So the first day comes and goes. After going through the 18 hour long journey from Singapore to Hong Kong and then to Tel Aviv, we finally arrived and then plunged straight into the pilgrimage. We went to the seaside town of Caesarea Maritima where we sang under the scorching heat. In the restored Roman Amphitheatre, we tested out if the acoustics were really as good as it is claimed to be but also aptly began this time with the song ‘Companions on the Journey’. We visited Muhraqa where we reflected on the verse from 1 Kings 18, the time where Elijah confronted the false priests of Ba’al. By the time we finally reached our lunch destination, I dare say we were starving and pretty tired; but indeed the food was sumptuous, especially the hummus!
Personally, I’m not sure if the pilgrimage is quite what I expected. I certainly did not expect what this heat would feel like, or the pace at which Father would speak, and I’m also reminded about how this is the first time in a long time that I’m travelling with such a large group of people. It is one thing to understand this cognitively, another to experience the reality of it. Even the place thus far hasn’t really met my expectations. In wanting to feel the place that Jesus walked, I forgot about the reality of the crowds of people that have also come to visit, the hustle and bustle that makes it difficult for me to sit and be still.
Yet as a loved one reminded me, we have come to the land where the Word was made flesh. And perhaps all the crowds and sounds are symbolic of all the noise in our lives that distracts us from the intimacy that God is calling us towards. It is not easy to remain focused but perhaps that is why God has called us to this special place in this time. And I’m reminded by the phrase that will likely be a tagline by the end of the trip – that we are not tourists, but pilgrims. And so as there is new significance and meaning to walking through the heat, to learning to compromise, even to not fully understanding at times the information I am hearing.
And so day one ends. We are physically tired and ready for rest as we settle in at Stella Maris Monastery. But I believe there is also an excitement about the rest of this journey, as we go deeper into encountering Jesus’ footsteps on this land. Indeed, the God-moments and reminders are everywhere such as the gate of this place with images at the top that we might so easily overlook – Jesus on one side, and Mary on the other. It seems like the invitation to encounter God is always there, the question is whether we will look with our eyes wide open and pay attention. But as Father taught us today, let us PUSH or ‘pray until something happens’. So I pray for God to give us the heart of a pilgrim, the openness to receive Him and the faith to trust that our fervent prayers will matter to our Father who only seeks to bring us close into His embrace.
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