Friday, December 17, 2010

The Space Between Promise and Fulfillment: Pilgrimage

Today's readings for daily Mass oscillate from promise (Genesis 49:2, 8-10) to fulfillment (Matthew 1:1-17). In the Genesis text, Jacob (or, Israel), the great Patriarch of the Twelve Tribes of Israel (named after his sons), issues one last blessing and oracle to each of his sons concerning their future before he dies. What is essentially going on here is the transmission of God's blessing and covenantal pact that began with Abraham in and through Jacob. His sons now receive their respective inheritance and so share in this original promise of God.

In the Gospel from Matthew, we are told of the genealogy of Jesus. Beginning with Abraham, Matthew takes us through three sets of 14 successive generations of Israelites leading, finally, to the birth of the Savior. Matthew's genealogy, written to a predominantly Jewish audience (according to scripture scholars), is meant to serve as a foundational argument for how God has brought about the fulfillment of his original promise to Abraham in the person of Jesus.

Hence, these two readings, in very short order, touch on the entire sweep of salvation history from "promise" to "fulfillment." In a sense, both could be considered "poles" of salvation history with a very long continuum in between. What might the continuum from one to the other be? One way of describing the "space between" promise and fulfillment is through the symbol of "pilgrimage."

To be on "pilgrimage" in the Christian sense of the term is to essentially be journeying from promise to fulfillment. This entails having a sense of God's faithful and abiding presence (God's promise) and also an awareness of moving toward a full reception and a full sharing of newness of life in and through the Resurrection of Christ. To be a "pilgrim" implies viewing and experiencing time not as circular and repetitive but as a linear and definitive "march" toward the consummation of all creation, all life, and all history in Christ and God through the transforming guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pilgrimage, however, does not mean merely journeying toward God, it is also a journeying with God. In the fullest sense, pilgrimage is an active and engaged search for an ever deeper experience of the God who restlessly abides over, with, and through creation, continually seeking to find the lost and transform and enliven those who have been found. Pat, TOR