Finally they topped a mountain and there below was the most beautiful land anyone had ever seen. Father said, "My child, we have come home." The child exclaimed, "Now all the dangers are over!" The father said, "My child, you were never in danger so long as you obeyed me. For I am stronger than all our enemies."
This story is a parable, the father is God; the child is each one of us, and we dangers are the temptations and sins. We were born to God the Father away from home in a troubled land. Born to him by baptism. We were given the beauty of a share in the divine nature. The help of the father, that is ever at hand, is called actual grace. Fo, as Psalm 46 says - God is "an ever present help."
Just as our human nature needs the help of other human beings, our divine nature needs the help of the divine being, God the Father. Our human life needs to be provided with food and clothing, light and warmth, knowledge and guidance. Our divine life needs spiritual food, needs to be clothed in Christ, needs his light and love, and his teaching and guidance. These supernatural helps are called actual grace because they help us act like children of God. They help us to grow spiritually, and love and serve and make our journey to the Father's home.
Jesus says, "Without me you can do nothing." Without his grace, the actual grace we are like eyes without light, our bodies without food, or an electric motor without current. Not that we couldn't do anything good, but rather we couldn't do anything with faith and charity, and so we couldn't do anything to merit eternal life. St. Augustine said, "Man...cannot live rightly if he is not assisted by the light of the enter justice of God."
It is why, in the first reading Moses makes so much of the law of God, which gives us wisdom and lights our intelligence. It is why St. James says in the second reading that "every worthwhile gift...comes from above, descending from the Father." It is why Jesus in today's gospel, censures the theologians for replacing God's commandments with their own ideas, as if they were divine dogmas. It is why Jesus founded the Church to teach us, and sent the Holy Spirit to be our guide. The Holy Spirit is God Himself guiding us by our conscience.
The Australian Bishops writing on Abortion in 1988 referred to this inner voice. They said that a woman carrying a child "is assailed by many voices which disapprove of what she is doing. A woman has to be very faithful to her truest intuitions if she is to withstand a persuasive counselor or doctor, and listen instead to the still small voice near her heart."
That still small voice of God guiding us through life was represented in the parable by the father who was always with his child to guard and guide him, and help him to see things as they really are. The mirage of water symbolized deceitful teaching which seems so promising; the poisonous fruit symbolized sin which looked so good. As that father was always with this child, God our Father is always with us.
For almost 50 years Mother Teresa worked in the slums of Calcutta, India. She worked among the most forsaken people on earth. In the working conditions like that, people could notice a warm smile on her face. Mother explained why - she says, "When I was leaving home in Yugoslavia at age 18 to become a nun, my mother told me something beautiful and something very stranger. She said, 'you go put your hand in Jesus ' hand and walk along with him.'"
And that was the secret to Mother Teresa's life ever after. Many of us have or had good jobs. And we live in nice homes, and we have easy situations. But we don't have the warm smile on our faces like that little nun working in the most desperate situation imaginable had on her face. What's the difference? It may be that we have never put our hand in Jesus' hand. It may be that we have him only on our lips. He challenges us toad to become doers of the Word, not merely hearers.