Along The Way (Acts: 22)
When St. Paul looks back to the days before his ground-shaking conversion, he remembers hounding not a doctrine or set of teachings or even a religion. Rather, he persecuted a “Way,” a road to walk along that heads in a definite direction and sets the pace and style for the traveler.
He proclaims he came upon this “Way” through personal encounter with the light and the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then came the healing from Ananias and the three years in the Arabian desert, further steps in taking in Who it was he met on this road before he can begin to give first-hand testimony that this way is “The Way.” Note that he doesn’t merely tell of Jesus, but invites people into Jesus, calling them into relationship with him. Not just instructing, Paul puts them in his presence.
I pick up on this expression “Way” because one of the premier commentators on St. Vincent, Andre Dodin, cites how pivotal this image is for appreciating who Vincent is and how he acted. Dodin lists the many efforts made to categorize our Saint, putting him into this school or that, making him a disciple of a master like Francis de Sales or Vincent Ferrer, all in the attempt to systematize him. But none of them come off. Vincent never fits snugly inside any abstraction because rather than exemplifying a theory, he lives a “Way.” His originality flows from his life and experience, from his walking along that Way. And so for instance, it’s not the case that he first thinks about what love is and then takes a resolution to love others. Rather walking with the living God, he first loves and brings that loving into all his words and activities. He acts out the love he’s already begun to live.
What he’s moving from is the love the Lord Jesus has poured out on him and the return love Vincent gives. Filled with the person of Jesus Christ, Vincent like Paul walks the Way, strides along this road which follows behind Jesus’ intentions and instincts. Vincent doesn’t just talk about Jesus but introduces him, invites people into his presence. “Come onto this road and meet the Lord as I’m meeting him,” is his message.
Every day can be a setting out on this Way, an intentional stepping onto the path lit by Lord’s light shining in and around us. Each day is another opportunity to move past our book knowledge of the Lord and into the fuller encounter that arises from walking along with Him. This is both Paul and Vincent steadily learning “The Way.” This is Vincent’s family today giving themselves to God’s purposes, and then inviting those around to step also onto that Spirit-led path.