I Have No Idea Where I Am Going

The injunctions we hear in the readings this weekend are very simple. In the book of Leviticus, Moses is commanded by God to say to the people, “Be Holy, for I, the Lord your God, am Holy.” In the last line of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says to his disciples; “You must therefore be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

What does it mean for us to be holy and perfect? How can we ever be holy or perfect? My journey to the priesthood began when I went to the junior seminary of St Joseph in 1962 aged 11. At one point, I was called a “holy joe” a phrase that implies that someone is sanctimonious or overly pious. This was because I liked going to the chapel to pray and I read a lot of books about the saints. I tried to keep to the rules because we were told that, “if you keep the rules, the rule will keep you”. And I was, most probably, a bit of a pain.

But being holy is not about saying many prayers and being in church all the time. When Jesus says, “you must be perfect” he is calling us to be complete, to be whole, to be the person God created us to be. This is only possible with the grace of God. When Jesus calls us to be perfect, he is interested in divination. He is  calling us to be conformed to God’s way of being; “God became man that we might become God.”

One book I often go back to is Thomas Merton’s “Seeds of Contemplation”. In Chapter 5 he reflects on holiness or perfection. What does it mean to be a saint? He says that a tree gives glory to God by being a tree. ‘The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like Him”. He says, for us, it is not enough to be what our nature intends. “For me to be a saint means to be myself. We are different. God leaves us free to be whatever we like. We can be ourselves or not as we please. We are at liberty to be real or to be unreal. We may be true or false, the choice is ours” …“Our vacation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny”.

Here is a prayer written by him:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. 
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Canon Father Anthony Charlton
Canon Father Anthony CharltonParish Priest