September 2, 2010
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Re: THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST AS A JOURNEY OF FAITH
Life in this world, in all of its dimensions, is a journey. Indeed, all of us are on a journey in which we grow not only in age, but ideally, also in wisdom, faith, love, compassion, etc. Each one of us makes this journey alone, in the sense that we are the only ones who can make our own choices and know our own experiences. And yet we can help one another on the journey by encouraging each other and by sharing our insights. It is in caring deeply about one another’s journeys that we most clearly show ourselves to be true sisters and brothers. But we cannot care about the journeys of others, unless we are sufficiently awake to care deeply about our own.
The joy of the journey is experienced only by those who keep forging ahead without looking back. Looking back is useless. It is the present moment that counts. Those who live fully in the present moment are the ones who hear God’s call, a call that leads them into an ever fuller future. Remember the stories about Abraham, Moses, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Clare of Assisi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and so many others.
The following of Christ is a journey of faith, a spiritual journey. A true Christian tries to penetrate more deeply into the mystery of Christ on this journey and desires to enter into communion with Him. Saint Francis of Assisi, though not numbered among the great mystics of the Church, testifies to this aspect by taking the Gospel as the form of life (see his rather lengthy Rule of 1221, chapter 22).
The following of Christ as a journey of faith takes us to Christ, but does not end there; it leads us from there to the Father. Christ is the door, the way. The Father of Jesus is the ultimate-end of our faith-journey. It is to Him Christ wishes to lead us.
The following of Christ is also a decision to live the evangelical conversion. Jesus initiated His ministry with a call to conversion …, to penance! Let us hear what Mark has to say about it: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel’ ” (Mk 1:15 RSV). He made this an indispensable condition to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. This conversion is Gospel-oriented; it is going in line with the teachings, deeds and life of Jesus of Nazareth. It is also a gift of God, much more than a mere human endeavor.
Conversion in not only the starting point of every spiritual journey but an ongoing process itself. A person never stops being converted to the Lord. It is an engagement in the Lord, deepened by our own life of faith. It is not only a prerequisite for entering the Kingdom of Heaven but also a task in the Kingdom itself. This conversion is not only a break with the life lived up to that point but it also involves a “selling”, a “coming” and a “following”. Jesus told the rich young man, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Lk 18:22). Therefore, “conversion” is not something that is done once for all. It entails a development, a journey, even a painful one, that is not without uncertainties, doubts and temptations to turn back on the road that has been travelled. It is a decision we live, a decision to live Christ in our day-to-day lives.
May the Holy Trinity bless you all.
Your Brother and co-pilgrim,
A Christian Pilgrim