Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 23, 2004
Soar high on eagles wings
Adopting the faith attitude of a child frees our spirit
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
During the pilgrimage in Spain, a walk of some 750 kms, I had lots of time to reflect. One morning I presided at the Eucharist and later as I walked by myself the morning Gospel reading came back to me: "Unless you become like little children you cannot enter the kingdom of God."
Children don't worry like grownups do. They're more able to take on the day and live in the present rather than worry about the future like grownups like to do. The invitation of Jesus to be like little children is an invitation to be in touch with the present rather than lamenting the past and fearing the future.
Children are able to marvel at beauty that crosses their path and some of us older folks are not bad either at appreciating the beauty in nature as well as the beauty that is so wonderfully present in people.
I remember Mahalia Jackson, a major "soul singer" in her days belting out the hymn: "My God and I go through the fields together. We walk and talk as good friends always do."
And for me walking the Santiago pilgrimage was to be forever amazed at the beauty surrounding us: the mountains and hills with cattle, horses and sheep grazing away. I marvelled too at the trees, plants and flowers I had never seen before. All of it the work of the Creator, a manifestation of God's love for us.
There is also the inner beauty visible in people, the beauty of an awesome soul grafted on a life beset with struggles and challenges. We have all known, I'm sure, outstanding but simple, ordinary people taking on awesome challenges and painful tragedies, and yet finding the inner strength, understanding and wisdom one needs to carry on with love and patience.
I was told about my own mother, who continues her journey at 97 years of age, when younger watching one of her young sons suffering with whooping cough, helping him breathe when breath became almost impossible, encouraging him on, going without sleep herself for nearly a month. There is a lot of beauty out there in nature but also in people and in their capacity to care and to carry on with love serving others.
On the journey in Spain I was approached a number of times by people who wanted to talk with me because I am a priest. People wanting to meet with me privately became a bit of a pattern. They were people I had casually met during the walk. Later they sought me for a good talk which often included the sacrament of Reconciliation or a moment of prayer together.
All of this I felt was made possible by the long tiring hours of walking, carrying my heavy packsack like everybody else. The grace of Christ's incarnation continues through all of us. His presence is experienced through us and it probably would not happen were it not for us carrying our burdens like everybody else and thus making Christ more present or incarnate through our pain and efforts.
One morning I met a young couple from Finland. I asked them how they liked the Camino. "Very much," they said. They volunteered that they were seeking answers to life's many questions and that the answers were indeed coming to them.
Another man from Germany told me that his walk had started in Munich and that he had walked well over 1,000 kms. By the time he arrives in Santiago he will have travelled a total of 1,950 kms. His wife came and met him in Roncesvalles, some 250 kms before. Her presence for the following 10 days as she walked with him was such a profound encouragement for him that he had no doubt that he would make it all the way to Santiago, an incredible total of 1,950 kms.
As I walk, nearby I see 15 eagles or more flying, gently soaring higher and higher. A thought came to me that God sent his Son to us to teach us to soar, to be lifted up above the chicaneries, resentments and jealousies that come our way and that too often are part of our journey.
We were born with wings, able to soar above the littleness of life, the anger, the desire to get even. We have wings. They are the fruit of the Holy Spirit present in us. Let's use them to really soar and have nothing to do with grovelling in the dirt.
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