Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

Five Ways to Pray Always: Part 5, Walking With Jesus



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roademmaus_webWalking With Jesus

We are accustomed to saying, "I'm going to take a walk"--a phrase which points to a kind of possessive, "I'm in control" attitude. Perhaps it's because we usually view walking in terms of going somewhere, accomplishing something, getting from here to there. What would it be like to walk just for the sake of walking, to simply enjoy a walk?

Our Judeo-Christian tradition has a long history of holy walking, what we call pilgrimage. The people of Israel have had a tradition for centuries of making an annual pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, and we Christians have always considered visiting holy places part of our spiritual heritage. In many ways, though, our pilgrim spirit has gotten swallowed up by our "gotta-get-somewhere" living in the fast lane.

Walking can become a way of contemplation for us who live in the goal-oriented busy-ness of today's world. There is a wonderful word in English which comes close to describing what is meant by contemplative walking: strolling. "Let's go for a stroll" carries with it a gentle invitation to rest, to walk without purpose--the way lovers walk on a beach or down a country road. There's no beginning and no end, the present moment is eternity. That's what it means to be a pilgrim: to stroll lovingly with God.

We have even tainted our idea of pilgrimage, unfortunately. Travel agencies are making lots of money these days selling trips to holy places for people hoping to experience God or to see the Virgin Mary. Nothing could be further from the essence of pilgrimage. God is not over there in a grotto or on a mountaintop. Flying halfway across the world to snap a few pictures in front of a miraculous statue is not to be a pilgrim in the spiritual sense. To be a pilgrim means to stroll with God in faith, aware that wherever we are is a holy place, wherever we walk is holy ground.

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings,/Announcing peace, bearing good news..." (Isaiah 52:7). Isaiah knew what it meant to stroll with God, to allow the holy walking to be a way of announcing peace. We glimpse it again in John's Gospel account of the Last Supper when Jesus washes the disciples' feet (John 13), readying them to be servants to one another. Our feet are holy, beautiful to God, for they enable us to go out to the other, to serve. Jesus' call to the disciples, "Come, follow me," called for a response from the head, the heart and the feet!

Jesus taught his disciples how to stroll, how to wander gracefully through the Galilean towns and villages of his time, observing the women making bread and the fishers mending their nets, chatting with folks about mustard seeds and fig trees. These small details of the Kingdom are missed when we zoom to and from our places of ministry and work as if getting there were all that mattered.

Maybe it's time to kick off our sandals, like Moses, and stroll upon our precious earth, our holy Mother earth, and again allow our walking to be a proclamation of glad tidings, a Good News of peace for God's pilgrim people.

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"Reprinted from' Five Ways to Pray', St. Anthony Messenger, copyright 2008. Used by permission of St. Anthony Messenger Press, 28 W. Liberty St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 800-488-0488. All rights reserved."


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