“While from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way; walk in it’”
– Isaiah 30:21
The renowned author Maya Angelou tells the story in her autobiography ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ of being slapped by her grandmother for using the expression, “by the way.” For Maya’s grandmother, there is only one Way, it is the Way of the Lord, and to use the expression in reference to any other way is akin to taking the Lord’s name in vain. When I taught that novel to high school students it was understandably difficult for them to catch the significance of the lesson Angelou learned from her grandmother.
Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26 and Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5A, 6-8 refer to the Way. Isaiah tells us the Lord, the Teacher, will be present to us, guiding us along the way when we would be apt to turn one way or the other off the path set out for us. Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel further explicates the way when he sends out the disciples to the lost sheep to tell them “the Kingdom is at hand” and “to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.” Xaverian Brothers founder Theodore Ryken was metaphorically slapped in the face when as a young man he was “put in his place” by a deep humiliation and turned toward God, fell in love with God and placed himself in God’s service. Perhaps as we come toward the end of this first week of Advent we can today think about the Way, our way.
What way is the voice behind us calling us to take this Advent? To whom does Jesus send us out to announce the coming of the Kingdom? As Maya Angelou had her grandmother to remind her of the only Way, perhaps we too have the experience of others who have reminded us of the way or been a model for us of the way we are called to walk in the “common, ordinary, unspectacular flow” of our everyday life.
Lord, in recalling those who have guided us along our way, may we remember “without cost you have received: without cost you are to give.”
Brother Lawrence Harvey
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