Day 4 of the Catholic Digest Holy Land Pilgrimage with Steve and Janet Ray from the Footprints of God pilgrimages.
Today we started out with a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. The boat was modeled from a fishing boat used during Jesus’ time. While on the boat, Steve Ray told us of his experience fishing with real fisherman and how he felt as though he were fishing with Peter, Andrew, James and John. Steve pointed out that Jesus came here to Galilee to choose his disciples. Now that I see the beauty and peace of the Sea of Galilee I know why Jesus spent so much time around here.
As the boat glided across the smooth water, I thought about Jesus being out on this peaceful lake and teaching his disciples. I got a little teary-eyed when I thought about Jesus traveling on this same Sea to get to the nearby towns. It is the same water that Jesus walked on and the same Sea that obeyed his commands.
The Gospel writers didn’t exaggerate about the storms on the Sea of Galilee. Steve shared an experience of a large storm that flooded the hotel where we were staying. Being in the Holy Land makes all the details of the Gospels come alive.
Next we traveled to the House of Peter in the town of Capernaum. It is here where the four friends lowered their paralytic friend down through the roof (Mark 2: 1-12). Steve Ray pointed out that this gesture was true friendship. When we are too sick to pray for ourselves, our friends bring us into the presence of Jesus. Today a church is built over the House of Peter and that is where our group celebrated Mass.
Nex to Peter’s house was the ancient synagogue where Jesus gave the bread of life sermon: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life within you” (John 6: 52-59). Fr. Frans Berkhout explained in his homily that life is filled with mysteries that bring us to the edge of our seats. There are some profoundly deep mysteries that many of us struggle with. An example is, why do bad things happen to good people?
Fr. Berkhout went on to explain that just because something is a mystery, doesn’t mean there are no answers. A mystery is like an onion with layers of profoundly powerful truths that in our limitless, we cannot fully grasp.
Here in the synagogue in Capernaum, the mystery of the Eucharist was first proclaimed. Fr. Berkhout invited us to humbly come to the altar and ask Jesus to change us by his presence in the Eucharist.
Capernaum is also the place where Jesus was asked to heal the centurion’s servant. While Jesus was on his way to visit the dying servant, the centurion sent friends to relay this message to Jesus: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore I did not consider myself worthy to come to you, but say the word and let my servant be healed” (Luke 7: 2-10).
Due to the new mass responses, this verse should sound familiar. When we prayed that response at mass, I know I wasn’t the only pilgrim who was deeply moved to be in the place where these words were first said to Our Lord.
After Mass we sat in the shade next to the Sea of Galilee and Steve explained the Scripture references in the Old Testament and New Testament that point to the Eucharist and Jesus as the sacrificial lamb.
Church of the Visitation
Before we boarded the bus to travel to the Church of the Visitation. Steve wanted us to take notice of the distance that Mary walked to visit Elizabeth. “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1: 39-40). We were taking a two-hour bus ride, but Mary was walking more than 100 miles, a journey that would take a week of walking all day!
When we arrived in the town of Ein Kerem, also the birth place of John the Baptist, we still had to walk up a long row of steps to get to the Church of the Visitation. As I looked up at the steps and grumbled, Steve Ray yelled out: “Remember, Mary is still walking!”
By the time I reached the top of the stairs, my heart was pumping and I felt out of breath. I looked at the view and instantly realized why they call this region the hill country. Let me assure you, these are big hills. Our Blessed Mother must have been one tough lady … or at least really fit.
The Church of the Visitation is the location where Mary visited Elizabeth. The art in this church is magnificent. Over the main altar there is a scene depicting Mary arriving in the desert from the hill country.
On the side walls there are paintings of the Wedding Feast at Cana, Mary as the Queen of Heaven, Ephesus (where Mary was titled Theotokos, Mother of God), The Battle of Lepanto (that is credited to Our Lady of the Rosary) and an image of the Franciscan Blessed John Duns Scotus, a philosopher who explained why Mary still needed a Savior even though she was prevented from falling into sin.
The wall-sized image at the back of the church is my favorite, though. It shows the woman described in Revelation: “A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12: 1-2).
As we sat in the Church and gazed at the beautiful art, Steve Ray explained the Catholic teaching of why we honor Mary. He explained how in Luke’s Gospel, the writer is making a clear connection between the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament (2 Samuel: 6) and Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant. The people didn’t worship the Ark of the Covenant, but it was really special to them and they honored it. So do Catholics honor Mary who carried in her womb the living God.
To see the sites from day four of the Catholic Digest Holy Land trip or to leave a comment for the pilgrims on the trip, visit Catholic-Convert.com