By FR. ROLANDO DELA ROSA, OP
One summer, I was invited by a friend to visit a far-flung town known for its pristine forest. In the afternoon of my second day there, I decided to explore the forest. I was so fascinated by the beauty and grandeur of my surroundings that I became oblivious of the time.
When I finally decided to go back to where I started, it was almost dusk.I walked for almost an hour but found myself deeper into the forest.I began to panic. Just then, an elderly man appeared from nowhere. I excitedly asked for directions but instead of telling me to turn left, turn right, go straight, etc., he volunteered to accompany me to make sure that I got home.
The gospel reading today reminds me of that forest experience. Jesus tells Hisdisciples that He is the WAY. Getting lost in the forest and finding my way back home made those words of Jesus very real to me. The kind stranger whom I met in the forest did not just show me the way. By accompanying me, he became for me THE WAY.
I remember asking the man: “Have you ever been lost in this forest?” He replied: “Never. I belong here.” A place ceases to be a mere geographical location when we feel we belong to it. For me who was not familiar with the forest, he became the WAYbecause his deep sense of belonging to the placedeveloped in him a sort of a built-in GPS (global positioning system) which tells him his exact location, and makes it easy for him to get from one point to another. Also, this internal GPS activates his homing instinct, which redirects him to his starting pointno matter how far he has wandered away from it.
In today’s gospel, that is precisely how Jesus wants us to regard him—not someone who gives us directions on how to get to heaven, but someone whom we feel a strong sense of belonging such that He becomes the WAY. As the Japanese rock band One OK Rock sings:
Anywhere you are
Is where I want to go
You are my address
My heart is anywhere you go
When I’m next to you I’m home.
During these days of lockdowns and quarantines, we are forced to stay at home. But staying at home does not necessarily make us feel at home. If we come to think of it, how can we feel at home when according to the United Nations Commission on Human rights, Metro Manila has the highest number of homeless people?
Homelessness is about so much more than not having a house to live in and having enough food and water and other necessities in life. It means not feeling safe, loved, protected. Homelessness is like my forest experience. I felt utterly lost and abandoned, and there is no assurance that I will be found.
Our close familiarity with Jesus gives us the homing instinct to always return to Him, to go back to Him, to leave behind a forest of bickering and gossip, lies and fake news, the virtual world of the internet, television and movies, the video games, the social networks where we make contacts with others but without any real engagement.
Prayer strengthens our sense of belonging to Jesus. In prayer, place and space disappear. There is no absolute privacy or isolation from God because as we read in Psalm 139: “Where can I flee from your face?” We encounter Him at every turn. He is always with us because God is the ground of our being. He is HOME.