A pilgrim is a person who is not at home, not yet in the place where they can be. Twenty-three pilgrims will fly out of San Francisco International Airport on February 18th on a journey to the Holy Land, Israel, a country sacred and holy to many people and yet it still experiences the tensions of being a divided country religiously and politically. I am entrusted with the privilege and responsibility of leading this pilgrimage group, 22 other pilgrims, people willing to explore the origins and history of our Catholic Christian faith.
We will arrive in Jerusalem on Tuesday night, February 19th, a bit exhausted but eager to settle in for a few hours of sleep before journeying through Jerusalem. We will see the Mount of Olives, opposite the temple on the other side of the Kidron Valley, giving us a panoramic view of the old city. From the top of the ridge we will walk down what is known as the Palm Sunday road to Dominus Flevit, the place where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem and then celebrate Mass in the Church of All Nations, otherwise known as the Garden of Gethsemane. Each holy site usually features a rock or cave, a feature not easily destroyed by conquering armies that swept through the land many times. Several times, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed and then rebuilt, layers of civilization over the bedrock of this land.
One afternoon we will go to the Israel Museum in the new city of Jerusalem to see a scale model of the ancient city of Jerusalem and the Shrine of the Book that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the last century in Qumran. Throughout the trip we will stop at places either historically significant or places closely related to the Gospel stories of Jesus’ life and ministry. There is something to be said about reading a scripture passage like the Agony in the Garden, and then being in that same place with an olive tree that could be almost 2,000 years old. We will travel to Jericho, Beit Sean, Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Nazareth, Cana, Mt. Tabor, Mt. Carmel and Caesarea Maritima and more.
There is the truth of local tradition and the tradition of the church that marks these places or places within close proximity where these scriptural events took place. Being able to walk the land gives another perspective where Jesus lived, ministered, suffered, and died and rose from the dead. Within the environs of Jerusalem, so much is literally within walking distance. Each day we will begin with song and prayer. Walk, reflect, and listen to the Catholic local guide adding an explanation or further context to each particular site, scripture passage proclaimed. Celebrating the Eucharist each day we will experience Christ present to us within the land where he once walked, taught and preached. We will take time to try and take it all in.
Blessings, Father Larry