Friday, April 09, 2010

How's Your GPS? (God Positioning System)

Last June I made, perhaps, the single-most important purchase of my adult life: a global positional system for my car. As I made preparations to move to Detroit where I would have ready access to a car, it occurred to me that it'd be convenient and probably safer to use a GPS to navigate the city instead of relying on printed-out directions.

I have come to rely completely on TomTom (the brand I bought and the name I have given to my GPS). There is something reassuring, if not perplexing, that there are satellites thousands of miles above my head that are able to keep track of my car as I travel. I especially appreciate TomTom's pastoral concern for me and my driving: it tells me when I'm speeding, it gently reminds me to "turn around when possible" if I've overshot my destination, and if I miss a turn or misunderstand one of the cues, TomTom recalculates my route in order to get me to my destination safely: no fumbling about with directions, no second-guessing whether I heard oral directions properly, no fretting over being directed in an unfamiliar way. I simply trust that TomTom has a better eye-line on the situation and will lead me, safely and quickly, to my destination.

As an analogy, it seems to me that each of us has an internal GPS, or a "God Positioning System." Instead of being mounted on the dash of the car, our internal GPS is grafted into the  wall of our heart. It is, furthermore, more user-friendly than TomTom: where TomTom can only go where I have directed it to go, my GPS, when I listen to it, leads me along the path that God desires for me to follow.

Here is the key word for coming to understand our GPS: desire. When we are looking for the path or route we are to follow in our lives, we don't need to go to Mapquest or to search outside of ourselves for what God wants. Indeed, we need only peer into and listen to our hearts in order  to learn just what it is we most deeply and authentically desire. It through our desires, the dynamism of the human heart, that God speaks to us and invites us to follow.

These are trying times to be a Catholic. Each day we read more accounts of horrific abuse and we are now reaping the harvest of institutional secrecy. Many women and men now wonder, with their trust shaken, whether they can remain Catholic. I know of young men who are now questioning whether they can, in conscience, commit themselves to following Jesus as priests and religious because of the failings of the Church. Many of us feel as though we've been led into a slum, the seediest and darkest area of some city, and abandoned. Now we stand bewildered, wondering how we got here and whether we can trust the one who led us. We are, by rights, scared and confused and angry.

As individuals and as a Church, we are being called into a terrible mess. Nevertheless, despite my unease and shock at this situation, my heart has not wavered in my sense of being called to serve God's people as a religious. You can be damned sure that this has meant a lot of praying, a lot of tapping at the internal GPS, and a lot of saying, "Okay Lord, if this is where you're leading."

To my Catholic sisters and brothers, I know that this is a really difficult time. It is one thing to be discouraged, but another to give up hope. We cannot and must not give up hope. As we are guided into the heart of corruption, let us not forget that God is the guiding force behind this and that, if we trust, we will arrive at our destination. To be sure, we will not be unscathed. We are learning the painful lesson of humility, the importance of transparency, and the corrosive effects of power, sex, money, and greed. The sins of the past have been committed and we, as Church, must account for them. The sin of the future will be if we fail to learn from the past.

I know that people are shaken and hurt. Again, I beseech you not to abandon hope. Just as a car needs fuel, so do we. As frustrated and angry as we are, now more than ever do we need to find the fuel that is the Eucharist, the Bread of Life, the One who was himself betrayed by those he trusted. In the Eucharist we receive the man who, fleeing to the Garden of Gethsemane, cried into his own GPS: "My Father! If it is possible, let this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." In the darkest slum of his life, seemingly abandoned and alone, Jesus turned did not abandon hope. He listened to his heart's deepest desire - to do the will of the Father - and he gave himself over to this route. It is a route that led straight to the Cross. It is a route offered in hope amidst fear. It is a hope that opens us to the unimaginable power of the Resurrection.

I ask again, "How is your GPS?" If you are feeling lost and confused, angry and hurt, know this: you are not alone. We see the model of this confusion in the person of Jesus Christ who, even when the tsunami of sin threatened to crush all hope, opened his heart, his GPS, to the directions of his Abba and followed. This is not an easy path, but following God in the midst of chaos is exactly what we are called to do at this time. Nourished by the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of the one who has walked through the sinful slum of humanity, let us consult our GPS and move forward. Let us atone for the crimes of the past and resolve never again to allow such atrocities again. Let us reclaim our desires to be companions of Jesus who are a people inspired by the Gospel to be walk, skip, and run along the road to God's Kingdom.


langstrom said...


Anonymous said...

Very touching and profound :)

Dr. Rural said...

Despite the anger that I am about to express, I've been a regular reader of your blog for quite some time, and enjoy it very much.

Quoting an earlier post of yours:

"The clergy sex abuse scandal is egregious because of institutional complicity, cover-up, and often a lack of pastoral concern for victims."

Indeed yes. I am sure there have been (and are) pedophiliac boy scout leaders, elementary school teachers, and Protestant ministers. In no way do I think that pedophilia is limited to priests, much less that all priests are pedophiles.

But I've lived in two of the dioceses worst-hit by these scandals, and the cover-ups by the bishops have me just about ready to walk out the door forever. My God Positioning System? I haven't given up on God. But the Church? Well, that's another matter entirely. And I'm not sure if I am going to stay or go.