THE PILGRIM’S WAY: THE JOURNEY IS THE DESTINATION
A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs. (Wiki)
12:1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”
Security. How we long for the safe confines of the familiar and the predictable comfort of the status quo. Though change is inevitable, we fight it tooth and nail, for we are creatures of habit and home. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we long for home and the safe embrace of Auntie Em, and Toto, too. Our fears of outside threats and the unseen stranger-dangers lead us to build fences, install security devices, move to more desirable neighborhoods, and seek out even more desirable neighbors (driven by fear, we forget our true faith nature). But, as Dorothy proclaimed, “We are not in Kansas anymore.”
I encountered a woman who recently walked the El Camino, an ancient pilgrim journey through France and Spain. She spoke of a revelation she encountered along the pilgrim’s way: “Generally when I walk around the streets of my neighborhood, or travel anywhere in my life, it is always a circular path, always leading ‘home,’ but during my pilgrimage on the Camino, I realized that the journey was always forward and never to ‘home.’ Every day I was moving forward into uncharted territory, into a mystery destination where I had never been – always forward and never back to a familiar place.”
Such is the movement of the pilgrim’s way, and such is the reality that life is truly a pilgrimage, always forward, the destination always a mystery, filled with risk but also with anticipation.
God calls each of us to the pilgrim’s way, a way that is both physical and spiritual, a way of trust and mystery. The key presence is God’s love, and Divine Word goes before us to lead us through the wilderness. God provides the manna and quail, the pillar of cloud by day, the pillar of fire by night, the angel attendants, the empowerment when temptation is near, and the unexpected Good Samaritan. I am reminded of the words of St. Augustine, of Hippo, as he wrote in his Confessions: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” The whole of our lives is a pilgrim life, every struggle a holy mountain climb, every joy a deep well spring, every calm a contemplative field of sunflowers. For God is our home of homes.
As theologian William G.T. Shedd once said: “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” So, let God be your journey, and every one you meet a fellow pilgrim along life’s way. Dare to leave the familiar and the safety nets, and venture into the mystery, for God is most present in faith, hope, and love.