Mary Braley, SCN, offers this reflection on her Holy Land experiences:
What was it like to journey on a pilgrimage in the Holy Land?
For me, it was like no other travel experience, though I have had very few. On my first international flight I and forty other pilgrims traveled via Turkish Airlines, which departed from Boston’s Logan Airport and arrived in Istanbul, Turkey after nearly ten hours of travel. From there, on another airline, we headed on to Tel Aviv, Israel. As the evening flight was about to land in Israel, the jet hovered quietly over Tel Aviv International airport. I remember experiencing a deep peace, which lasted for the whole pilgrimage, and saying, “I can hardly believe I am in Israel!”
From there each experience of seeing the places where Jesus was born, grew up, walked, taught, worked miracles, suffered, died, and rose to New Life became etched in my heart and there remains. I realized how different a pilgrimage is from a traveling vacation. There were many surprising moments of divine inspiration. One of these for me was in Caesarea Phillipi where Jesus told Peter that he was the rock on which He would build His church. Our guide pointed out the rock (see top photo) to which Jesus was referring. Never in my life did I envision a rock so immense!
The boat ride on the Sea of Galilee was another high point (see bottom photo). The day was sunny and clear. The experience enabled us as pilgrims to enjoy one another’s company as we traveled on the same sea as Jesus did.
Jerusalem was a surprise for me, too. Being there gave me a sense of how we are related to the Jewish tradition in which Jesus lived. The Via Dolorosa, which we walked, gave me a picture of what it was like when Jesus carried His cross. There was business as usual on either side of the narrow walk. We pilgrims had an opportunity to carry a cross as we journeyed on it.
Upon departure from Jerusalem, as I prayed evening prayer, I came across the passage from St. Paul’s letter to Corinthians: “We are the temple of the living God; as God said: ‘I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.’” 2 Cor. 6:16. Certainly a pilgrim journey to Israel seeing where Jesus lived and walking where He walked gave me a deeper realization of God’s presence with us here and now.
I am truly most grateful for the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. Even now the experience speaks to me in daily life. It is like a gift that continues to give.
Know that I carried all of you in my heart and prayer.