfaction of living out a fulfilled life. Jesus tells His disciples repeatedly, and us today, not to be afraid, because it has pleased the Father to give them the Kingdom of God. When you believe that Jesus’ reassurance also applies to you, you can live out your life in joyful courage because you can be sure that Jesus will never let you down or abandon you. Jesus wasn’t telling his disciples it was OK to sit on their bottoms and be spiritually dozy since they were going to heaven anyway. No Way! His message about the promise of the Kingdom was intended to arm them with joyful courage, the courage necessary to go out and accomplish all the things Jesus commanded them to do in order to get to heaven.

We are all on a journey to an address and postcode in heaven. On earth, we can work out the route to our destination by using a map and compass. God has given us the tools (the ‘map and compass’) to show us the way to our heavenly destination. When we use the tools of faith and hope, we gain the joyful courage to keep going on our journey. We need to live like those in transit, like Abraham and Sarah going out in faith to the Promised Land. When you demonstrate faith in God and have hope of heaven, you automatically receive courage and joy in living out your daily life, no matter what the circumstances. You will find yourself prompted to be selfless and generous, and furthermore, you will be well-prepared for Jesus’ second coming. Be comforted and reassured by His oft-repeated words: don’t be afraid. Amen. God bless you.