Saturday, June 21, 2014


I"ve spent a lot of time this past week proofreading the copy-edited manuscript of the revised edition of my Lenten book,  Pilgrim Road. This means that I've had the pleasant opportunity of reliving once again the travels of that sabbatical year that provide all of the interesting locales in the book.

Coincidentally, this past Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of my getting on a Continental Airlines jet at Newark Airport to fly to Paris for the start of that sabbatical.

So the idea of "pilgrimage" has been in the front of my consciousness lately. 

I went and looked at the prayer journal I kept during that year and found that it begins about a week before I left. It includes a quote from the monastery's retreat the week before I took off; Fr. Ladislaw Orsy, S.J. said:

Sometimes I feel like this pilgrim!
"If you're on a pilgrimage, what does it matter if you sometimes fall down on the road, or drag your feet at times, as long as you keep heading in the direction in which your pilgrimage is constantly calling you? Holiness is this fidelity to the Goal of the Lord."

Then yesterday, Friday, I was reading Cardinal Martini's book Through Moses to Jesus when the author started talking about "dynamic self-offering: Where is the Lord leading me? Let us courageously offer ourselves to follow his initiative."  pg 55.

Still another angle on the pilgrimage theme came to me on Wednesday when I was reflecting on the gospel for the day (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18) in which Jesus comes down hard on people who make a show of their fasting to make sure everyone knows they're fasting, or who pray aloud on street corners so that people can see that they're praying, or who  make a public show of giving alms to the poor. Jesus' comment on these people is "they have already received their reward." 

It struck me that while I may not be as ostentatious as those Pharisees about letting people see that I'm praying or fasting, the lesson for me is about the difference between having my reward now or postponing it until heaven. How many sins and faults of mine come from my desire for instant gratification? Lashing out with a hurtful comment because it feels good, avoiding doing an act of charity for someone in need because it would be inconvenient, these behaviors have their own instant reward. I thus already have received my reward. So when it comes to the Last Judgement I'll be told, "Sorry, you've already taken care of all your own rewards. There are no rewards waiting for you here." Yikes!

A pilgrim's life is directed toward a future goal, and involves sacrificing comforts and deferring all sorts of  gratifications for the sake of getting to the goal.
The reward is not supposed to come while you're still on the pilgrim road. You have to wait. That's the whole point, isn't it?

We Americans don't seem to be very good at that. I'm not always great at it myself.

And you, fellow pilgrim, how about you?

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