Day 1 was like a warm-up, we were tired from the long flights and adjusting to Israel; perhaps we were still more like tourists rather than pilgrims. Properly rested in a bed, we awoke on Day 2 more refreshed, and more ready to continue on our pilgrimage journey. It was also a transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament, where on Day 1 it felt somewhat like a history lesson, then on to Day 2 where we had a chance to experience the Gospels coming to life.
The morning started out with a God-moment for many, catching the beautiful sunrise over the city of Haifa, like an image of the Holy Spirit shining its rays down on us. After breakfast and bidding adieu to the Carmelites, we went on a long bus journey toward Mount Tabor, listening to Fr Angelo preaching and saying prayers throughout the ride. The pilgrimage had truly begun.
To get to the summit of Mount Tabor, where the Transfiguration took place, we had to traverse up a windy and narrow path, a rather nauseating bus ride and we could only trust the driver’s skills. But the reward that was waiting for us atop the mountain was well worth it. I had many questions about what exactly does the Transfiguration mean; I captured a picture-perfect image of the sun illuminating the Church, and that was when it made sense to me.
Entering the church, the beautiful mosaic and the intricacy of it all leaves you in awe. We were blessed to be able to celebrate mass here and privileged to be so close to the altar. The acoustics were amazing, and I dare say we sounded like angels in a choir. Many came out of the church very excitable from the spirit-filled mass they just experienced. A fellow pilgrim said she was glad I had asked all those questions prior, as she was able to have a deeper understanding and experience.
To be perfectly honest, I was almost “spiritually jealous” because I did not have as powerful an encounter as the others had shared. But as we were singing hymns in the bus, these words really hit me: “We are companions on the journey, breaking Bread and sharing life”. Indeed we are not alone, and what we do intentionally or unknowingly, can impact someone else greatly. We also cannot be so inward focused, each of us would have different encounters, but as a community, we are here to help one another, share and grow from our collective experiences, and journey together.
The next stop was Capharnaum, the town of Jesus. It was a test of patience tolerating the sweltering heat, but perhaps what kept us going was remembering that Jesus had once preached here in this very town. It was upon the remains of the “synagogue of Jesus” that the structure we see today was built, and so we have a mixture of original first century stones, fourth century stones, and modern-day stones, allowing the historical account of Jesus’ time to be integrated into the present.
We then took a boat to the middle of the Sea of Galilee. This is a spot where we can say with absolute certainty that Jesus once walked! Here we remember the lesson Jesus taught Peter, not to doubt God and trust in Him. “Lord, save me!” These are just simple three words, but it is a complete prayer that we can say anytime, and can say often. It is a beautiful prayer of confidence that Jesus will save you.
Finally, we arrived at Mount Beatitudes, our abode for the next three nights. We gathered again after dinner for our first group reflection and sharing. This for me was testament that God is ever so present in our journey. Hearing the testimonies of how our fellow pilgrims encountered God leading up to this pilgrimage and during the past two days; witnessing how one’s sharing flowed into another’s; God could not be more real. When some shared that they were lost and afraid, there was also affirmation that they were not alone, and reminders that we need to give ourselves the space to be attentive to the still, small voice of God.
Personally, it was my God-moment when I decided to share my reflection. Unknowingly, expressing my thoughts out loud allowed God to touch me, and I was very affirmed by the responses from the community. Even though the day did not go quite as how I had envisioned, I definitely experienced God in many ways, which I might have overlooked if I had not spent the time in reflection.
Just like in today’s homily, we get glimpses of the presence of God in our lives. We get glimpses of God in the love we receive from other people. We get glimpses of God when we look back over our lives and what we couldn’t understand in the past makes sense now.
As we try and get closer to Jesus, we will surely face many obstacles along the way. But if we can trust a stranger (the driver) to get us to our destination safely, what more then, can we trust in Jesus, that He is our saviour and is always ever so present in our lives. As we continue on to Day 3 of this pilgrimage journey, let us be still, and know He is God.
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