Monday, February 13, 2012

What was Pilgrimage?

We had two days of final exams.  I have just finished my last final and feel very relieved. After several weeks of classes combined with so many actual experiences of pilgrimage, I have learned much about what it means to be a pilgrim. Through the many places that we have visited and the adjustments I have had to make in order to adapt to the different structures of this pilgrimage, I can say that a pilgrimage is a walk of faith. When one goes on a pilgrimage, they enter a new path. They come to a new understanding about themselves and the world. We must remember that this path is not a temporary path. The path of a pilgrim is a lesson that will help them grow for the rest of their life.
            Seeing pilgrimage as a walk of faith is a common theme in the Bible. In the Old Testament the Israelites made a journey through the desert, in which they were absolutely dependent on God. In order for the Israelites to learn to trust in the Lord, God gave them many signs and wonders. As we were told in one of our classes: Israel’s departure through the sea was a miracle worked by God that would never be forgotten by His people. We also see the walk of faith several times in the New Testament. From the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus called His disciples to walk in faith by leaving everything behind and following Him. Jesus continued to challenge the faith of His disciples by relating the conditions of discipleship: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:28).
            Understanding the pilgrimage as a walk of faith is also made visible in many of the sites we have visited. During our stay in Bethlehem I had the wonderful opportunity to see the spot where our Lord was born. This spot reminded me of the faith of our Blessed Mother. By saying “yes” to God, Mary has become the perfect example of what it means to be a pilgrim. She abandoned her own will and allowed God to take her to places she would have never imagined.
            While the Blessed Mother and the saints are good examples of the importance of faith in the life of a pilgrim, the most perfect example of what it means to walk in faith as a pilgrim is Jesus Christ. In His life and ministry Jesus totally surrendered Himself to the Lord. Through His forty days of fasting on the mountain, Jesus overcame temptations of the devil. Through trust in His Father, Christ was given the grace to endure death on a cross. Walking in the footsteps and example of our Lord is not easy. In order to make a good pilgrimage one must abandon their preconceptions and desires and put their trust in the Lord. When one faithfully allows the Lord to be the center of their pilgrimage, he or she will grow in self knowledge. Through continued prayer and reflection, this greater self-knowledge will help the pilgrim to grow in their relationship with God for the rest of their life. 

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