We’re about to celebrate Christmas, not Thanksgiving – but even so, pilgrims have been very much on my mind today.
Maybe it’s because we have family coming in from all over during the next couple of days. Or maybe it’s because one of my relatives – who’s currently hospitalized – won’t be going home at all during the Yuletide this year.
The more I meditated on those wayfarers in my immediate circle, the more I realized how much they have in common with the saints we meet in the gospel stories about the very first Christmas.
Mary, we’re told, upon learning that she was to become the mother of Jesus…
…set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
Some months later, as the due date approached, the mother of God was again on the move. Traveling with Joseph, she…
…went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem…
Where, of course, she gave birth under less-than-ideal circumstances. Not long thereafter, the Holy Family again found themselves pulling up stakes – trying to stay one step ahead of Herod’s murderous rage…
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.
The more you think about those stories (and even about the adult Jesus, who Matthew says ‘has nowhere to rest his head‘), the more you realize that spirituality truly is a journey.
If you want to grow close to the Lord, then you’re probably going to be invited to step outside your comfort zone. Maybe WAY outside.
But when we manage to say ‘yes’ to the invitation…it opens the door to some truly profound blessings. I can point to one such instance in my own life – when a group of men traveled from San Antonio eleven years ago…to present the first ACTS retreat in St. Louis for the men of St. Joseph Parish.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that weekend was a life-changing experience for me – a incredible gift of the Holy Spirit, ferried to my front door by those Wise Men from Texas. And I’ve since come to understand that it’s the gift that keeps on giving: From that initial weekend in St. Louis, ACTS retreats have now touched the lives of tens of thousands of Christians in five states across the Midwest.
Call it ‘pilgrim power,’ if you will. All I know is, great things tend to happen when the people of God open their hearts to the stirrings of the Spirit. But we have to take that first step. We have to be willing to leave the comforts of home…and shuck our familiar routines.
That’s what it means to be a pilgrim people. That’s how we grow to become more like Mary – in greeting her cousin Elizabeth – confident that we each have been entrusted with a piece of the Good News to share.