Food for Faith, by Fr John O’Conner – 15 Dec 2020
GPS & God
Since this Food For Faith website began ten years ago I have written more than two thousand reflections, some fairly heavy and even a bit unhelpfully dense, and others more gently encouraging. One of my personal favourites began on a road trip in Italy.
A few years ago travelling in Italy with a friend I rented a car. I picked it up from Termini (along with my friend) in Rome. Our plan was, over three days, to enjoy Tuscany and Umbria. I had never driven in Italy before and had been warned that the way the Italians drive is proof that they believe in God.
I hired the car only because it had GPS. The agent at the rental counter assured me that the GPS voice could speak in English adding that this little box would guide me to whatever destination I typed. As we drove away from Termini it was the job of my passenger to operate the navigation system. We got it working only after a couple of hours of confusion including one particularly difficult half hour when we drove through the same motor-way toll three times. Within a short time the GPS was working well giving us clear directions exactly when we needed them. Over three days we managed to enjoy several small Italian towns: Assisi, Gubbio, San Gimignano, Siena and Florence among other wonderful villages and roads.
For the first day we obediently followed every direction of the GPS voice. But it didn’t take too long for us to realise that if we accidentally, or even deliberately misunderstood, ignored or disobeyed the navagation instruction, the GPS would re-route us. This meant that if we drove a few miles down the wrong road, after a few attempts to get us to “U”-turn our guide would realise that the quickest route to our destination was not to return to the point of deviation, but to move ahead by a new route. Once we understood this we realised that it was impossible for us to ever be lost, and in this realisation I learnt something wonderful about God. With God, we are never lost, and the people we love are never lost. In every moment God knows where we are.
It is true that (as with the GPS) I might be in a place that I did not expect to land or want to be. I could end up in a destination that promised all kinds of beauty and pleasure, but did not deliver at all. But the moment I decide that I want to move again towards my ultimate goal, God is present to lead me.
To be honest it does get a bit tiresome playing at disobeying the GPS. It is fun for a while to be re-found and re-directed, but in the end I realise that it is much easier to get on and stay on the road to where I am going. The voice of God speaking to us through the scripture and Tradition of the Church offers us clear direction. But when we learn from our own experience we are led in the same life-giving way, to a future full of hope and promise.
When we listen for and live by the leadings of God, Life has a life-giving purpose.
An Invitation: Whenever you get a chance today, stopped at the lights, about to take a phone call, aware of a feeling of tiredness, shame or worry, take 5 seconds to know that Jesus is with you and move ahead together.
Not a bad reflection for the latter part of ADVENT, 2020, from Fr. John O’Conner!
Our ultimate G.P.S. is none other than our Creator, God who made us and knows every aspect of our being. When we find ourselves ‘ off-course’ and adrift in our lives, we might just remember that God is our origin and our end objective. When we let God back into our lives, we can be sure of his continuing support and guidance to our Safe Haven
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand