Quite often, in my experience (and, I’ve no doubt, in the experience of a great many others), something in the reading of Scripture jumps out, grabs you forcefully and remains with you. Yesterday was such a day.
I had been reading one of the Psalms and this line caught my attention –
“Blessed the people whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrim ways.” (Ps.84:6)
As the day went on, I found myself coming back to this line over and over again, especially the second part of it. It seemed to me that having our ‘heart.. set on pilgrim ways’ is a good way of describing the spiritual life and – more over – life generally. But what does that actuallly mean? What are ‘pilgrim ways’?
A pilgrim is one who is on a journey – generally referring to a journey with a spiritual intention, with a particular end goal which is being sought out. The pilgrim is going from one place to another, to find something – that ‘pearl of great value’ of which the Gospel speaks. Such a pilgrimage requires effort, time, dedication, focus and a sense of purpose. And all these things, working together, then give a broader meaning to everything else.
A ‘heart..set on pilgrim ways’, then, is the heart of one who is undertaking – or seeking to undertake – such a journey.
I think that in this life, such a heart can never be truly satisfied – it always seeks to go somewhere else, to reach the destination of that interior pilgrimage, to find that priceless pearl. And in this undertaking, everything else around it then takes on a deeper meaning; life is seen as a means to an end rather than an end in itself; material things take on a lesser importance for they are seen in their true light and as the passing ephemera they really are. There is something of far greater value somewhere out there – and that is where the heart yearns to be, “like a dry, weary land without water” (Ps.62).
I pray that all of us might be granted the grace to have a ‘heart..set on pilgrim ways’ – and that we successfully navigate the course until the end.