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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: March 31, 2016
By Kelli Nugent
St. Edward Church, Texarkana
I have been blessed by the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage. Others have undertaken such trips to the Holy Land of Israel, to Italy and the Vatican, gone on Marian pilgrimages to Mexico City, Lourdes, Fatima, Knock or Kibeho. Maybe you stayed stateside and made a pilgrimage to Champion, Wis., or are planning a pilgrimage that centers on the life or lives of particular saints.
For each of these pilgrimages, preparation is necessary. Often preparations included some of the usual things: acquiring a passport, figuring out finances, booking hotel, deciding transportation and preparing oneself physically for the terrain.
Pilgrimages require preparation. Let us follow the Church, who leads and guides us on this journey. She opens the depths of the treasury of grace in the sacraments, these intimate encounters with Christ himself.
But I find my greatest preparation has been praying, asking the Lord to prepare my heart; to open my heart, mind and soul to whatever he wants for me; to be a receptive vessel in God's plan for my life. I've prayed equally intently for the other pilgrims on the journey too, beseeching the Lord for these same things: "Help us to see with the eyes of faith."
At times the details and the "I need to remember to" for this journey seem to overshadow the point of the pilgrimage itself which is to bring each pilgrim into a deeper encounter with the Risen Lord.
In light of the time spent getting ready, I've become acutely attuned to this fact: Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36) We, his children, will not find the truest happiness or the fullness of joy, and contentment upon this earth because it is not our home either. The ultimate experience of all these things awaits us in heaven.
"We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth and of man, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed. The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1048)
Our lives of faith wax and wane. We each experience times of closeness to God and seeming distance from him. Situations in our life may bring greater amounts of pressure, stress and desolation, or joy, peace and consolation.
Our pilgrimage upon this earth began when we were born. Each of the moments we live are the ones that "count" and that prepare us for our final destination. Where will that destination be?
Scripture teaches us that one's final salvation depends on the state of the soul at death. As Jesus said, "... the one who perseveres to the end will be saved." (Matthew 24:13)
Those who die in the state of friendship with God (the state of grace) will go to heaven. Those who die in a state of enmity and rebellion against God (the state of mortal sin) will go to hell. That's right, not everyone goes to heaven when they die. So let us prepare well.
Pilgrimages require preparation. Let us follow the Church, who leads and guides us on this journey. She opens the depths of the treasury of grace in the sacraments, these intimate encounters with Christ himself. Go to Mass as often as possible. Go to confession frequently. Live lives of virtue. Strive for holiness. Fulfill our daily duties. Practice the Beatitudes. Love greatly and forgive even more.
Is this easy? No! It is what Christ calls us to do. Don't feel like you are there yet? Most of us don't. Ask Jesus to help you, to give you the grace to be holy. Call upon the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the saints. Trust in God's grace, his limitless mercy, his eternal love for you and his desire for you to be with him in heaven forever. The alternative is not so great.
We are a pilgrim people. Life is our pilgrimage, heaven our destination.