Never leave pilgrimage.
Today at men’s group we talked about the Gospel tomorrow the tells the story of Martha and Mary. Who are we: Martha, running around always doing something, or Mary, still and present to the Lord. I reflected how many times I can be like Martha in my prayer life---uncomfortable with just being still, silent, and present to Jesus. I’m often distracted with other thoughts like basketball or what I have to do later in the day or thoughts of my wedding night (I will always be a guy).
The thought brought me to one of my biggest takeaways from Mexico and that was how much Jesus time we got. Where we stayed at the convent, the Blessed Sacrament was always exposed. Then when we walked over to the Basilica, there was always a Mass going on, and if there wasn’t, the Blessed Sacrament would be exposed. I walk over to the leaning basilica chapel and the Jesus is exposed. I walk up Tepeyac hill and found Jesus randomly exposed there as well. Everywhere I went, same host in a different sized monstrance, exposed for all of us to see and admire and be reverent to. So while in Mexico, it’s safe to say that at least half in not majority of our day was in the presence of Jesus Christ.
And with all that prayer time there was only so much I could say to God and so many needs and family members I could pray for where it got to the point where I had to be just present to God.
One of my favorite priests I’ve met was one I met in Costa Rica named Fray Marco Umana, and he told me something last summer about the Blessed Sacrament I have held on to ever since. He said, “When I’m in front of the presence of Jesus, I try not to say anything. And just be present.”
How unnerving! We have so many things running around in our head of the day, it’s really difficult sometimes to just be present, to not be the Martha, and just be the Mary sitting in silence present to the Lord.
That same summer last year, I had the opportunity to go to a hermitage in the Alajuela, Costa Rica. It was a small cabin on top of a grassy hill in the middle of nowhere that looked over fields and trees at a distance all on the property of the Franciscans. They let me take Jesus in the form of a host in a small wooden cup to take with me to the cabin. I remember wrapping him in a cloth, holding Him close to my heart as I walked up to the hill to the cabin. The cabin was just big enough for a tiny kitchen with a sink, a small sitting area, bathroom, one bedroom, and a chapel with just enough room for one person with a tabernacle inside of it. I put Jesus there and wondered. Wow, I remember thinking. I get these next three days just to be with Him and only Him?
It was the first time in my life where I got to spend hours, literally hours, in front of the tabernacle. What I ended up doing was putting the wodden cup with its lid inside the tabernacle, with the tabernacle door open. With my kneeler literally one foot away I was so close to Him. To my left there was a window that let the light, which I opened to let some air in, the breeze moving the curtain every so softly.
Time was still in that little hermitage. I remember just kneeling there staring at Him, taking that priests advice to not say anything. I knelt, sat, even dosed off for small bits, for hours at a time. I had nowhere to be but right there in that moment with Him. It was a place of peace and silence. Often times since that experience, if I’m stressed or freaking out about something and need some peace, I close my eyes and bring myself back to that small chapel, with the light shining through the window to my left, a small breeze hitting the curtain, and Jesus in host form in front of me. I never knew how long I’d be in front of Him because I intentionally didn’t wear a watch, but when I think back, it always bring me back to a place of peace that no one ever can touch.
The pilgrimage to Mexico reminded me of my time in Costa Rica---that on going time of just being present to the Lord. Now that we’re back in the states, it feels like a distant memory, but today at Mass I realized, maybe I’m never suppose to leave pilgrimage. What I find beautiful about the Catholic church is how the Jesus I stared at in Alajuela, Costa Rica and the Jesus that was exposed in the convent in Mexico to the Jesus that was exposed in adoration yesterday in St. Andrew’s here in Silver Spring---is all the same. That host turned into body we get to receive and consume at Mass, whether I’m at my church Holy Infant in Durham, North Carolina to the National Shrine in Washington, D.C. is the same Jesus I get to receive. And the same you get to receive and Mimi gets to receive and my father gets to receive and my friends in Costa Rica get to receive as we all get to receive each other, in a small way, through the Communion of Christ.
I realized this morning maybe I’m not meant to ever leave pilgrimage. Because I’m constantly on my pilgrimage of life, on my journey, and I want Christ by my side as much as he was in Mexico and in Costa Rica. Whenever I’m in the heat of temptation, I frequently try to imagine myself clinging to Jesus on the cross, the right of my cheek against the His left ribs as sweat and blood is dripping on me. I want to cling to Jesus that hard because I need Him that much. If I want to be and bring Christ to others, He must first be and be converted in me.
Jesus, I love you. I realize I must never leave pilgrimage. I’m constantly on a journey of hills of highs and lows. Walk with me and share with me my trials and tribulations and my joys and wonders. Thank you for your love in me. I praise you and I adore you.