Sunday, 24 July 2022

St Bartholomew, Brighton Feast of St James 2022


19 years ago my then 12-year-old son James and I completed a foot pilgrimage to the Shrine of St James in Spain’s Santiago de Compostella covering the minimum distance required to attain the Compostella. This is the scallop shell pilgrim badge (show)

The 100km hike required weeks of preparation including walking with packs on the Downs.  We had no back up team so all we would need had to go on our backs as we travelled from refugio to refugio on the ancient pilgrim way.

The most important part of our preparation was deciding what not to take!  Trial walks with laden rucksacks helped sort our priorities.  When you're a beast of burden with a choice about that burden you soon thin your load!  Though I'm an avid reader I was forced to shed all books but the Bible.  James and I settled for little more than one change of clothes.  My luxury was a short-wave radio.  His was a Gameboy Advance.  Off we went to Santiago de Compostela, or rather to the 100km point from which we hiked day by day along the pilgrim route and with much lighter burdens than we’d first planned.

One of the great things about being a Christian pilgrim is you travel light!  Preparing to go on our pilgrimage gave me an enduring spiritual lesson.  We brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it.  The lighter we travel the easier and more joyous our tread on life's pilgrimage to the city of God!

The call to detachment is part of the call to poverty intrinsic to the Christian Gospel. It goes alongside the confidence we should have as children of God in Our Father to provide for us in all circumstances.

Although today’s Gospel includes a rebuke for St James and his brother we assume that he took the message: whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant.

Or, as the Lord puts it elsewhere, blessed are the poor in spirit – those who have a right and humble assessment of themselves before God. Such folk see what they have – including any worldly status – as counting for nothing other than when it is used for service. They are detached from material possessions

Here at the Eucharist, the great thanksgiving sacrifice of the Church we can admit this truth – all things come of you and of your own do we give you.. through Christ and with Christ and in Christ!

We are to welcome Jesus in a moment in the Blessed Sacrament. God in the material order, hidden in bread and wine. As we welcome him here may he open our spiritual eyes to see him elsewhere in the material order – particularly in the run of our lives in the coming week that we may encounter him in the needy. The needy in body, mind and spirit – those who are enduring personal ordeals and badly in need of attention – our attention, our time, our money if needs be.

On this feast of St James God free us to travel lighter in our Christian pilgrimage with deeper detachment from material things, abandoned more and more to his purposes.

The Lord deepen our confidence in his provision and also our humility. We need both confidence in him and humility before him to serve him aright.

As we own up more and more to our own spiritual need and poverty may we see Jesus – Jesus on his throne in glory, Jesus in the sacrament of the altar and Jesus in the hearts of the poor and the hearts of all his faithful people! 

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