FAITH AND CULTURE | Our pilgrim life in Christ

In our Western culture of plenty, it is often difficult to image living in scarcity. We not only have easy access to things we need, but we have grown accustomed to getting what we want.

It can be easy for us to move between mega-malls and mega-churches without having to pause and reflect on what our deepest needs and desires might be. And so we build bigger and bigger places to stock up on all those things we tell ourselves that we need. The small family corner market has been transformed into the big-box store, promising to give us all we need for our long stay.

What is not always easy and accessible to us, however, is our own poverty. Our materially saturated lifestyle makes it hard for us to tap into our deepest spiritual self. We forget that our Catholic spirituality teaches us that our deepest identity is connected to our life as pilgrims in this world. So it is not advantageous for us to try to accumulate an inordinate amount of stuff along the way.

We know from our Catholic faith that, while our lives are meant to be lived in the abundance and richness that comes from God, ours is a life lived in the movement of poverty, vulnerability and suffering. Our pilgrim identity ought to make it easier for us to embrace the new pilgrim life given to us by God. This means that our appreciation and attachments to worldly things are always tempered by this sense of being on the way.

And it is Christ who not only shows us the way to this new life, but is Himself the Way. Far from revealing a life in pursuit of material richness and world stability, Christ empties Himself in order to become poor for us: "Though He was in the form of God, He did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave" (Philippians 2: 6-8).

Similarly, the vulnerability that permeates Jesus' earthly life serves as a real witness to us of how much our lives are meant to be open for others. In His own life, Jesus moved from village to town demonstrating to us that what really matters is being of service to others, trusting that others will provide us with the hospitality we need. For Jesus, having a place of His own was not a defining priority (Matthew 8:20).

What eventually defines Christ, and us, is a vocation to community and relationship. In Him, we discover the rich poverty that comes from living lives in service of others, especially the poor and marginalized. His truth tells us that what expands the meaning and value of our life is more than material possessions. Ultimately, our lives are enlarged by the relationships we cultivate with one another as fellow pilgrims on our way to God.

The suffering Christ endures not only gives testimony to His relationship and obedience to God the Father, but also shows how meaningful and joyful a life lived in genuine poverty, generosity and movement toward others can be.

In His path, we can see how our own vulnerability can lead us into real experiences of mutual empowerment and social responsibility. Following Jesus' Way means that our journey together takes on greater meaning because we open ourselves to the work of justice and peace -- trusting that God will give us what we need.

And in drawing closer to Christ, we begin to recognize that our own poverty, our own suffering can truly participate in the redemptive grace of His love. Let us walk together as pilgrims, doing what is right, loving goodness and walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

Orozco is the director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

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