In the Book of Jeremiah, the Lord sets forth His prescription for peace in the following words: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls..." [Jer 6:16].
A crossroad is a road that crosses another road. It’s a place where two or more roads intersect. In Jeremiah’s day, the people of Israel were likened to a traveler who had lost his way and needed to stop in order to carefully consider which was the right road to take. The people were then instructed to take that right road. They were exhorted to return to the ‘ancient paths’ that had been walked by their forefathers. This meant returning to their original covenantal relationship to the Lord. It meant choosing the old paths from the time of Moses when Israel as a nation followed the Lord in holy fellowship and mutual love. It meant returning to that time when the people lived God-centered lives that were wholly obedient to the Word of God.
What goes for God’s ancient people also goes for those of us who have become His sons and daughters through faith in Christ. God’s prescription for peace has not changed. God has given man certain laws to live by, not because He desires to keep us from enjoying life, but because He desires to protect us. Long ago, the Lord said to the people of Israel, "Keep My decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time." God wants life to go well for us. Therefore, He has given us His laws to live by because He knows that when a society chooses its own course, rather than His course, the end result is chaos and eventual destruction.
Although I am only 45 years old, I find myself becoming increasingly nostalgic in my quiet time with the Lord. I remember a time when faith, family, and friends meant something in American society. I remember a time when marriage was something that took place between a man and a woman, not members of the same sex. I remember a time when traditional families were the norm, and not the exception to the rule. I remember a time when families sat down and ate meals together and Sunday found entire families going to church. I remember a time when homosexuality was shunned by society and not openly celebrated in public parades, as well as a time when children loved, honored, and respected their parents and all who were in authority. I remember a time when people had a greater respect and reverence for God - a time when society was a little more decent in its behavior. People who are older than I can remember even better times than these. Where have these times gone? Better yet, how can we get them to return?
I am convinced that revival must start with the individual. Although he was not a Christian, Mahatma Ghandi lived by a philosophy that we in the Church must also embrace if we desire to see our society change, for Christ has called His Church to be the light of the world. Ghandi’s philosophy was this: "We must become the change we want to see in the world." I can’t do anything about the rapid deterioration of the society in which I live. What I can do, however, is become the change I want to see in our society. I can become the change I want to see in the Church. I can become the change I want to see in the institutions of marriage and family. I can’t force American society to choose the ancient paths, to ask for the good way, and to walk in it. What I can do, however, is choose that path for myself and hope that by my example, others will follow.
Satan has deceived the world into believing that he has a better way, a better plan, for human society. He has pointed millions to a different path, and they have listened. The results of this tragic choice speak for themselves. One only need look at American society in general to see what happens to any society that openly rejects God’s way in order to embrace another way. Simply put, it doesn’t work.
Through Jeremiah, the Spirit of God is reminding us today that if we desire to find rest for our souls, we must reject the world, its priorities and philosophies, and return to the ways of God. The ancient way. The better way.
A crossroad is also a time in which important changes occur or major decisions must be made. How determined are we to walk those ancient paths? Are we willing to walk them alone if necessary? It’s very easy to yield to the temptation to just throw up our hands and quit, isn’t it? Why embrace chastity when the rest of the world is fornicating? Why dress modestly when exposure of body parts is all the rage? Why be a godly spouse, parent, or child when everything all around us is deteriorating anyway? It’s too hard. What’s the use? Will my righteous living change the world?
Noah lived in the midst of a wicked people. He had no church. Yet, he serves as a perfect example of one who could live a godly life in an evil world; a life pleasing to God in his everyday environment. As a result, he found favor in the sight of the Lord.
Christ has called the Church to be the light of the world and a city on a hill which cannot be hidden. If we desire to be that light, we must take the ancient paths. We must embrace the old ways - God’s way. We cannot walk the same road that the unbelieving world walks. We cannot pursue the same priorities that those who walk in darkness pursue. We are called to be different. As mentioned earlier, revival must begin with the individual. I would love to see American society as a whole walking in the ways of God. If I take that ancient path and inspire others to do so, this is good. But whether people choose to follow me on that path or not, makes no difference to me. I’m still going to take it because I desire rest for my soul. I want to live in Christ’s peace. I want His joy to well up within me. I need tranquility in these days of turmoil that are now facing the world, and the only way I can have these things is by taking the ancient path God has called me to take.
If we desire to walk in ‘the good way’ we need to discipline ourselves to spend time studying God’s Word each and every single day. If we want to know the way to the ancient paths, we need to listen attentively during the Liturgy of the Word at Mass. How can I know what God’s paths are, and how can I choose His ways, if I do not take the time to learn of those ways, not only at Mass, but during the rest of the week when I am not at Mass?
Some may say, "Why bother with the old ways or the ancient paths? Times have changed." The problem with this philosophy is that it doesn’t prepare us for the next life. When death comes for us, and we find ourselves standing before the judgment seat of Christ in order to give an account for our lives, we will not be judged according to the standards that were acceptable in our day. We will be judged according to the Word of God and how our lives lined up with that Word. Therefore, it would be to our eternal advantage to learn of those ‘old ways’ and ‘ancient paths’ since our lives will one day be judged according to them.
People are desperately searching for rest for their souls. They’re seeking that rest in relationships, career choices, worldly pursuits, accomplishments, money, and the things which money can buy. But rest continues to elude them. Why? Because this rest can only be found when we cling to God and His ways. Apart from embracing the ‘good way’ and pursuing the ‘ancient paths,’ rest for our souls will never be realized.
May God give us the grace so desperately needed to choose the ancient paths as we stand at the crossroad before us. May He give us the courage to enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life...
...and only a few find it.
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