From the realm of ancient Chinese philosophy, many different pieces of wisdom have reached the modern era and have proven beneficial for pondering. An ancient axiom that I would offer for your consideration is attributed to the philosopher Lao-tzu (604-531 BC). We hear it as: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” More contemporary translators—and philosophers—have given a translation as: “Even the longest journey must begin where you stand.” Christian thinking might take the latter translation as the better—or at least the more accurate. There is a sense in the heart of humanity, as Lao-tzu seems to indicate, that recognizes action as something naturally arising from stillness. Stillness in the heart of a person may offer him or her a place “deep within” from which to recognize communion with God.
In many ways, as we share time and thought with an anniversary event as significant as one hundred and fifty years for our Diocese, and the annual impact of Lent upon our souls, the idea of the “journey” must not be lost or underestimated. The journey continues, in any event, as our Diocese matures and we mature spiritually as individuals, moving toward eternity and the Kingdom Jesus has purchased for us by the shedding of His Blood on the Cross.
That, of course, is the point: the paschal mystery is the still-point of all creation. The Church moves through this vale of tears with one thought in mind, to be unified with Christ in Heaven for all eternity. The Mass is the celebration of that unity; and the season of Lent prepares our souls and our bodies in a sacrificial way for the necessity and the reality of Redemption.
The journey toward heaven may be more than a “thousand miles” as we poor carbon-based creatures reconcile time and distance, nevertheless, it behooves us to enter the stillness of our beings and earnestly seek true communion with God while time is given.
Birthdays, anniversaries, sesquicentennials, and Lent, for instance, all mark time for us. They help us to understand that every rising and setting of the sun moves us closer to the day when Christ will come again. It is precisely the awareness of the Glory of God that leads us to be ready for the fullness of His Coming.
The role of the Church—the Diocese—the parish, more specifically, is the purveyor of Truth—the Truth of Jesus Christ, that is, the Truth that makes us free. Awareness of that Truth comes from hearing the Gospel with an open heart and a genuine reflection on it day by day with lives of faith. The Church has been doing this for thousands of years—our Diocese, for one hundred and fifty. There is Truth placed deep within each Child of God through Baptism, and there is a longing in the human soul touched by that Truth, to desperately seek it as the only source of true peace and the destination of our journeys. Our spiritual journeys are, in fact, summed up by the simple, beautiful and perceptive prayer of St. Augustine concerning the human condition:
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” (The Confessions. Book 1)
In the penitential season of Lent, in prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving, we center ourselves on the wisdom of God who sent His Only Son as our Redeemer and Lord. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (Jn. 14: 6ff.)
Bishop William Patrick Callahan