Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A Pilgrimage to France

St Gabriel's Youth Journey to France
"Encountering God"

Every day we gathered for Morning Prayer and Compline, led primarily by our Pilgrims.

On our way to the Cathedral at Rouen, I reminded our pilgrims that over the great west doors at the cathedrals, we will see sculptures of the Last Judgment. The passage from scripture on which this art is based is from Matthew 25:31ff. "Insofar as you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it to me". The passage is about God's judgment of the nations of the earth. Read the passage yourself. The poor, the hungry, the homeless, the suffering the outcast are among those Jesus considers the "least of these". Everyone who enters the greatest cathedrals of France sees the same scene. Those who presented this scene to the faithful understood how important the final judgment is to our ultimate understanding of scripture is about. Kings and Queens must enter the Cathedrals by these same doors. This is a reminder of how the rich and powerful are to treat those who are not so blessed.

It came to me that the encounter with God by Moses was a good way to organize our thoughts for this pilgrimage.

We began our first full day in France with the story of Moses at the burning bush. The scripture says that God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush to say; "Take off your shoes, for the land on which you stand is holy ground". I explained to our Pilgrims that it is obvious that the much of the ground on which we stood throughout this pilgrimage was holy. I suggested to our pilgrims that it is always the case that the ground on which they stand is holy, because life itself is holy.

Next we read that God told Moses that he had seen the suffering of God's people. God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and say; "Let my people go." The question for our lives then is that we too see the suffering of God's people. How shall we go to our "Pharaoh" to say; "Let my people go". How shall we confront the reality of injustice and oppression in our time.

When we came to the following day of our pilgrimage, we read in the same chapter (Exodus 3) that God revealed his Name to Moses: "I AM". It appears that God's Name has to do with the very nature of God's Being. So too, as we awaken to our "being" we learn of who we are and who God is for us. This is the very essence of our pilgrimage. Several of our pilgrims walked the labyrinth at Chartres and discovered God's heart beating within them. 

On our way to worship at the American Cathedral in Paris, we moved on to a few verses from the Sermon on the Mount. There comes a time in a Pilgrim's journey, when we are no longer searching so much as we now become the source of God's own Light. Thus we become the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world".

On preparing for our return home I read the concluding words of the Sermon on the Mount. "Those who listen to these words of mine and acts on them will be like the one who builds his home on rock. When the storms come, the rain, the floods, the winds, the house did not fall, because it was built on rock. But the foolish one who does not do so will be like the foolish one who builds his home on sand, and when the storms arise, the house will fall, and great will be the fall of that house."

Thus the St Gabriel's Pilgrimage 2013 was about encountering God in the least of these, at God's burning bush. We are standing on holy ground, and God's ask us to notice the suffering of God's people. God's Name is holy and so is ours so we become the salt of the earth and the light of the world. As you listen to God and do as God asks you will build your lives on solid ground; on rock.

I will stand by those words with joy in my heart of these young people and pray that they will long remember this journey to the heart of God.

Fr Paul


Anonymous said...

Fr. Paul was a blessing to all of us on this Pilgrimage. His spiritual guidance, historical insight and joyful heart added more than we can possibly describe. Renee Pusey

Hubert said...