Reason # 11: Companionship for the journey. There is a line from the Book of Hebrews that says, And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25). We are not meant to make this journey alone. We need both company and protection.
In the days of Jesus, it was almost unthinkable for a person to make a lengthy journey alone. Once a person left the relative safety of the town, the journey got dangerous. There were robbers lying in wait along the roads just looking for vulnerable targets. For this reason, people almost always made journeys in groups. This is a good image for the spiritual journey we must all make. Alone we are easy targets. We are vulnerable and without help when spiritual demons attack. The Bible says, Woe to the solitary man! For if he should fall, he has no one to lift him up. (Ecclesiastes 4:11) Belonging to Church in a meaningful way has a powerful and protective influence.
In my twenty years as a priest I have taught the people of God the Word of God. But I have learned far more from them than they ever learned from me. I have learned from the people I serve what it means to have faith and to persevere. I have experienced correction when necessary, and encouragement in my struggle. It is impossible to fully overstate how much my membership in the Church has blessed me; I could not begin to count the ways. I know my parishioners have prayed for me and that their prayers and example has put a hedge of protection around me. I pray for them too, and who knows what power my prayers have had for them? In the Church, we learn not only from good example, but also from the difficulties that inevitably arise in any community. We learn to be more patient and forgiving. We learn from the mistakes others make as well as from their gifts.
Don’t journey alone; it’s dangerous. Find a parish, get involved, and live in real communion with others who can lift you up if you fall, encourage you when you are faint of heart, instruct you when you wonder, and complete in you what is lacking. Alone I am lacking, but together and with the Lord we have all the gifts we need to get to the Promised Land of Heaven: companionship for the journey!