The Travels of a Christian Pilgrim – Guest Contributor

The Travels of a Christian Pilgrim – Guest Contributor November 3, 2023

The below article was provided by regular reader and commentator, Pilgrim.

The Travels of a Christian Pilgrim

“The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)

 Saint Augustine in his Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, begins with the proclamation that “anyone who piously and earnestly ponders the Sermon on the Mount – as we read in the Gospel according to Mathew – I believe he will find therein… the perfect standard of the Christian Life.”

The modern tendency is to project the Beatitudes as calls to social reform, an external concern with lifting the poor and seeking a worldly peace. As external precepts, the Beatitudes may well better our society, but such a gain can only be superficial and temporary. St. Ambrose reminds us, “our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies.”

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3–12) are directed inward towards internal poverty and the attainment of spiritual peace as a preparation for the combat necessary to save our souls and to help “colonise” the “heavenly country.”

God fulfilled His promise given by Ezekiel to Israel, through Jesus Christ who gathers all who belong to God and forms them into His New Israel (Ezekiel 36: 24-27):

“‘I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land … I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

The Beatitudes are the contours of this new spirit. The Holy Spirit, “writes” this on our hearts; hearts prepared, changed, and elevated by Divine grace. This new law is an interior law. A sharing in the life of God by entering a relationship with Christ. By uniting with Him, first prompted, then drawn, deepened, and sustained by grace, we enter His joy – into His kingdom.

The first is foundational:

“Blessed are the Poor in Spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

The poor in spirit are aware of their utter need for God and open themselves to Him. The result of this simple, yet complex act of openness, is the unmerited gift of grace, faith, and the kingdom of heaven as it unfolds in our lives on earth, culminating in the life to come.

Do we have an acute awareness of our radical need for God, a poverty of spirit? Do we call out to God amid our interior darkness? Or do we live in a spirit of internal prosperity, spending our days without an awareness of our need for God? Do we experience makarios?

After many years in a spiritual wilderness, I was in Westminster, London, attending a conference. It was a particularly difficult stage in my life, professionally and personally. I happened to be passing Westminster Cathedral on my way to Victoria Railway Station, and felt drawn to enter. I had not crossed the threshold of a Catholic Church for many years and had a sense of ambivalence about this; a pull in the opposite direction.

I sat outside for quite a while; left to go on my way; sat down, smoked a cigarette, then went back and into the Cathedral. I sat at the back, feeling like an intruder. This hymn was being sung by the choir and, truthfully, it triggered a process that reshaped my life. Today when I hear it, it takes me back to that precious moment.

After the service, I sat in the Cathedral for some time contemplating many things. The Cathedral offers the sacrament of Confession throughout the day. Eventually, I went to Confession; not easy after some 20+ years of sinning! I recall the young priest saying to me: “These are serious sins.” My reply: “Well, yes, Father; that’s why I’m here!”

After celebrating Mass and receiving the Eucharist, I felt a sense of peace, love, and a welcome home.

God seeks and eventually finds those He foresees will accept His offer. He found this “lost sheep.” Not that I am being presumptuous – my journey here is not over yet, it is a series of daily conversions, each day bringing its own challenges! But He put me on His shoulders, carried me, and set me back in the “sheepfold.”

 

Here are the words of the hymn:

Do not be afraid,

For I have redeemed you.

I have called you by your name;

You are mine.

 When you walk through the waters I’ll be with you,

You will never sink beneath the waves.

 Do not be afraid …

 When the fire is burning all around you,

You will never be consumed by the flames.

 Do not be afraid … 

 When the fear of loneliness is looming,

Then remember I am at your side.

 Do not be afraid …

 When you dwell in the exile of a stranger,

Remember you are precious in my eyes.

 Do not be afraid …

 You are mine, O my child;

I am your father,

And I love you with a perfect love.

 Do not be afraid …

 

Thank you!

Read The Latin Right’s other writing here.

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