The Avila University Singers are going to Rome next month, and their excitement brings back memories of my trips there. One day we were driving South to visit some of the Catacombs, and I noticed a sign by the side of the road: Via Appia Antico. I was riding on the old Appian Way, a road going back over thousands of years. A lot of our roads are on old trails, including the Kansas City area, where the Oregon and Santa Fe trails passed through.
The trailblazer was someone who went new places and tried to pick out a way for others to follow. It wasn’t easy, and the further I think back in time, the more challenging it must’ve been. Trails and later roads were important for connecting communities and bringing them together into a larger society. One reason the Roman empire did well was because of the road network they developed. All over the world today, roads are built where old roads and trails have been. We benefit from the work of ancient trailblazers, whether they were native people finding paths or road builders.
Jesus not only took his disciples places they hadn’t been before and shown them things they had never seen, he showed them a way of life, blazed the trail for them to follow. His life was a model for them to follow; a model for us to follow. The book of Acts is a story of Jesus’ disciples doing what He did. Following the trail Jesus blazed meant they couldn’t stand around looking up at the sky when He ascended into Heaven. It didn’t mean they were following a safe path through civilized territory, either. It was a challenge to go where Jesus it gone before: a journey that meant hard work, open eyes, creativity, and open hearts. What they saw on the Mount of Olives was Jesus showing them their final destination, a destination that drew them to the Way. Seeing this destiny meant they knew they could start down the road once the Spirit came. Knowing the destination is important in making sure you’re going the right direction, on the right road.
Through Baptism, we are called to follow Jesus. He has shown us the way, and assured us of our final destination. We cannot be passive, we cannot stand gazing at the heavens and imagining how Jesus must look sitting at the right hand of the Father. We’re called to journey down the trail that leads both through beauty and danger, blessing and challenge. As we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we recommit ourselves to this journey. It’s a journey we need to take together: Jesus didn’t send his disciples out as Lone Rangers, and reminded them to be one in Him, to work together, and especially to travel together. The trail has been blazed for us, and Christ has given us what we need, both in food and drink and an orientation of heart. We know that our Savior walks with us down this road He’s set out, and we can go boldly, alertly, and with open hearts knowing that this journey will take us the entire road to the same destination where Jesus has gone.