Every year, thousands of people embark on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to walk and experience the places where Jesus Christ walked, taught, preached, and performed miracles. On this pilgrimage, they visit sites that embody Jesus’ life and ministry like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to celebrate Christ’s birth, the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, and the Sea of Galilee where Jesus began his ministry as he gave the Sermon on the Mount and fed the multitudes. Just as Jesus journeyed to Jerusalem to the Cross, so they too travel the Via Dolorosa – the Way of the Cross – to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – the place where Jesus was put to death, was buried, and resurrected.
Pilgrimages are often described as a journey to an unknown or foreign place where a person goes in search of something – whether it is finding and encountering oneself, others, and/or God in a new way which often leads to experiencing a personal transformation of some sort.
Throughout scripture, God has sent people like Abraham and Sarah, Jacob, Moses, prophets like Jonah, Jesus – the Son of God, and the disciples on pilgrimages. None of them (except Jesus) knew what they were getting into really (maybe they had a hint though) – where they were going, what would happen along the way, or even the outcome of the journey. Even though some of them resisted at first and needed a little persuading, in the end they all chose to trust God, follow God’s call, and rely on God along the journey despite the uncertainties and unknowns.
Aren’t we all in our own way making our own pilgrimage through life?
As we face the realities of this world – not knowing what the future holds for us and the generations to come – we too like our spiritual ancestors wander and search – wondering what will come next and how will we respond. All of this can leave us to fret and worry and maybe even feel a bit fearful and scared. As these feelings start to manifest, might we remember the words of the Psalmist and look to Psalm 121 for comfort and assurance as we travel our pilgrimages of life.
I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
from whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
The Psalmist reminds us that our help comes from God and God alone. God is mighty enough to have created the heavens and earth, so too God is compassionate and loving enough that God claims us as His own.
Though we do not know what lies before us on the path ahead, we can be assured and rest in knowing that God is watching over us through this life and into eternity.
As we pilgrimage through this Lenten season and life, may we lift our eyes upwards towards the hills acknowledging our Lord, our Source of Hope and greatest strength, now and always.