The morning after we finished our camino Robin and I walked up from Plaza Obradoiro, through the archway up (past the musician) to the Plaza Inmaculada. It was a beautiful clear crisp morning with temperatures in the low 60’s F. We both were wearing light down jackets against the morning chill. We stepped down to the door of the cathedral, and entered. Our purpose was to attend the 10:30 English mass sponsored by the Camino Chaplaincy. We found our way to the Chapel of our Lady of Loneliness, located in one of the oldest parts of the cathedral (800 years old). As we stepped into the small chapel we were warmly greeted by an Irish nun, who was part of the volunteer staff, and made to feel at home. Good things were happening. We just felt it. Before the mass started the priest, a Venezuelan, who spoke English, introduced himself, as we all did. He welcomed us with a smile that lit up the chapel. His name is Fr. Juan Carlos. After we introduced ourselves and gave a brief synopsis of where we were from, where we started, and the route we walked, the mass began. Robin and I had no idea what we were about to experience as the liturgy began. But, once we reached the point where the priest gave his homily it became apparent that this priest was gifted in his ability to preach. He purposefully made his remarks short, but was able to say all that needed to be said in just a few minutes. He spoke of the longing many have for God to speak to them. How our prayers seem to go unanswered, and disillusionment sets in. We close our hearts to God’s words because we just cannot fathom how all this is supposed to work. Fr. Juan Carlos offered that God is waiting for all of us, waiting with unbounded joy, if only we can find a way to open our hearts, and respond to the love God showers upon us. Simply offering prayers without a heart that truly believes God is present in our lives, does nothing. We must learn to trust the very small voice that is trying to reach us amidst the clamor of many worldly distractions, and reflect the love God gifts to us. In short, it is up to us to take action if our faith journey is to go forward. This was a very simple, but profound message. God loves us, and our peace is only found in us being able to love God in return. Sounds easy enough. But is it? Obviously not, but it was the message of hope we needed to hear. After so many days of walking it started to dawn on us the magnitude of the journey we are truly involved in. Ours was not a journey that could be measured in kilometers, but only in prayers. We were at once both humbled, and encouraged that all that we have done, and will do, in this life serves only one purpose, to complete the journey Home. As we sat in that ancient chapel we paused to reflect on the gift of faith, its joy, and what that calls us to do.
A further discussion with Fr. Juan Carlos led me to the Gospel According to Matthew. He suggested a series of readings in chapters 5, 6 and 7. In these parts of Matthew’s gospel many key teaching’s of Jesus can be found. He suggested that I should read small portions daily, and then allow myself time to to reflect, to listen carefully for the faint voice of God that always guides us. Above all be patient, and hopeful. He assured me that God’s grace abounds, and what you seek will be found.
As I read through the suggested parts of Matthew’s gospel several things started to come together to reinforce what Fr. Juan Carlos had told me. His suggested readings opened a portal that had always been there. Concise instructions on how a true disciple of Jesus must live to enter the kingdom of heaven. There are challenges aplenty as Jesus calls us to behave in ways we are not always able to do. But, when we fail he always encourages us to place our trust in God’s abundant love, and find comfort in the hope found in the journey home to God, the Father. He reminds us to depend only on God for all that we need. All our earthly worries will not advance us one step in our journey of faith, only opening ourselves to God’s love, and mercy accomplishes that. He reminds us that “the lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound your whole body will be filled with light: but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”
Matthew’s gospel reminds us of the Golden Rule, cautions us about being judgmental. After all, who are we to judge. Pray unceasingly, for it is to those who knock that door eventually opens, and it is those who seek that eventually find (yes, action on our part is required). Challenge yourself to “Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. How narrow the gate, and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” The true disciple, is one who does the will of the Father, not the one who offers lip service in place of righteous deeds. Finally, Jesus pulls it all together by warning that those who follow his teachings will be like a wise man who builds his house on rock, not sand. The house built on rock (His teachings) will be able to withstand all the calamities that life will throw at it. The one built on sand will be ruined.
As Robin and I walk the camino we try to embrace our hiddenness, our smallness, and use these moments to listen for that faintest of voices that fills us with hope that our lives are on the right path. So, it was not surprising that the true joy of our most recent camino was not found among the many splendid hills and valleys we traversed, but in the dark confines of the musty stonework of a small cathedral chapel where, once again, the faintest whisper was present, and we listened.