Go to the Holy Land, if You Can
Recently I had the most wonderful opportunity to visit the Holy Land. Friends of mine invited me and I did not have to think twice about it, because visiting the Holy Land was always on my list of things to do before I die.
I wanted to know what it feels like to walk on the ground where Jesus walked; to be in the area where he was born and lived and preached.
Just the anticipation of experiencing this was already too much for me at times. It was 13 months from the time I decided to go until the day we left. And every time, during this period, when I would think of walking where Jesus walked, I would experience a sense of disbelief.
It was too much to anticipate and in the end I realised that looking forward to going to the Holy Land is not like looking forward to any holiday destination. The anticipation of going to the Holy Land is an inward spiritual experience.
In my opinion, every Christian should visit the Holy Land. Why? The Holy Land is where it all started…it is a land of ancient history.
It is the land which God promised to Abraham and his descendants. This is the land where Isaac, Jacob, Sarah and Leah lived. It is the land where David triumphed over Goliath, and where Solomon built his temple. Even now I struggle to fully realise that I set foot on that land.
But above all, every Christian should visit the Holy Land because this is where Jesus was born, crucified and resurrected.
Only in the Holy Land will you be able to walk where Jesus walked, to follow in his footsteps, to see and feel the places where the disciples walked with the Lord, where Jesus preformed his miracles and the place where he was nailed to the cross to forgive the sins of all Christians.
As we read the Bible, we encounter the life of Jesus and his followers on the pages. But it is a completely different — some say life-changing — experience encountering the life of Jesus and his followers in the Holy Land.
Many pilgrims in my group said that the Scriptures came alive for them, for example when they read the Sermon on the Mount while standing on the Mount of Beatitudes.
For me, to have prayed the Magnificat at the place where Mary met her cousin Elizabeth, in Ein Kerem, changed my relationship with Mary in a profound way.
We visited the towns of Galilee, Nazareth, Jericho, Bethlehem and, of course, the beautiful city of Jerusalem.
Each day was too short as we walked through the streets of these places where Jesus taught and performed his miracles. At each of these sites where Jesus lived and taught and died, there stand now huge churches and basilicas. And we were fortunate to celebrate Holy Mass every day in one of them. That indeed was a highlight.
Another highlight for me, one where I felt a deep connection, was our boat-ride on the Sea of Galilee.
Our accompanying priest helped us do a meditation using all of our senses. He asked us to look, to smell, to hear and to feel everything around us on the boat and the water as it glided across the Sea of Galilee. The sea was calm and the pilgrims were quiet. It was a short, but powerful and meaningful meditation. The pilgrims will remember this for a long, long time.
Another highlight for me was the renewal of our baptismal vows at the River Jordan. I just wanted to wet my feet, but many pilgrims did a full body submersion in the water. Our accompanying priest went in first, and together with the deacon assisted other pilgrims to safely go under the water.
For all the pilgrims, the experience was much more than what they had expected, and I think all of us have about 300 or more photos each to prove it. It was as if you wanted to capture every little moment and every experience.
There are many destinations across the world to enjoy, but I believe Christians have to place a visit to the Holy Land on top of their bucket list, for sure. To see, feel, walk and pray every day where Jesus lived, taught, died and rose from the dead is impossible to describe to anyone—it is just to experience it!
Every week in this newspaper, pilgrimages to the Holy Land are advertised.
Organise a group in your parish or sodality, contact a reputable tour operator (some advertise in The Southern Cross every week), and set the ball rolling.
An international trip comes at some financial sacrifice — but it is nothing compared to experiencing the places where the ultimate sacrifice was made for our souls.
After seven years, this is Judith Turner’s final column for now.