The "road less traveled" is not the smoothest road. Anyone who takes being a Christian seriously will eventually find him or herself on that road. I don't just mean because of the challenges that come from without, whether persecutions, hostility or suffering personal loss because of your beliefs. Often the most difficult part resides within our own spiritual journeys. God has a way of being very exacting of his children. And for good reason: He wants us to live the abundant life. It's just that sometimes it seems as though He makes the grade in the road especially steep!
One of the reasons for this is that the Christian life is a life of virtue. And virtue is honed through experience. It is very easy to be virtuous when all is well; the road is smooth and difficulties scarce. It's another thing when the road less traveled is rough and uphill. That is where our true character is revealed and we see whether or not we have really internalized the life of grace and virtue.
It's relatively easy to practice charity when you have a lot to give. But when times are lean are you still willing to give? Remember the "widow's mite", Jesus praised her willingness to give from the little she had. She did not rationalize withholding her gift but despite her meager circumstances she freely gave and did not consider not giving. She practiced virtue when it mattered.
How about the virtue of chastity? Again rather easy to practice it when you are a single person. But when you get involved in a romantic relationship it becomes a lot more of a challenge. And if you get engaged to be married it becomes even easier to rationalize not remaining chaste with your fiancée. Then there is the practice of viewing pornography. We can easily justify it by saying no one will know or it's only pictures and doesn't involve another person. Being virtuous when no one is looking is probably the hardest of all. But that is precisely the place where we will know who we really are. That will spell the difference between loving or loathing ourselves.
We begin to walk the road less traveled when we commit our lives to Christ. But have we really committed all of our life to Christ? We can only know as we walk the road and encounter the difficulties of the journey. Have I really surrendered everything to Christ, am I willing to do whatever it takes to be faithful even when it is inconvenient? Or have I only given part of my life to Christ, the nice neat easy part?
What happens say if my marriage ends in divorce? Am I willing to live by the teaching of Christ that to remarry (without having the first marriage declared null) would be to commit adultery? Am I willing to walk that road less traveled? Or do I tell myself "I deserve to be happy" and then do what I want?
What happens when things don't go your way? Do you act like a teenager and become rebellious and hostile and ungrateful for all that has been done for you? Does your speech deteriorate into gossip and slander; do you plot revenge to get back at the one who wronged you? Or do you continue to walk the road less traveled with grace and dignity despite the loss? How about when a colleague undermines you? Do you react with bitterness and antagonism or do you practice the virtues of love and tolerance, forbearance and mercy?
This Pentecost Sunday our newly baptized and confirmed complete their formal period of formation in the Christian way of life. They set out now on the road less traveled. For them there will be struggles and setbacks. They need the rest of us to show them how to walk the road. But we can't be of service to them if we ourselves have ceased to walk the road less traveled.
The gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord have been bestowed upon us. But we only know if we have activated them by the fruits they bear or not. Are charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity evident in our life when the road is difficult or no one is looking? If they are then you are walking the road less traveled and that will make all the difference.
Love, Fr. John B.