Alicante Church Pastor Guillermo Reflects On Pilgrimages

The pilgrimage through Europe to Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain is becoming ever more popular. Folk of all ages and different nationalities, on foot with back packs, or by bicycle, make the long hot and dusty journey through the arid uplands of Leon and on through green and mountainous Galicia. Many towns and villages along the route have simple hostels where pilgrims can wash their clothes, eat, sleep and rest before continuing their journey.

The dictionary describes the meaning of the word pilgrimage as "a journey to some holy place or shrine; a visit to some place revered by its associations (fig) the journey of human life."

I am not too happy with the first meaning because it almost always involves idolatry and superstition of one kind or another.

The second is better, and can mean a number of different things. Children of immigrants returning to the country and place where their parents were born. Journeying to see the house where a well known author, artist, composer or statesman lived or to the place where they are buried and we can think of many more examples. This kind of pilgrimage can be very rewarding and gives a definite purpose to a journey.

The third one that the dictionary calls figurative is the journey of human life. Well: I certainly agree that life is a journey, but a pilgrimage? That depends. If you believe that this life is all there is and death brings the end of existence, then life is hardly a pilgrimage because it has no lasting purpose or destination.

Perhaps you believe in a vague sort of afterlife, insubstantial like a mirage, but a pilgrimage has a definite goal in view and a place to arrive at when the journey is over.

The Bible has much to say about pilgrimages and tells us about those that believed in the promises of God, it says -

All these people - admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own - they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them - Hebrews 11: 13 to 15 now that, indeed, is a pilgrimage!

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, the patriarch Jacob believed that his long life with all its ups and downs was a pilgrimage as had been the lives of his ancestors, and he told the king of Egypt -

"The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers" - Genesis 47: 9. In spite of his complaint Jacob knew why he was on earth and where he was going.

The apostle Peter in his pastoral letter exhorts Christian believers on how they should behave during their pilgrimage.

Dear friends (he writes) I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul - 1 Peter 2: 11

The greatest pilgrim of all was Jesus Christ himself, he was the pathfinder opening the way to heaven and so the Bible tells us to -

Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God - Hebrews 12: 2

Are you a pilgrim? If not, why not begin today the greatest of all pilgrimages whose goal is heaven. Seek Jesus Christ in prayer, ask him to forgive your sins and plant your feet on the narrow way that leads to eternal life. There are many others making this pilgrimage, you will not be alone, and there are refreshments for your soul as you journey.

The Pastor
Gordon Guillermo Burgess
Church Of The Good Shepherd
(San Juan De Alicante)