The Dominican Map to Heaven
Part 1: There IS a Map
Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. (Mt 6:26)
There is a particular kind of unease among people today. It is a feeling that there is something missing in their lives, or that life is aimless and without shape or meaning. People fill up their lives between work and social activities so there is hardly a spare moment, and yet sometimes we see a chink in the armour – we see how they question where their lives are going, and whether there is any ultimate meaning to it all.
Is it then the case that if we scratch below the surface of life, we will only find answers that disquiet and depress us? Or has there always been a providential plan for our lives, but we have thrown away the map?
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.’ (Gen 1:31) That verse from Genesis should mean everything to us, revealing as it does that we have all come from God’s hands, that we were deliberately created, and as the creation of God we have been made good. It follows on rationally from this that a good God would continue to preserve and bless those he has made, and this is exactly how it pans out in the story of Sacred Scripture. Yet Adam fell; he thought that he could devise a wiser plan than the one revealed to him; and soon he was having an existential crisis and hiding behind the trees from God! Our own wanderings and unhappiness are prefigured in that text, with all of our misguided pride that puts up a wall between God and ourselves.
‘If you will listen to all that I command you, walk in my ways, and do what is right in my sight by keeping my statutes and my commandments….I will be with you.’ (1Kg 11:38) There is such tremendous irony when people say things like ‘Why is God not speaking to us today?’ or ‘Why doesn’t God come down and show us the way to go?’, because God has already said everything and never ceases to say it to us in the Sacred Scriptures, and through the teachings of the Church. He could not have made it plainer to us that there is a way of life that is good and is pleasing to him, and a way that is evil and destroys our relationship with him.
The truth which so many of us today have lost sight of is that God HAS made a plan for each of our lives. We are not accidents or mistakes or shipwrecked on the sea of existence, no, it is we who have thought we could do a better job than God in captaining the ship, and look at the consequences! Each of us was entrusted with a particular vocation here on earth, and co-operating in the fulfilment of it is the key to our happiness. It must be the role of all in the Church to make this known once again in a world that has largely forgotten about its Creator, and is finding itself questioning whether the creature has any real meaning.
A vivid illustration of this is found in the very beginnings of the Dominican Order. When St Dominic was starting out on the work of the Holy Preaching in the south of France he found the conditions challenging in the extreme. He met with a lack of understanding from some in the Church, from others he met apathy, and perhaps the hardest thing of all was that very few came to join him in his new foundation, indeed some of his co-workers decided it wasn’t worth it and parted company with him, leaving him even more alone. Yet Our Holy Father never gave up, because he put his trust in God and had the conviction that something wonderful was in the process of being built up. He knew that there was a plan unfolding in his life which when followed would light up the path to heaven for him.
So, what is the first key to following the map to heaven? Believe that there IS a map!