"on pilgrimage"

Paul Gallagher, a former volunteer at this Catholic Worker house, is very interested in walking with me for a month this summer. We'll be discussing it more this week (before I leave). It's the first time I might have a walking partner.

We talked yesterday about the basics, and I encouraged him to look at some of my journals from past walks. And this excerpt from a winter journal (written five years ago, but still what I believe) where I focused on some of the theology and symbolism of pilgrimage. I looked at it again this morning. This part fits well with some of my recent comments about health care costs and encouraging others to give freely:

We are always dependent on others; we simply cannot survive without the help of others. We only deceive ourselves when we attempt to use dollar bills to convince everyone that we are independent. Inter-dependence is a fact of life, and a very good and holy gift of God. Jesus himself clearly lived a inter-dependent life. He was constantly provided with food from other people's tables and shelter under other people's roofs (and he taught his disciples to do the same: Mt 10.8-11, which contains that beautiful command, "You received without paying, give without pay"). Jesus preached and lived a radical dependence on God, who met all his needs through others. Just as God meets our needs through others.

As much as we hear about Paul working to 'pay his own way,' that was not always the case for him. Often he writes about gathering money at churches to support other churches, and sometimes part of that support was paying his way (2 Cor 11.8-9):
I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. And when I was with you and was in want, I did not burden any one, for my needs were supplied by the brethren who came from Macedonia. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.
[Also note Phil 4.16, where Paul talks about receiving financial support from the Philippians when he was in Thessilonica.] Here we see Paul 'not burdening' in the same way Jesus did. Some people gave freely to him, so he could give freely to others. Especially when it came to preaching the gospel, 'giving freely' was very important to Paul. I think that's what made him so obviously uncomfortable about receiving anything from the people he was preaching to. He often defended the preacher's "right" to expect help from the congregation, but Paul wanted the gospel to be free of charge. This is demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 9. First Paul reiterates the preacher's "rights," then:
But I have made no use of these rights, nor am I writing to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have any one deprive me of my ground for boasting. ...What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge... (1 Cor 9.15,18)
Boasting aside, I think Paul's got it exactly right here. The important thing is, not paying your own way, not independence, but being able to give freely (and in Paul's case the gift is the highest: the gospel). Earning money by selling our services is one way to be able to give freely; and perhaps Paul did encourage this and do this himself. But this method requires us to not give freely to some people (our customers) so that we can give freely to others. Plus there are other objections against requiring payment from others for our services (Jesus himself raised them; for example, Lk 6.33-35, and Lk 14.12-14). But is there any other way? Paul himself demonstrated another way: Accepting help from those who want to give freely to us enables us to give freely to others. That way, all our human interactions are guided by the generosity of love and all witness to our common dependence on each other and, ultimately, on God. Not surprisingly, Jesus lived just like this. And for those who worry that living this way won't provide the necessities of life, Jesus said, "Look at the birds and the lilies." (Mt 6.25-33)

I keep shifting from Paul to Jesus, but I don't think Paul would mind. I will conclude, however, with Paul's words about the ideal form of (Christian) society, where we give when others are in need, and accept when we are in need. Where we don't worry about 'getting paid' or 'paying our own way' or becoming rich, but imitate Christ, who was willing to become poor so that we all might receive his riches:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. [...Here Paul mentions a donation the Corinthians had apparently promised for another church...] I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality. As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack." (2 Cor 8.8-9,13-15)
Note that Paul is not talking about heaven here, or just addressing the clergy. This is to a whole community, on earth (and it sounds much like the real, earthly community described in Acts 2.44-47 and 4.32-35). Those whose creative work has produced some abundance are encouraged to give freely to those who are in need. They give what they can give, and they receive what God provides for them through their own work and the gifts of others. No payment required. And this does not necessarily result in idleness or anyone being "burdened." These problems may arise, so we need to hear Paul's warnings. But warnings are not a model for goodness. Jesus is our model for goodness--and his life clearly showed us the way.