2 days of the pilgrimage have passed and day 3 begins. We had our first round of reflections last night and even though the journey has just begun, there is a sense already that God is working, even if it is not in ways we expect (as it often is the case!). And so the day began, with a beautiful sunrise that some of us managed to catch. What a blessing it was to be able to witness the rising of the sun by the Sea of Galilee! And as I observed its round shape, I was taken by how much it reminded me of the Blessed Sacrament, the physical sun mirroring the infinite light that is Jesus Christ himself. It was the start of a day filled with the Holy Spirit and God’s stirring in our hearts.
Our first stop was the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha. It was here that Jesus saw the crowd and felt great compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. It was here where the disciples asked Jesus to send the crowds away to get something to eat and were confused when Jesus asked them to be the ones to feed these people. And it was here when Jesus took the little offering – five loaves and two fishes – and multiplied it for all to be filled. It dawned on me that if I were part of that crowd, I would have reasoned that there would be no point giving up this food. It was a reminder to me not to selfishly hold what I have but also that God can do what we can never expect. We are simply invited to have a child-like faith to surrender and to lay down what little we have at the foot of His cross.
We moved to the Church of the Primacy of Peter where we celebrated mass outside the sacred chapel. I don’t know what it is but there was an overwhelming sense that something divine was present, that the Holy Spirit was there in our midst. I was moved by the tears that so many of us shed during this time. Maybe some of us were struggling to answer Jesus’ question, ‘Do you love me?’ Maybe some of us were moved and others troubled by His call to feed His sheep. Maybe some of us were dealing with guilt and the inability to forgive ourselves. But maybe in our tears was also an experience of immense grace and love and Father Angelo invited us to take a piece of rock from the lake, a physical reminder of God’s constant forgiveness and mercy.
We continued to Caesarea Philippi where Jesus named Peter ‘the rock’ upon which He will build His church. But the rock is not simply a rock as I had once imagined. It is a huge, massive rock formation so large that temples were built in this space centuries ago. So this is the firm foundation that You were proclaiming Peter to be. This rock – a physical structure that was able to withstand earthquakes – is symbolic of the foundation of our church that remains firm even amidst the trials of the past and those of today. This is the rock that remains because it is rooted on Christ. It is one thing to read about this, another to encounter the sheer size of it and it feels like the bible is really becoming the living word.
We ended the afternoon with quiet time and meditation at the Mount of Beatitudes. As we sat under the trees listening to Father Angelo reading the Sermon on the Mount and giving his reflection, it became clear how this message is so different from what the world advocates. I was struck especially by how Jesus says ‘Blessed are the merciful’ while the world would probably say ‘Blessed are the powerful’. It is a difficult message to live out, not when mercy is hard to give to those who have hurt us, not when power and control are so enticing. But I was also reminded about the wisdom of a friend who said that when you receive grace and mercy, then give grace and mercy to others as well. So the difficulty of Christ’s message may remain, but hopefully its truth will become more rooted in our hearts after this trip, and perhaps the strength to live it out will be given as well.
And so the day ended, all of us individuals with deeply personal stories that only God truly knows. But the sharing continues and in the words of a fellow pilgrim, the sharing of our experiences can nourish, can comfort, can provide rest for someone else’s soul. So it was for me as I heard the words of my fellow companions during our night reflection. Here, someone shared about how she was reminded about her Landings experience returning home and how experiences in the past now bear new significance. Here, I heard the deep desire by a fellow pilgrim for answers to her question and how God and Mother Mary led her to them. Here I witnessed affirmation given – affirmation of similar God encounters, affirmation of those who shepherd and serve, affirmation of each other’s presence. And in this affirmation and sharing lie something divine, the power and grace of God working through us and in us.
So although the question still remains for some of us – God, why have You called me here? – perhaps all we are called to do is to surrender our five loaves and two fishes and trust that He will take what little talent, faith and hope we have and multiply.
#LandingsHolyLandPilgrimage2018 #GraceAndGratitude #Landings10thAnniversary