The following homily was given at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS on the occasion of the closing of the “Scouting 500” gathering of scouts from all over the Kansas City area. Archbishop Joseph Naumann and Bishop Robert Finn were present and I was the homilist.
Scouts know a lot about finding the way. We’re famous for it. Here are some thoughts that come to my mind when I think about scouting and finding the way:
1) While we scouts are famous for using a map and compass, a lot of us use GPS these day, especially in our cars. If you hit the “home” button on your GPS, no matter how lost you are, the GPS will calculate the perfect route home. If you take a wrong turn, it will automatically recalculate a new best route, which may not be the same as original best route. In life, we’re trying to get home too, but our home is in heaven. Like a good GPS, God has calculated the perfect route for our life. Yet, sometimes we take some wrong turns and even stop listening to the GPS. When we realize that we’re lost, we don’t need to try to find our way back, we just need to tell God we’re ready to head for home again and he’ll calculate a new best route. So don’t be surprised that the best way through life will most likely be a “recalculated” way.
2) The hard way is normally the best way. We scouts like hard. Anyone can sleep inside. We like to get outside, sleep on the ground, cook over a fire, and have fun doing it. Bad weather isn’t a letdown; it’s a challenge. Sometimes the colder and wetter it is, the more we rise to the challenge. Life throws lots of challenges at us. Jesus didn’t promise that it would be easy to be his followers. Quite the opposite. We scouts should make great disciples of Jesus because we’re not afraid of taking the hard way, even if not many others are going that way.
3) Don’t make things harder than you have to. Although we like hard, we also like being smart and going light. Backpacking is a true test of being smart about the challenges we take on. There is no reason to carry around a bunch of stuff we don’t need when backpacking. Philmont is the ultimate challenge for this. Twelve days with everything you need on your back. In my time at Philmont I’ve been surprised to discover just how little I really need to be comfortable and happy. As we go through life, we should also be careful about what we’re dragging along with us. Are we trying to acquire a bunch of “stuff” thinking it will make us happy? The truth is that we are most happy when we travel light through this world.
4) Freedom does not mean going in as many ways as possible. We are blessed with many opportunities and talents, and for young scouts especially there are so many things that you can do. Sometimes though we try to do too much. We’re afraid of missing out on something, so we play three sports at once, want to be in the band, on the debate team, in the play, in all these different clubs. In the end this leaves us not free, but exhausted. The most important decisions in life often come when we have to say no to one or more good things, so as to say a great yes to one thing. Finding your way through life will meaning saying no to many ways so that you can say yes to the way God has planned for you.
5) Finally, as we try to find our way through life, we are told in today’s Gospel that the way we are looking for is not some new technique or method. The “way” we are looking for is a person, Jesus Christ. He tells us plainly, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” This is an astounding statement. Lots of other religious figures have coming and gone proposing various “ways” that people might go. Jesus comes not with “a” way, but says there is only one way, “the” way. Most radically of all, he says that “the” way is really he himself. Jesus Christ is the only way. That means we’ve got to find this way and then go tell others about it. It’s worth it to say no to every other way to follow the one way that leads us to our ultimate home.