This past Sunday’s first reading told us how, after eating eating and drinking, Elijah was strengthened for his forty day journey to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:4-8). It was a good reading for me because Sunday was the last full day of our journey to Mexico City to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You may remember that, three years ago, Ken and I participated in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, There, we met a group of pilgrims who have increasingly become more family than friends. We try to get together several times a year, and often, our get-togethers revolve around our Catholic faith. This past weekend, many of our pilgrim family spent five days journeying to the religious sites and churches in Mexico City, praying, celebrating Mass, and enjoying the short time we had together.
Reflecting on that short time, and the way we spent it, I’ve come to realize that this past weekend is a small representation of my life in general. We journeyed a long way, some getting caught in flight delays or heavy traffic, causing us to take a different route (who knew traffic was that bad in Mexico City?). Some came prepared with extra luggage for the many things they would accumulate on the way. Some of us were unprepared for the great temperature variations throughout the day and ran out of clothes. Some traveled alone, and a few were strangers, invited by friends to come along.
How indicative of our spiritual lives here on earth! Though life is short, we travel a long way in our quest to reach salvation. We meet roadblocks, delays, and detours along the way. We aren’t always as good and faithful as we should be, but we carry on, hoping to find the right path. We try to be prepared for whatever life brings us, carrying that extra baggage as needed, often feeling the need to unload some of it along the way. Often, we are unprepared, though, and have to make due with what we have or find a way to meet our needs. We want a way to predict what lies ahead, to see the coming rain and avoid it, but alas, all we know is that there is a sunset at the end of the day and the glorious rising of a new sun in the morning. Sometimes, we travel this journey alone, depending upon God, but realizing we can rely on the love and care of those sent by God to walk the journey with us. Often, we are strangers amidst our fellow travelers, seeking friendship and a spiritual connection. In the end, we are all on a pilgrimage, searching for something to make our lives more meaningful.
Juan Diego traveled each day to and from his home and work. On December 12, 1531, he took a detour, expecting to avoid seeing the Virgin who had been appearing to him, but she was there, waiting along his path, and told him that she would grant him a sign for the bishop (you can read the whole story here). Climbing to the top of Tepyac Hill, Juan Diego found Castilian roses, flowers only found in Spain and not native to Mexico, certainly not in December. Thinking this was the sign, Juan Diego gathered the roses in his poncho, his tilma, and hurriedly took them to the Bishop. Upon opening his tilma to reveal the roses, an image of the Virgin appeared on the tilma. For almost 500 years, the tilma hung, first in the chapel built by Juan Diego and then in the church built by the Bishop. There was no glass protecting it, no frame, no special scientific or technological preservations of any kind, yet the tilma remained completely intact, unfaded, undeteriorated, and unharmed. Upon being moved to a newer basilica, it was placed in a glass frame. A 1921 bombing attempt to destroy the precious cloth resulted in destruction of the altar and melting of the bronze crucifix (some believe this was a sign that Jesus was protecting his mother), yet the glass covering the tilma was not even shaken, no cracks or breaks, no melting of the frame.
Juan Deigo learned that we never know what or whom we will encounter on our travels. Even detours cannot change the course that the Lord has set for us. Along the way, we meet many strangers, some become friends, some become family; all play a part in our journey. At times we feel vulnerable, unprotected, unable to stop the stumbling blocks and even bombs placed before us. However, I have learned that to have true friends of faith on whom I can rely, to whom I can talk, with whom I can pray, helps me keep the course, finish the race, and keep my faith.
Our journey here on earth is short, very short. We should not waste a moment of it. Despite the detours, we must continue on. Having a faithful group of friends and family will strengthen us along the way. As St. Paul said to Timothy, I hope to one day say to my dear friends across the nation and into Canada,
“But you must keep steady all the time; put up with suffering; do the work of preaching the gospel; fulfil the service asked of you.
As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to depart.
I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith
all there is to come for me now is the crown of uprightness which the Lord, the upright judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his appearing.
Make every effort to come and see me as soon as you can.”
2 Timothy 4:5-9
The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).