Most people rarely walk to and from their destinations. Our culture is comfortable with high-speed motion. We drive and fly to nearby and faraway places, and we’re impatient with unforeseen events and circumstances hampering our movement.
The idea of walking to the grocery store or taking a stroll through our neighborhood can appear quaint and, in some cases, impractical. Even when we find ourselves walking, often it’s with our electronic gadgets in hand and ears — attentive to all kinds of digital landscapes and sounds, while neglecting the immediate reality in front of us.
There is something appealing about walking, especially when walking with others. Walking brings multiple benefits to our mind, body and spirit, increasing our fitness and wellness. Similarly, when we look at the social outcomes, walking with others provides quality bonding time that would otherwise escape us.
While we crave swiftness, the human spirit summons us to restfulness, accompaniment and contemplation. In our mutual accompaniment, we discover new conversations, directions and ways of being a stronger community in solidarity. Walking with others can take us out of our self-preoccupations and bring us a little closer to someone else’s reality.
Moreover, our Catholic spirituality identifies us as a pilgrim Church, a people committed to walking with and for others in service. In our encounter with the Lord in prayer and reflection, for instance, we hear His words encouraging each one of us to go out of ourselves with great humility and generosity. “He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics” (Mark 6:8-9). Indeed, our journey outward in the footsteps of Christ has always included personal sacrifice and self-denial: “If any want to be my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
The call to follow Christ and go out of ourselves is visible, also, in the biblical mandate to be missionary disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28: 19). Far from encouraging timidity, our pilgrim identity and missionary vocation boldly compel us to go to the ends of the world with the good news of justice, peace, life and the Kingdom of God.
At present, we are entering more deeply into our Catholic identity as a synodal Church, a pilgrim community that cares for creation and is not afraid to walk closely with others, especially the poor and marginalized. We do so because we know that Christ is present in those we rarely encounter or simply do our best to avoid. “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink?” (Matthew 25:31-46).
Truly, walking in the footsteps of Christ remains an open invitation for us and the many generations to come. Let us take our steps together into deeper communion, participation and mission, trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide our discernment forward and give us all we need. How each of us will respond to Jesus’ call will undoubtedly enrich our common journey.
F. Javier Orozco
First published October 14, 2021 in the St. Louis Review