A pilgrimage is said to be on a journey to a destination that is known and respected. Pilgrims are those who set off, body and soul seeking the sacred. Pilgrims are yearning to be in the place that holds their hearts as well as their story.
It's interesting to think about the difference between being a pilgrim and being a tourist. Years ago when I went with a group of clergy to Israel, I found myself being a pilgrim one day, a tourist the next. My best explanation of the difference was that I knew when my heart slowed down and sought a resting place and when my heart didn't seem involved at all. Being led by my heart were the times I felt myself to be a pilgrim. Most often it was when we visited the chapels and churches in Galilee. In those places I sat and listened and wondered and prayed. In those places, I heard again the songs and prayers of my childhood. There, in those moments I was aware of time being different here.
And on that same trip to Israel, I was aware of being a tourist. In those moments I found I always wanted to just keep moving. My heart never seemed to want or need to settle. It was as though I was checking places and spaces off a list of things to see. Teflon. Nothing stuck. As a tourist I was aware of wanting to take something back with me when I left. I bought things. My eyes moved over fabric, beads, wooden sculptures with my only thought being:`who needed what?' It was as though I needed to show I'd been there, without really have been there.
As I've thought about that trip years ago to Israel it is easy for me to differentiate between being a tourist and being a pilgrim. A pilgrim is seeking a place that holds the holy. A tourist is trying to capture and hold on to, to possess somehow that very same place. One is seeking, yearning to connect and rest for a bit. The other is seeking to`take it to go.'
We are called to be pilgrims on the journey, you and I. We are called to follow in the footsteps of the One who has led us to this place and continues to lead us day by day. We are called not be comfortable, not to be complacent, but instead to keep moving toward what is greater and better and next.
As we move through these Lenten days, we are invited to think beyond what is true for us now. This is a time of introspection and reflection. Is what we are doing right now bringing us closer to God and our neighbor? If it is not, then what are the obstacles that are keeping us stuck here, being merely a tourist hurrying and scurrying our way through? If we are journeying through this Lenten season as a tourist only, then what are tangible ways we can use this time to turn and return to the One who calls to us on journey?
We human beings are here for only a time. A specific, precious amount of time. What we do with those seconds into minutes into hours into years is the story we live and the story we leave. What we work toward and hope for matters. Tourist or pilgrim? Everyday it is for us to decide. As pilgrims, we are cherishing the Story that holds us, while ever moving toward what is next. It is an amazing truth that we are both rooted and moving at the same time. We are rooted in our faith and always following where it leads. Both / And. Not yet.