|Holy Land Pilgrimage Ignites Imagination, Faith|
|Thursday, 21 August 2008 21:56|
The waters were almost glass-like, calm and mirroring the blue sky above.
It was here that Christ challenged Peter to walk on water.
It was here. Right here. Not in a book that told the story, but here. And on that stormy night when Christ in his mercy controlled the weather, the sky and waves must have been a boiling black, and there would have been no cries of birds, but the cries of men instead choked with the kind of fear that often accompanies death.
The rock-strewn scrabbled hills to the west today, pristine and untouched, served as the same backdrop Christ would have seen 2,000 years ago.
For two weeks we traversed the Holy Land in a pilgrimage planned and beautifully executed by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation. The journey was spiritual, emotional and political. Like boot camp, we hit the ground early in the morning and fell exhausted, but peacefully into our beds at night.
Daily, we celebrated mass at memorable, jaw-dropping sites: The top of Mt. Nebo, where Moses was shown the Promised Land and then told by God he would never be allowed to enter; inside the chapel that house's Christ's tomb we gathered like those in the early church, truly shoulder to shoulder - one with the priests beside the altar, in a holy, true communion with God and each other; outdoors, under a tree, along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where a flock of barn swallows swooped over the priests' heads as they chanted the Doxology - right there where Peter had an opportunity to redeem himself, and tell Christ three times that he loved him. Then our Lord cooked them all fish, over a charcoal fire.
The highlights would be different for each of us. What deeply touched one, might not affect the other and vice-versa. The Holy Spirit was almost palpable and the journey was like a roller-coaster ride of joy, tears, fears - and laughter.
We knew we were standing on holy ground.
Where have we, like Peter, denied Christ? In the movies we watch? The gossip we share? The selfish I-Me attitude that we so easily and often embrace with wild abandon? When we have the opportunity to right a wrong do we grab it? Or walk away?
We knew Christ was with us, as surely as he was with those at the wedding feast when he changed water into wine, when he healed the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, when he invited Zacchaeus to come out of the sycamore tree, and join him for dinner. All of these were places we visited, and at which we prayed and meditated.
The fruits of this pilgrimage will be years in the knowing. Perhaps a lifetime.
There will be quick, and obvious connections.
Next week: Holy Land politics and a weeping Christ.