I was reading a spiritual reflection the other day from the Henri Nouwen Society, and it referenced a scripture passage (Mt 20, 20) where the mother of James and John, was asking Jesus for special consideration for her sons. He responded, knowing what his future held in store, by asking “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” This is an interesting question for all of us. Let’s open this up a bit. As this blog is about our times, and reflections on the Camino, lets start there.
The Camino experience places a pilgrim in a new and challenging environment. It requires many things from those who walk it. These include a willingness to be open to change, acceptance of one’s companions, one’s surroundings, one’s own shortcomings and those of others, tolerance of discomfort, pain, and adverse weather just to name a few. Pilgrims set out on this journey knowing the challenges, but most expect they will complete the journey, and enjoy it. This vision of success and pleasure are companion themes in most of our lives. We simply expect things will work out, and we will enjoy our lives to boot. Let’s hope so. But, what if that is not the case? What then?
My point is that in life, and the Camino is a microcosm of life, we each have a vision of who we are, the things that we will do, and how we see our lives unfolding. It is a given that anyone can be cheerful when life favors them, and everything is going according to plan (whatever that is). We can easily drink that cup. But what happens when life becomes less certain, success eludes us, we lose a job, our health fails us, or some other disappointment befalls us. What then? How do we react to that change? Do we turn bitter and reproachful? Do we search for someone to blame? Do we feel abandoned? Does our faith weaken? We can conjure up many ways to proclaim and celebrate the joys, and successes in our lives, but what of those days when the clouds gather, and thicken. Are we pulled to change into different people? Do we forsake happiness, and succumb to despair? Is that all that is left for us? The “cup of life” that has been given to us is still ours to drink, but can we do it? Do we have the faith to joyfully follow, not just accept, whatever path has been set out before us, regardless of the outcome? All that we do in life celebrates and consecrates the life (with its joys and sorrows) that God has given us. This is true whether we are walking the Camino or living our lives at home. Life is a locus of change. Our constantly evolving world can be confusing, and disorienting if success is our only compass, and the sole measure of our happiness. Embracing the cup of life, our cup, the cup of our salvation, and all that comes with it, and drinking of it fully, proclaims to all, as a wise priest once shared, that we are not called to be successful, but are simply called to be faithful. This is where true peace is found.