on the road

Have you ever noticed how much of the account of the birth of Jesus involves travellers?

The angel Gabriel was a traveller to the home of Mary, and soon after Mary was on the road to visit her cousin Elizabeth for a three month stay.

Then shortly after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph with their new baby are on the road to Egypt escaping the cruelty of Herod.

In the midst of these great journeys the shepherds make their own pilgrimage to visit Jesus and the Magi are crossing deserts following the star to the greatest light of all, Jesus, Emmanuel, “a name which means God is with us”.

We now see all these journeys in the context of the greatest journey of all time; God’s journey from heaven to earth in Jesus. This is what we celebrate at Christmas.

Perhaps you are on the road or in the air these days travelling to be with family and friends for Christmas. You are in good company.

While our 21st century journeys might be a bit more comfortable than days across deserts by donkey or camel, modern travel still has its challenges, especially when we are tired and ready for vacation.

I suppose this is why the journey has always been a powerful metaphor for human life. Thomas Merton sees the road-traveller as the image of a life-traveller on pilgrimage to God.

The years we spend on earth are a journey and if we don’t know where we are headed we can end up wandering aimlessly instead of journeying purposefully.

The one who journeys with purpose is able to negotiate any obstacle. But the wanderer is forever rudderless, tossed by every whim of fashion in the sea of popular opinion.

“They who have a why to live, can bear almost any how.” (Nietzsche)

An Invitation:

  • Below you will find Thomas Merton‘s Pilgrim’s Prayer. You might like to carry it with you through the day, praying it whenever you get the chance.
  • Click on the image below to find a Grace that you might find helpful for Christmas Dinner. Often it is difficult for a group of family and friends with diverse religious beliefs to give thanks together. This Grace with its opportunity to remember names and with the use of a candle can help.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end….
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you,
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road, though
I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem lost in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

11 Responses to "on the road"
  1. A good morning to reflect on purpose. Thank you, John. My rule is Mary’s instruction to the servants at Cana. “Do whatever he tells you.” Sometimes that can feel like wandering because it takes me away from my carefully laid plans. This is when a prayer of discernment is needed. Always, it turns out that it’s Jesus’ plan and not mine, that is about purpose.

  2. There’s a beautiful Mary’s hymn…
    words go… What ever He says to you “do it, do it” & your water will turn into wine, sight will come to the blind so what ever he says to you do it..
    I sing to myself in difficult times. I find choices become easier & more peaceful. Have a blessed Christmas. I’ve enjoyed a prayerful Advent thanks to your morning reflections. Arohanui

  3. When I go my ‘own way’ it in variably ends in failure or unexpectedly tough trials. His way its always fine. I find Our Lord ready to rescue us from wrong decisions gently putting us back on the right path

    This. Christmas we have journeyed to Australia to be with family so it’s make your reflection that more poignant early this morning our grandson woke us up jumped in our bed to start our Aussie Christmas.

  4. Christmas Eve:
    Thank you, John, for preparing our minds and hearts for Christmas.
    Your commendable reflections have played a significant role in clarifying hope on our journey in life.
    Thank you for the grace and peace of a grateful heart.
    Te Rangimarie,
    Virginia

  5. Thank you Father John for the Daily Advent encouragement. Peace be with you this Christmas and Every Blessing for your new Ministry. Ann

  6. Good morning Father John, and a happy and Holy Christmas to you and all following these Advent reflections.
    I was pondering your travel metaphor and applying it to Christmas itself. It seems we have travelled a complete circle in the last two thousand years. In Constantine’s time, the celebration was instigated on this day to subvert the pagan celebration of the sun, held around this time, now we find that the celebration of Christ’s birth has been subverted by the celebration of mammon and Christ is nowhere to be seen again.
    Or am I just a cynic.

    • Thank you for all your Advent series. God Bless you in your new appointment and may you continue with your Lent and Advent series.

  7. To Trust in that unfathomable Mystery of unconditional love is a Mighty journey to take. Thank you Thomas, thank you John, Mary and Joseph … ever grateful to all those past and present who inspire me to keep going ‘even though I may know nothing about it.’

  8. Thank you Fr. John for guiding us on a special Advent journey and for the special light you shine on life and scripture. May the peace and love of the Christ Child be with you.

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