January 20, 2023

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Jennifer Burger

Let the Lord redirect your steps and guide you in 2023

Jennifer Burger“Quo vadis?” … Where are you going?

This seems to be a fitting question for the beginning of a new year, doesn’t it?

I first heard this phrase here at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis where I work.

At the beginning of the year, our director and associate director take what they call a “Quo vadis” day during which they discern and develop goals for the operations and ministry here at Fatima. At the time, I didn’t know what the phrase meant, but the outcome of these meetings was clear—we were given a direction.

It wasn’t until my husband and I were in Rome this past fall and were walking through the Basilica of St. Sebastian Outside the Walls that I came across the meaning—and origin—of “Quo vadis.”

In the apocryphal Gospel of St. James, it is said that near this basilica, Peter—while fleeing persecution in Rome under the Emperor Nero—encountered the risen Christ and asked him, “Domine, quo vadis,” which translates to, “Lord, where are you going?”

In this discourse, Jesus tells Peter that he is going into Rome to be crucified. Jesus confirms Peter’s question about being crucified again, and as the Lord ascends up to heaven, Peter comes to his senses, redirects his steps and returns to Rome where he was eventually crucified.

I find this story fascinating because in this circumstance one might think that it would be Christ asking Peter where he was going! After all, one might say that Peter had a reputation for running away from—and on occasion missing the point of—Jesus’ ministry. But there is no misunderstanding or wavering here!

We see in Peter the growth in his understanding of who Christ is, and I have to believe that his question “Quo vadis?” is not one of curiosity (as we often hear from him in the Gospels) but one of obedience.

This story gives us some questions to consider in our own lives: when we meet Christ, how do we greet him? Do we go our own way? Or do we redirect our steps to follow where he is going? Do we have the courage like Peter to even ask, “Lord, where are you going?” and go in that direction?

There are times when I feel like I’m merely “bumping into” Christ. Like Peter in his earlier days, I don’t always get it right, and I miss opportunities to encounter Christ—either directly or through others. I miss the opportunity to receive grace. I may thrust myself into my spiritual life with zeal and purpose and lose sight by getting ahead of God’s plan following my own well-intentioned plans or self-need.

But also like Peter, I receive grace in the rebuke. These are the moments when through the urgings of the Holy Spirit I realize I have missed the point or fallen short in my relationship with God and with others. I can let it consume me or convince me I’m not good enough and run away, avoiding the discomfort in my soul, or I can return and receive grace and live in union with Jesus again and again, for “from his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace” (Jn 1:16).

May “Domine, quo vadis?”—“Lord, where are you going?”—be our prayer in this new year. May we open ourselves to grace so that our hearts, through the Holy Spirit, live with God and by his love, and walk in the direction that Jesus shows us!

(Jennifer Burger is program and marketing manager at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.) †

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