My sister and I have holidayed in England several times.
It’s a great country to get lost in because people would often say, “Come and I’ll show you”, which is much more helpful than a long list of directions.
At the beginning of a new year it’s a good idea to ask yourself, “Where am I going?”
Judaism was the first religion to see history as a straight line with a beginning and an end, and as Catholics we have the same world view.
All of us are moving inexorably forward, 24 hours at a time. But where are we going?
The first answer is unpopular, because it involves a coffin. It’s hard to think about your personal end of life in this very limited body (version 1.0 of your body).
The second answer is also unpopular, because it involves the end of the world (again, version 1.0) – the end of time and of creation. It’s also drawing closer with every day.
We all believe in this – it’s the last line of the creed you recite every Sunday.
If you go to the Easter Vigil, we have a big candle right there to remind you that for every alpha, there’s an omega.
We have heard a lot recently about “journeying” as a church, and the need to “accompany” one another on the “journey”. But what if the person accompanying you doesn’t know the way?
The Scriptures have lots of examples of “walking with”.
There’s the good kind: where you walk faithfully with God in obedience and humility, and you receive a lot of blessings.
And there’s the bad kind: where you walk in darkness, or in falsehood, or with the wicked, and it doesn’t end well.
There’s also the kind of spiritual accompaniment Jesus talked about where you both end up in a ditch (Matthew 15:14-15).
The Pharisees believed human precepts and external actions should be taught as doctrine, and that practising them would make a person holy.
I’m sure all of us can think of human precepts that some people would like the church to teach as doctrine and put into practice.
Many revolve around sex, but they can also get excited about ordination, or governance, or the use of plastic straws.
Whatever your preferred human precept, Jesus is reminding us that they won’t help us on the “journey” because this isn’t the right sort of “accompaniment”.
St John puts it well: “If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not do what is true.”
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7).
We know what’s right. We know what the light looks like. It’s right there in Scripture and in the church’s magisterium.
We don’t always like it or find it comfortable or easy. Living in the light also doesn’t make us popular with many people.
But we know it’s the truth and the light.
It’s the safest and best guide into a genuine relationship with God and other people – the first step along a real journey which ends with us drawn into the life of the Trinity for ever.
Where we go wrong is trying to put human precepts and human thinking in place of this, and then trying to call darkness light.
We do this for all sorts of reasons: out-of-control desires and obsessions, yearning to be on trend, fear of what other people will think of us, and sometimes sheer stupidity.
St John—and everything else in Scripture—puts us straight.
There is no alliance of darkness and light. There is no middle ground. Light doesn’t “need” darkness, no matter what the Jungians say.
Every single day of your life, you make choices—big and small—that are leading you towards an eternal life of joy with God in the Trinity.
Or your daily choices are leading you instead into worship of your preferred human precepts, with a gooey topping of warm self-satisfaction.
This always leads to indifference towards God, and eventually into total darkness.
The church and the world both suffer from wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15).
We’re also very good at self-deception (Matthew 7:21-23), and we love to listen to people who agree with us, even when we’re wrong.
Start this new year with a spiritual audit. Who have you been listening to? Who is accompanying you? And where—ultimately—are you going?