Lent always reminds us that life is a journey, a pilgrimage...
On Ash Wednesday, as we commenced these forty days, we were reminded that God created us from dust, and “unto dust we shall return.” There it is: a trip, life is, from God, back to God at death.
In our readings from the Bible at Mass during this holy season, we often hear Jesus speak of his journey to Jerusalem, to suffer and die for us on the cross.
Those of us who pray the Divine Office each day open the breviary to a constant selection from the book of Exodus, as we meditate on the travels of God’s chosen people, forty years in duration, from bondage in Egypt, to freedom in Israel.
The early Church in Rome re-lived these biblical pilgrimages as they walked to a different church each day for a procession, and Mass, a custom still alive in the station churches.
Our parishes walk the stations of the cross, usually each Friday, vividly recalling the via crucis of Jesus to the Hill of Calvary that first Good Friday.
In four weeks, on Palm Sunday, we’ll process again, in union with Jesus as He entered Jerusalem to begin His Passion.
Walk we do again on Holy Thursday, with our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, to the Altar of Repose.
The journey continues at the Easter Vigil, as we process with the Paschal Candle, and later to the baptismal font with our catechumens.
We’re “on the move” during Lent, powerfully reminding us that life itself is a trip, a journey beginning with God, starting at conception, all the way to our death, and...we trust, by the mercy of God, culminating in eternal union with the Lord in heaven.
St. Augustine, as usual, captured it best; “We come from you, O Lord, and our hearts are restless ‘till we return to you.”
The “tour director” of this remarkable travel is God, who is in charge, has an itinerary, knows what He’s doing, and walks with us. Our history, and the world’s, is His-story.
We accompany each other on the pilgrimage of life. The Church is that company of folks who realize they are on a sacred trip together. We help each other during difficult stages of the trip.
Of course, we know the hard way that there can be unfortunate detours and potholes on our journey of life. We call these sins, which means we at times make wrong turns and, hopefully for only a time, go the wrong way. Lent asks us to admit those, confess those, and do penance for those detours...to get back on the right track. That’s what Jesus did for those two disciples on the road to Emmaus: He walked with them, but gently advised them they were going the wrong way!
This Lenten reminder that life is indeed a journey came home to me personally recently. My dear mom, now eighty-eight, took a fall two months ago, hitting her head and fracturing her back. After a week in the hospital and a month in skilled nursing, thank God, her health has returned, although she now needs a walker and some care.
Thus, my brothers, sisters and I made the tough decision with her that she needed assisted living. Mom has made this next step graciously, and, she reports, is actually more at peace. But, it’s a somber move for all of us, as we recognize she has lost some of her freedom, mobility, and even her home.
Back in Missouri to help get her settled, I acknowledged, with her, that she had begun yet another stage of her journey. At the same time, we both smiled in the company of her great-grandchildren, my grand nephews and nieces, crowding and crawling around, as they are but at the start of the travel of life.
The same God is guiding them through, as He has Mom for nine decades. The same Jesus is still walking with us. The Church is still great company on the pilgrimage.
And Lent is a good teacher...