Pilgrimage by definition is a physical journey toward a place of sacred or religious significance. For example, many have walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, following the footsteps made by the Apostle James. There are thousands of miles of pathways on this road, with each one ending at the shrine where St. James is supposedly buried.
For those of us who have yet to be afforded this privilege, let us not forget that life itself is a pilgrimage. It’s an open-ended undertaking, where the many journeys we take in life should lead us towards personal reflection and growth. As we move towards Bethlehem, the place where Jesus was born, our quest ought to be also about growing our faith, and finding our purpose and particular place in God’s sacred heart.
I believe there are many ways there. And the best map to take for this journey is always the Holy Scriptures. As cryptic as they can seem at times, their words show us a way forward, leading us to where we need to go and who we are to become.
READ: Matthew 24:36-44
....Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day[b] your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
So, who will go with us on this pilgrimage? According to this text today, it seems a little questionable. At first glance, it seems like you got a 50/50 chance that God will either take you or not.
But if I’ve learned anything about wrestling with sacred text, especially an apocalyptic passage like this one, it’s that our first inclination is to make it about ourselves. Where am I in this space? But Jesus always encourages us to look beyond ourselves, and always directs our gaze back to God.
This story isn’t about us. It’s about God, who Jesus describes as “a thief in the night.” Advent is a time of expectant waiting. And what we are to expect from God is to always expect the unexpected.
Which fits perfectly into our pilgrimage theme as we search for meaning, purpose, values, and truths we enter every space knowing God is going to surprise us. Because God is always breaking into our lives when we least expect it.
If you’ve ever been on a road trip then you know things can and often happen that are not part of the itinerary. A tire blows out on the car, or you put unleaded fuel in a diesel engine like I did in Ireland last summer.
But not all unexpected surprises are bad. We’ve been forced to take detours that have led us to discover some new and amazing places. And we’ve had our hotel reservations get messed up and instead of getting a single room with two beds we got a suite with two extra rooms.
God breaks into our life when we least expect it. And those who are ready can expect a good thing to come from it.
watch the message here...however, it might be a little grainy.
So to answer the question, “Who will go,” Jesus says the one who stays awake. That is to say, the one who is ready to meet God anywhere and everywhere.
“The only way to get ready for God” according to Richard Rohr, “is to get yourself out of the way.” It’s not always about us. But always about God. It’s always about “letting God come as a surprise, as unexpected, undeserved grace.”
Jesus constantly shows us that God always comes when we least expect it, and always where we don’t deserve it. This is why it’s always called the Good News.
But some take these words to be good for some, bad for others. I think that’s a wrong reading of this sacred map. It’s why so many people remained lost. I don't think this was Jesus' intention when he spoke these words.
I don't think Jesus says these things to make his followers worried or afraid to go on this journey, but to wake us all up and make us all excited to take the first steps into the unknown. It’s in taking the walk with him our faith comes alive, and grows muscles. Faith is a verb. Always active, always doing, always growing.
In taking another glance at this cryptic text, we see that Jesus is calling us “to a life of work, in the spirit of active wakefulness.” To expect the unexpected requires us all to keep our focus on the present day, to the needs of the moment. Jesus points our attention to the people in the field, the mill, the daily grind. The reason behind this is simple.
God breaks through in the ordinary places of human endeavors where life is lived out in real time. It’s in the mundane places of the everyday that our faith comes alive. Those who will go will be the one’s who are awake and ready, in any situation.
To be prepared is to remain active in faith… to be a people who see wrongs and work to correct them. Some call this being “woke.” And some believe this is a bad thing. I don't get it.
While we wait for Christ to come, Jesus said we need to be woke people.
Woke to the sins of inequality and injustice that continue to keep people enslaved and imprisoned.
Woke to what’s going on around us, to be present to the needs of our communities, so that others can see the fullness of God’s glory.
We may not know what God is up to, or when Christ will return. But we do know that as we wait, we are to do so actively and not passively. This means we must keep our eyes open, as well as our heart and hands.
At Anamesa, we begin our pilgrimage by loving God, loving others and serving both. While putting this to practice, I’ve watched my faith grow, my life have meaning and purpose. My faith has value. It’s why I get out of bed, awake with excitement for what comes next.
Like a thief in the night, God breaks into our lives, working through us to surprise the world with love, mercy, and grace. We must stay awake, keep our eyes on what’s going on around us, in our neighborhoods and communities; our school rooms and board rooms. We must remain present and mindful and willing to enter those places faithfully.
The Bible tells us that one day Christ will suddenly appear on a cloud to reign upon this kingdom. But before that, he will appear around the corner, suddenly, like a hungry person on the street, like an ill-clothed neighbor, like a co-worker trapped in an addiction, or a friend struggling through cancer treatment.
In the next chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus makes it perfectly clear that those who will go, are the ones who see him and love him in the vulnerable, the stranger, the prisoner and dying. “For what you do to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you do also to me” (Matthew 25:31-46)
As we begin this pilgrimage, we can expect to see and meet Christ, who is always in us and all around us. We may not know where we’re going, but we do know who goes with us.
That is the one who has come to us, to lead us on this journey home to where we belong. In the sacred heart of God.
Bartlett, David L. and Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A Vol. 1. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2010).
Rohr, Richard. Not A Threat, But A Breaking In. November 30, 2019, podcast. (Accessed on November 24, 2022).
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An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”