Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ,
Highway to Heaven
And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. Isa. 35:8
Imagine a multitude of people walking along a raised path in the wilderness. They are crowded together, having to move carefully as there are ditches on either side of the high way. Most of the people seem to be walking resolutely towards some destination. You notice a marked difference though between those at the front of the line and those at the end, who are just beginning to join the throng. A significant transformation has taken place in the souls of those who have travelled longer on this path. It becomes evident, in light of this conversion, that the destination of this journey is not necessarily to a place but to an increasing state of freedom—a freedom associated with holiness.
Those at the front of the line seem to shine with a winsome glow that inspires and motivates the people behind them. Every now and then, those behind catch a glimpse of the virtue that the saints ahead of them are enjoying, causing a noticeable ripple of enthusiasm through the crowd. But regardless where people are positioned on this path, they seem satisfied and grateful to be there. The motivation that those ahead of them provide is not so much one of envy but one of anticipation that serves to quicken their step.
You notice, as well, that there are people wandering in the fields and rocky areas on either side of the raised highway, some alone and others in small groups. These people seem lost and oblivious to the parade that is taking place right beside them. But you also notice some who are walking among them with much more of a sense of purpose. They are those who have sacrificed their place in line in order to go search for these lost souls. You watch as one of them approaches a group of wanderers and begins speaking to them. You can tell by the way she keeps pointing towards the highway that she is inviting them to come and join her in the journey. Some do, but many don’t. Instead, they keep wandering in the field, their eyes looking far into the distance for whatever they are searching for.
There is a high hill nearby, off to the side of the road. You climb it, and you can now see the whole multitude at a glance. You notice that there is a bulge of people in the middle of the throng while the numbers seem to thin out at both the front and rear of the line. The ones in the middle are carrying items with them that will serve the whole community on their journey—tents, food, water, as well as musical instruments, books for teaching, liturgical vestments and other articles that express something of their common destination. Every night they set up their tents and serve the many people who gather for a common meal. It is an opportune time as well to share stories and to remind one another of the hope that inspires their trek.
At the rear of the line you see some people who are obviously new at this pilgrimage. Though they seem to begin each day with an inordinate amount of enthusiasm they soon start complaining about tiredness, blisters and the heat of the noon-day sun. But there are others among them, people with the same glow as those in the front of the line. They have purposely fallen back in the line, choosing instead to walk among the new pilgrims, encouraging them and reminding them of where they are going. They are keeping an eye out as well for stragglers who might get left behind.
Curiously, there is something similar happening at the front of the line. You see people who had previously been glowing with the winsome radiance of purpose who are now sitting down, seemingly dejected on the side of the road. Their glow has faded as they seem confused about their way, disheartened by the challenges that the process of conversion continues to impose on them. Others from the front line leave the highway to sit with these people. They are talking with them, gently bringing both understanding and encouragement to these discouraged souls. As you notice the glow slowly return to these people, you remember Moses and Elijah’s conversation with Jesus at the transfiguration. Finally they get up and rejoin the crowd, grateful to those who cared enough to notice them.
As you strain to see how far the front line extends you are startled by what you notice. The people at the very front seem to be mysteriously disappearing. Their souls, which were getting brighter and brighter with each step, are now becoming increasingly transparent so that they blend into the bright light of the sun. They are becoming one with the light that has been following them their whole journey so that they seem to disappear as they reflect the very holiness they have been seeking. The brightness of these souls attracts the attention of the pilgrims behind them. Suddenly, these same people who just a moment ago were dragging their steps, are now throwing themselves forward, making a renewed offering of themselves to whatever lies ahead for them on this journey. They do this so joyfully that it reminds you of your own deep desires for holiness. That you too have been called to walk on this highway.
You have been watching long enough. It is time now for you too to join this pilgrimage. You step down from the hilltop and run towards the highway. The people see you approaching and turn to welcome you. With a song of praise in your heart, you realize how blessed you are to be on this road. You too will soon reflect the light that now surrounds you. You thank God for this hope, and for the love you feel for all those who walk with you on this pilgrimage. And with great joy, you go forth.
Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne
Launceston on Tasmania