There is a time for everything says the Scriptures. I would like to look at this reality through the lenses of the journey, which is something we all sometimes long for and at other times dread.
Let’s begin with the concept of ‘home’. This is a reality that we can all relate to: to have a place where we belong. Sometimes this is with family or friends. But it can also be a solitary reality where we are comfortable with ‘our place’, having within it the things that make us feel a sense of rightness and comfort: our books, our bed, our food, etc.
Parenthetically, we see it as a frightening tragedy to be ‘homeless’. A huge amount of people in this world live in makeshift camps. They are homeless refugees who have no home but suffer the pains and inconveniences of living from day to day away from the familiar and in a constant state of uncertainty.
Thus, if ‘home’ is such a wonderful reality and the loss of home is seen as a terrible tragedy, why would anyone choose to leave home to begin a journey into the unknown? There must be some hunger and need deep within us to search for something or someone to create a new home with.
Underneath all the possible answers to this question is, of course, the search for God. Believers have often maintained that we are made for God. The absence of God leaves a terrible void that causes us to embark on a mysterious, possibly dangerous, journey to find the fulfillment of our hopes and dreams. For many of us, we know that only God can fill this emptiness. But it does not stop people from false journeys into addictions, ideologies, and erroneous detours that end up leaving us emptier than before.
In a way, we are all sojourners, always on a journey, whether it has a goal or not. Sometimes it is a quest that will solve untold miseries. Sometimes it involves self-discovery. Sometimes it reveals at its climax an epiphany of meaning.
I found that it occurs especially in dreams. For it is in the dream that we reveal to ourselves the unrest that occasions the journey.
At its most theological, the journey is our need for God and the useless vanity of poor substitutions. Like the child who longs for a toy until he has it and then discovers its innate boredom, our false journeys that lead away from God are the ultimate self-betrayals. They are about tinsel when we seek the Light.
It is only when a person providentially stumbles on the path that fills his soul with expectation and promise, the road to God, that the journey becomes self-fulfilling. Then the joy and the peace blossom and the soul is renewed. This is the peace that no one can take away from us. It can only be found when the journey truly becomes the will of God.
The greatest sadness for me as a priest is seeing people refuse the right road, distracted and blind to the beauty that beckons. I know how happy they would be if they only gave everything up to go down the road of life, albeit narrow and steep.
I find that now, at 71 years of age, I have a real sense of the wonder of my journey so far. Priesthood has been, during these 44 years, a deeply satisfying experience. But I know that I am not there yet. If present health trends continue for me, I will probably be still on my journey for a decade to two. I look forward to the end of my journey here on earth. More and more I seek the mercy of God and have less faith in presuming on God. I am still a sinner in need of the redeeming love of Christ. I know I cannot make it alone. But I trust that the God who has never left my side will be there to forgive me and bring me home.
I come again and again to the power of prayer that taught me to say to Christ: “Have mercy on me, a sinner” and to my mother Mary: “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”
The journey continues for all of us.
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me.”
– Jeremiah 29:11-13