A pilgrimage to the holy land tends to change one’s perspective of how the gospels
are heard and understood. For instance, today when we talk about John the Baptist,
I see the river Jordan and think “WOW!”. It was there, at the River Jordan, that
God’s voice proclaimed Jesus’ true nature. It was the beginning of his journey to
As we traveled toward Galilee we passed through Jericho and we saw the sycamore
tree where Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus, (Luke 9:1-10). His faith was
recognized and by his deeds he showed everyone that he was truly a changed man.
It is not a mere change of words that Jesus demands but a change of life, to be
reborn. Do we live by the prayer; “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the
Holy Spirit” or is it “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be”? Let us ask
ourselves: “Do we have the courage of Zacchaeus in our own lives?”
We visited many sites that are proclaimed in the Gospels and Old Testament. For
example, we traveled to Mount Carmel, where Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal.
A statue proclaiming Elijah’s victory in God’s name shows Elijah vanquishing those
who tried to lead the people of Israel to forsake their belief in a single God.
As an aside, as one looks to the west from the top of Mount Carmel, we see an
Israeli air base where regular sightings of war planes taking off or landing as the
complete their missions of war reminds one of the challenges we come across as we
try to live our lives in peace. Grant that we all may experience the power of Jesus as
we face the challenge of taking a stand on issues that face our church and our
The first town to be visited in the Galilee territory was, of course, Nazareth. This is
the place where Christ was raised. It is where Joseph and Jesus worked as
carpenters. As such, they met the needs of the community for items such as ox-
yokes, a precise device, made of wood to fit the neck of the ox so that the ox’s
burden might not cause injury to the animal. Legend says that Jesus made the best
ox yokes in all of Galilee. One can easily see a sign over the carpentry shop saying:
“My yoke fits well”. Jesus preached; “My yoke fits all.”(Matthew 11: 28-30). Jesus is
there to help us with our burden and He is ready to adjust our yoke as necessary, to
lighten our load. He wants us to know that life’s burdens, while they are real, are laid
on us in love and if carried in His love, will be become a lightened load.
One afternoon, we set sail on the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is actually
a freshwater lake in Israel. It is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-
lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake), at levels between
705 ft. and 686 ft. below sea level. It is approximately 33 mi. in circumference, about
13 mi. long, and 8.1 mi wide, and its maximum depth is approximately 141 feet.
Much smaller than Lake George, for example.
An interesting feature of this body of water is that at the northern end of the lake,
winds flowing through the hills can cause the lake to become rough. On the day we
sailed, there were white caps on the northern end of the lake while the southern end
was much calmer. In fact, if the wind came from the Golan Heights (west) side of the
lake, the conditions could quickly become much worse and we could imagine how
the Apostles, seasoned fishermen of the area, could be caught in the storm. Jesus
arose from a nap, to calm the storm and their fears. He is there to calm the storm of
our fears, if we but only ask.
We visited the town of Magdala, once a prosperous fishing town on the eastern side
of the lake. Mary, the daughter of the local fish processor, lived a lavish and perhaps
intemperate lifestyle. We do not know what physical relationship she might have had
with Jesus but we do know that upon meeting Him, her life was changed and she
became a key figure in the New Testament stories. Clearly, Jesus had a dramatic
effect on her and she became a steadfast and trusted disciple. Has the life of Jesus
provided us with the necessary direction and insight for us to be faithful to His
We saw the synagogues in Nazareth and Capernaum where Jesus proclaimed that
the scriptures were fulfilled in their hearing. The town people could only see a
carpenter’s son and could not accept the message given to them. If Jesus were to
return today, could we recognize Him? If He came in glory, I’m sure there would be
no problem. What if He came as a homeless person? ..Or a slave? .. Or as a
female? Could the Church believe? Could we?
It was toward the end of our travels in Galilee, that we visited Mount Tabor, at the
church that memorializes Christ’s transfiguration with Elijah and Moses. Once again,
an occasion where God’s voice was heard proclaiming Jesus as God’s son.
These two occasions, the River Jordan and Mount Tabor, are the only two occasions
in the New Testament where God is heard proclaiming Jesus as someone on whom
His favor rests. This was the end of Jesus’s journey in Galilee and from Mount
Tabor He began his journey to Jerusalem for the final time. He began his journey to
Calvary. This was a journey that Jesus could have chosen not to take but he chose
to obey his Father’s will. He understood and accepted His Father’s will. Do we
accept God’s will in our daily lives? Do we understand that, while we do not know
what the future holds, what is waiting for us in the future is part of God’s divine plan?
So as we travel this journey, we call life, walking in His footsteps, know that He
walks beside us, sharing our load, lifting us up, bringing us through our Calvary
experience to our resurrection event. He has told us that He has prepared a place
for us and while we do not know where that place is, He is the way. All we need do is