Everyone knows the story of Hansel and Gretel and the breadcrumb trail that brings them safely home.  A beautiful parable about people on pilgrimage seeking their way home.  A tale about our pilgrimage through life.

The road we travel on is never straight, but, like a meandering river, takes us now right then left, up and down, forward and then again backward.  Walking this road, we are more like children at a funfair, drawn by the numerous attractions to distract and pull us away from where we are supposed to go.  Only breadcrumbs show us the way home.  

Some years ago, I went on “The Camino” (Spanish for “the way”) to Santiago de Compostela.  Since the early Middle Ages, thousands of pilgrims travelled from everywhere in Europe to the tomb of the Apostle James, who is venerated in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

I set out from León in northern Spain on my 300 km walk. Automatically Jesus’ word came to mind, “I am the way, the truth and the life”.[1]  

On the Camino, everyone greets everyone else with “Bon Camino” (have a good way). Indeed, we will have a good pilgrimage in life taking to heart what Jesus says, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)

At the last supper, Jesus gave the disciples his body and his blood, the Eucharist, which in many ways sums up all he gave us in the seven sacraments, namely, the Way to follow Him.

Sacraments are defined as outward signs of an inner reality.  The outward sign is the celebration in church on a specific day and time, but the inner reality is the more important part which is the dynamic relationship with God. Without this, we are, in the words of St Pope Paul VI, “baptized pagans”.

A better catechesis and pastoral help are opportune.  Many theological books help us understand the heart of the sacramental celebrations, namely God’s eternal and faithful love, signed with Jesus’ blood on the cross. There is also much published on the dos and don’ts, but, I believe, there is little pastoral insight on how to live the sacraments daily.

In conclusion, I attempt here to give a pastoral perspective of some of the sacraments.

Baptism means immersion in water!  Jesus immersed himself into our humanity, foregoing his divinity and glory in heaven. When we follow Jesus, we must accept our human sinful condition and limitations and not take refuge in false realities (power, money, being “saints”).  Only then will we know “this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us” (1 John 4:10).

Confirmation is the descent of the Holy Spirit!  When the Spirit came on Jesus, the Beloved Son, He immediately drove Him into the wilderness among wild beasts to be tempted by Satan but served by angels. Following Jesus, the Spirit drives us daily into the evils of this world, where we are daily tempted, but never without angels to serve us.

Reconciliation and Anointing of the sick are two sides of God’s forgiveness and healing.  Jesus shows their relationship when he says to the paralytic “that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins; I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” Mark 2:10 

When we go to confession or receive the anointing of the sick, we ask Jesus’ light to show us God’s work in us, namely, “reconciling the world to himself” 2 Corinthians 5:19.  

Following Jesus, thus, does not mean first of all confessing our sins (this is only one part), but cooperating with Him in His work of reconciliation (with God, others, and creation).

Questions:

  1. What are the false realities in your life in which you take refuge?
  2. To follow Jesus, what are the human realities and limitations you have to accept?

 

[1] In John’s gospel, Jesus proclaims 7 times that he is God by stating “I am the bread of life”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the door”, “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the resurrection and the life”, “I am the way, the truth and the life”, “I am the true vine”.

 

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Fr Guido Gockel MHM

A member of St Joseph’s Missionary Society of Mill Hill, headquartered near London, Father Guido was ordained a priest in 1969. Shortly after ordination, he was sent to Malaysia (Sarawak) where he served as a missionary for 18 years. 

While on a vacation to Sabah, he was introduced to a group of young people who had become involved in the Charismatic Movement (CCR). This experience helped him to be instrumental in introducing CCR to Miri, Sarawak, where he was assigned to a mission outpost. 

Since his first missionary stint of seven years in the early 70’s, he has been back to Malaysia three more postings,  and numerous short visits. He has acquired a basic knowledge of “Melayu pasar” and other languages of Sarawak.

Catholic Sabah has the privilege of being acquainted with Fr Guido, who has been generous in giving his time to write for a year under the column titled “I’m on My Way” since the launching of the Catholic Sabah online portal in 2020.

With a little encouragement, Fr Guido has agreed to continue to write, and thus Catholic Sabah decided to upload his writings, once every month, in both English and Bahasa Melayu. Father is open to questions, to offer further discussion/explanation. He can be reached through email or whatsapp @ frguidomhm@gmail.com.