Submitted by Wil Colón
Blisters, Persistence, Scorching Heat, Deluge of Rain, Powerful Stories, Gratitude, God’s Everlasting Love, Radical Hospitality, all of these were packed, unpacked and repacked for 16 days as “We Walk Because They Walk.” But there is one other that remained unpacked: Prayer.
I am a firm believer that we are called to pray inwardly, with humility and gratitude to God who is the Creator of all that is good, and outwardly, following the footsteps of Jesus Christ as challenging and painful as those steps become. We feed our souls through prayer in order to fuel our bodies to work for the glory and praise of God, as did his son.
Prayer came alive to me during the Pilgrimage of Hope. For 16 days we walked. “We walk because they walk” became our mantra. They, the disenfranchised immigrants who labor for a better life offered in our United States, are we. We, as they, pray with our hearts, mind, soul, and body for a better world where all are treated with the dignity that Jesus Christ treated ALL; especially those in greatest need. Those who walked the 225 miles plus from Fresno to Sacramento did so as Jesus, the servant of the servants, did. They prayed as Christ does, bringing love and hope to ALL.
Throughout the Pilgrimage of Hope I experienced a people who looked forward to walking the following day, not because it brought us closer to the end, but because it was another chance to pray in action, another chance to experience something new. There are many stories I can share from the road, but the one that still touches me is the story of the field workers. We came by a group of workers who were pulling up plants, cleaning the roots, and replanting them. They were cultivating sweet potatoes. Two of us got into a conversation with them, and they requested that Bishop David pray for them and give them his blessing which he did, as Christ would do, ecstaticaly. The workers were so dedicated to their labor that they continued to work while we spoke with them, until they were told to take a five-minute break for prayer and a blessing.
I truly believe that there is a purpose and reason to all we do, all that comes before us. At times it may be as beautiful as this exchange, but a times praying like Jesus may hurt as in the case where two of our walkers were told to get off a property when the owner was told about our pilgrimage. There too we must remember Jesus’ action and pray for those who cannot see.
As Episcopalians we are challenged to do ALL we can in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In our Baptismal Covenant we pledge to do well to and by all sharing Christ’s love, peace, and justice. Are you living this covenant, praying with words and action?
You may have thought that this reflection would share many stories; I too thought that. But I was guided elsewhere. There is an image with which I will end. It’s not an image from the Pilgrimage of Hope per se, rather it is one that came to me after reflecting on the Pilgrimage of Hope. I pictured our Lord on the cross. I saw his feet, dirty, blistered, bleeding. And I put my head under his feet, allowing him to gently relax his tired and broken feet on my head. I feel blessed and at peace. I see our pilgrims and realize that they too took up Christ’s unending prayer of love and peace as “we walk because they can’t walk.”