As most of you know, there was an event last month that was a pretty big deal in the Catholic Church. It was a gathering of more than 3,000,000 people in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil called World Youth Day. Every couple years this incredible week of catechesis, celebrating the sacraments, and much more allows young people from all over the world to come together and pray with one another and with the Pope! Those who attend World Youth Day are often referred to as pilgrims.
A pilgrim is someone on a journey. The literal translation from Latin suggests a pilgrim is a traveler who has come from far away. They’re on a mission, and most of the time the goal is a destination.
Eyes on the Prize
Perhaps the most famous story you know about pilgrims is the one we remember each Thanksgiving. People wanting a new start, to break free from religious and political corruption, to leave their old lives in their wake and sail to new horizons. Did you know it wasn’t an easy journey? Did you know they had to turn around the first two times because of water leaks? Did you know they had to endure cramped quarters, roach infested food, and seasickness?
Throughout these unpleasant circumstances they kept on fighting. They kept their eyes on the prize, so to speak.
Your Life is a Pilgrimage
If this is starting to sound like a history lesson, I apologize. The reason this is all important is because we should be aware that we are pilgrims, too. We are pilgrims because the journey is not over and this place is not our home. We are called to more, and with Jesus our futures are brighter and more amazing than words could describe.
It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure where you’re going to college, what your career path is, or what you’re eating for breakfast tomorrow. Being a pilgrim isn’t all about knowing the future. It’s about embracing the present. It’s about living today in a way that will help you get to your ultimate destination.
The destination I’m speaking of doesn’t have a zip code. I’m not talking about where you want to spend retirement. I’m talking about where you want to spend eternity.
Don’t Settle for Less Than Heaven
The lesson to be learned is pretty simple. Pilgrims don’t settle for less than what was promised, they continue journeying until they’ve reached their goal. Whether it be miles of sea or long stretches of desert, pilgrims keep walking. I pray to have the dedication of a pilgrim in my own spiritual life. This means not stopping at a place that seems ‘good enough’ because I’m tired and don’t want to go any farther. It’s challenging! But our Holy Father, Pope Francis, reminds us that God has truly called us all to Himself. Although we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), Jesus is our redeemer. Even though we fall, God invites us to get back up. Even though we buy into lies, we’re called back to the Truth. This is our journey.
Pope Francis reminded the pilgrims at World Youth Day that our lives are meant to be lived with Jesus and for Jesus.
“Dear young friends: if we want life to have real meaning and fulfilment, as you want and as you deserve, I say to each one of you, “Put on faith”, and your life will take on a new flavor, it will have a compass to show you the way; “put on hope” and every one of your days will be enlightened and your horizon will no longer be dark, but luminous; “put on love”, and your life will be like a house built on rock, your journey will be joyful, because you will find many friends to journey with you. Put on faith, put on hope, put on love! And where can we get these things? In the Gospel we find the answer: Christ.”
So brothers and sisters, let us never tire of striving to be holy. Let us never grow complacent or stagnant in faith. It will be difficult at times- thats a promise. After all, we’re pilgrims. Keep walking.