"The Way" was one of the first names of the new Christian movement as it gradually distinguished itself from Judaism. We find this name in the book of Acts as Saul (later known as Paul) is looking for followers of "the way" (Acts 9:1-2). Now, you ask, what does this have to do about this week's readings? The first reading talks about God making the ground level for His people, Israel, while in the Gospel, John the Baptist exhorts all to make the way straight for the Lord. In our religious journey, God supports us on our way and we are called to make a path for the Lord to our hearts.
In one of my classes in college, a professor introduced this icon for group prayer and meditation. She said that the part of this icon that spoke most to her was the small space between the two figures in the foreground. It reminded her of two main facts:
1) The way of righteousness is narrow (Matthew 7: 13-14)
2) God's open love for us all and an invitation into the life and the light of the Trinity
On the first point, the right way is a lot harder than the easy way. Our faith is counter-cultural in many ways. Our culture encourages us to seek immediate pleasure, our faith tells us to be patient. Our culture tells us that "stuff" will make us happy. All we need is to acquire more possessions. We are even, often told to look at other people as objects to possess. Our faith tells us that true and lasting happiness can only be found in God. Our faith teaches us that people are not objects, they are to be respected and loved having been made by God in God's image. Going against the crowd is hard. It's much easier to go with the flow and make the popular decision rather than the right one.
It takes a lot of work to make a way for God by following God's will. There is good news here, though. We are called into a relationship with God. Being in relationship, we can count on God to meet us on the road. We are not expected to make the path completely on our own.
Through the Holy Spirit, we find strength to fight against sin and to nurture our relationship with the Divine. As we make a path for God, God comes into our lives. This is not to say that God will make life all of a sudden much easier. We will still encounter hardship. But with God, we can hope that things will get better and we know that we are not alone. Both this hope and this sense of companionship somehow makes us feel better, even if the hardship does not go away. We know that whatever we go through, God with us can go through it together.
So, that is the message for me this week. Christianity can still be called "The Way" for two prime reasons. We are to be in relationship with God and like all relationships, our relationship with the LORD is a two way street. We make a way for God into our hearts and our lives. God supports us on our way through life.
Look at the readings yourself: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120912.cfm