By Deacon Jonathan Echrich
We human beings are creatures who love maps. I think Jesus liked maps, too, because he left us a map so we could find him. The map Jesus left us is like a treasure map. That map is called the Eight Beatitudes. (If you haven’t read the beatitudes lately, I encourage you to put this magazine down and read Matthew 5:1-12 before continuing.)
We’ve used maps for thousands of years. The oldest known map, inscribed on a mammoth tusk, dates back to 25,000 B.C. If you’re over 40, you’ll remember those foldable paper road maps, impossible to refold, and then stuffed into the glove box between uses. It’s virtually impossible to take a canoe trip into the Boundary Waters without a proper map, or to fly an airplane cross-country without aviation charts.
I’ve always loved maps. As boys, my twin brother and I used to create treasure maps for each other, with a little prize or candy at the end. As a young man, I flew a small, two-seat airplane from Aberdeen to southern Texas. The trip would have been impossible without my charts. Then there’re those first-person shoot’em up games played on computers. Maps in those games reveal themselves as the player discovers new corridors and secret passages.
There are generally two kinds of maps: maps that enable us to travel to-and-fro as road maps and aviation charts do; and maps with a single destination, like a treasure map. With a road map, we can choose any given destination, travel there, then if we wish, return to our original location. We can add side trips or take detours, and we can reverse our course and return home.
Treasure maps are not like that. They have a single, desired destination. The starting point isn’t nearly as important as the “prize” at the end. To find our way with a treasure map, we start at the beginning and follow a specific route to the end. The destination is what’s of prime importance. With a treasure map, we don’t reverse our course as we might with a road map. That makes no sense and serves only to take us farther from the prize.
When Jesus walked the earth, he had a mission that all might come to the Father through himself. Find Jesus, and you’ll find the Father. He knew he would one day return to his Father in heaven, and that we would need a way to find him.
The beatitudes are like a treasure map. Follow them to find the divine “prize,” a single destination called the beatific vision. This is where we’ll find Jesus. To participate in the beatific vision is to see Jesus and to see his Father face-to-face. We see God as he is, and we see things as God sees them.
So, we have a map to find holiness and ultimately Jesus. But there remains a difficulty.
Like any map, how do we know where on the map we are? I can have a map that helps me navigate Minneapolis but that’s only half the battle. To know where I am on the map, I need signs, sometimes, lots of signs. Even if I’m using GPS navigation on my smartphone, road signs are important to validate what my phone says. It’s the same with our map to Jesus. We need signs so we can verify our location.
To successfully navigate through life using the Jesus map, the beatitudes, means we are moving closer to holiness. We are called to be holy as God is holy (1 Peter:15-16), and the closer we spiritually move to Jesus, the holier we become. As we become holy as God is holy, we begin to see others and ourselves as God sees us. When we see ourselves as God sees us, we cannot help but love the beautiful child of God each of us uniquely is, and this makes us happy.
This is where the signs appear that help us to verify we’re on the right track. We can ask ourselves, how happy am I compared to last month, last year, 10 years ago? Do the trials of life seem to worry me less, scare me less? Am I more patient with those around me? Does my life just seem more peaceful?
Jesus left us a map to find himself. Let’s not stuff it away in the glove box like a poorly folded road map. Open your Bible and read the beatitudes often. Practice them. Follow them. Follow them to the very end, and you will find a treasure beyond your wildest dreams. You will find Jesus, and his Father and his mother, and all the angels and saints, and you will be one of them.