FR ANGELO ISON, OFM – A NOTE OF GRATITUDE

IMG_9944We had come to follow in His steps, each answering a call from within. We walked boldly to behold the sites, yet at times gingerly, because from within, the call for transformation confronted us. We came ready to take in the sights, but were not quite prepared for how each historical site was to overwhelm us, encouraging us to let go and be transformed.

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“Sent by the Spirit”

IMG_9839We thank the Holy Spirit for sending you to us, Fr Angelo to decipher the wealth of historical facts found in the Holy Land and translate them into rich spiritual messages. For the 9 days you were with us, you not only guided us through ancient stones but made the ancient stones come alive to speak to us.

“Library of Knowledge”

You are a library of knowledge, an earthen vessel containing answers, your input digging deep into history, hundreds of years represented by layers of ancient stones. Each layer, each stone had a story which you expertly told.

21455451052_94f687107f_o (2)“A teacher who left no stone unturned”

At each site you passionately, generously and painstakingly shared all the little details so that the knowledge we acquire will open the door to our hearts. You are a teacher that left no stone unturned; excellent in detail, in hope that we go on to live excellent lives.

“You unblock the driveway; you were the ‘yellow box’”

We have come home and thank you for facilitating a very rich spiritual experience. We still hear the echo of your voice “Do not block the driveway!” Our experience of the Holy Land with you has certainly unblock our spiritual highway leading to a life closer to the one whose footsteps we follow; you were the ‘yellow box’ organising the clutter in our life for a smoother passage.

IMG_0770“You hold the keys to the ‘kingdom’”

We thank you for the generosity of sharing your privilege as a Franciscan Friar by bringing us into sites that are normally difficult to enter. The masses we celebrated inside the Tomb of Jesus and at the Manger Altar will always be a pivotal point on our spiritual journey. A lasting impression of you was when you dug into your pocket to produce the key to unlock the Chapel of the Franks atop the steps at Tenth Station; truly you hold the keys to the ‘kingdom’ for us!

“An angel of reconciliation” 

Holy Land is the land on which the cock famously crowed. We have come, some with a troubled past, cobbled with stones of unforgiveness and bitterness. Thank you for encouraging us to accept the Father’s offer for reconciliation; the stone of bitterness left behind, a past no longer haunting us. Thank you for being the agent, and angel of reconciliation.

21440534226_41e8efa159_o (2)“You celebrate life”

Thank you for celebrating mass for us every day in chapels and places you have carefully chosen. We have come home not only with a deeper appreciation but have re-discovered the meaning and yearning for the mass. During our 9 days you also shared who you are with us. We are humbled by your honest expression of the person you are. You showed us how we should be proud to be Catholic and are impressed by your passion to be one. We admire the old, broken phone you carry, symbolic of the spirit of poverty with which you chose to live life. You not only celebrate life through the sacraments but also showed how to celebrate a sacramental life through our daily life.

“You were magnanimous”

We are sorry for the many times we tested your patience while you were trying to give us more. We wandered away looking for more, but in our celebrations of the eighth and ninth sacraments. We thank you for being so magnanimous when we erred.

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“Through you, the beautiful mosaic of a pilgrimage to Holy Land is created”

Our spiritual journey, our personal journey in life is a yet to be completed picture. When it is complete we hope that it would be as beautiful as the many mosaic, littered with Christian symbols, that you showed us. But one thing is for sure, the mosaic depicting our life so far has been beautified by this pilgrimage to Holy Land. And this beauty is due in no small part to you, Fr. Angelo who guided us through this experience; indeed you are a rare find for a pilgrim, like an ancient 4th century stone. In you, history is stored and through you the beautiful mosaic of a pilgrimage to Holy Land is created.

IMG_9969               Thank you for being our guide, and much more.

Sr. Mel Benedictos, RC, Lena Leo, Jennifer Leo, Geralding Wong, Catherine See, Grace See, Yvonne Chen, Matilda Woo, Adam Harris and Tony See.

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“THE PIERCING SHARP PAIN WAS GONE!”

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Angela Kuang participated in the recent Landings run that ended on 28 September 2015, at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Singapore. Petitions from the Landings community were lifted up during mass at the Chapel of Elijah, Church of the Transfiguration, Mt Tabor on 23rd August 2015 and subsequently at every mass celebrated. Written petitions were left with the Carmelite nuns at the monastery in Haifa.

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“I have been having this persistent sharp pain in my left hip bone right down to my calf. This had been bothering me for more than 1 ½ years. It was so bad that every morning, I had to sit up and stretch for quite a while before I could properly walk. Sometimes the pain was so bad that I cannot even lift my legs to climb stairs. I had tried acupuncture, taken lots of painkillers but nothing helped. Recently, the doctor advised that I seek help from a bone specialist. The worst case scenario would be that I needed surgery as the cause could possibly be nerves being pinched in between the hip bones.

When I knew that a team of pilgrims from Landings was headed to the Holy Land, I wrote a petition to seek help to relieve the pain so as to avoid surgery. On Sunday 6 September 2015, I woke up to a surprisingly painless morning. At that time, the thought of my petition being answered did not cross my mind as I had actually forgotten about the petition. A few days passed without pain and I began to ponder but still with doubts! However 2 weeks passed and I doubted no more. The piercing sharp pain in the left hip bone is gone! My petition had been answered!

Thanks to the Landings pilgrims for their assistance in delivering my petition to the Holy Land. Praise the Lord!”

ITINERARY 22 AUGUST – 30 AUGUST 2015

Saturday August 22: Arrival, Tel Aviv, Caesarea Maritima, Mt. Carmel, Stella Maris, view of Baha’i Garden.

Arrival on TK 794 at 1135 to Ben-Gurion airport, meet and assist through customs. We drive to Caesarea Maritima to visit the restored Roman Amphitheatre and ruins from the time of Pilate and Paul’s imprisonment. Continue to Haifa and drive up Mt. Carmel for a panoramic view of the city and port, River Kishon and the Mediterranean Sea.   The Carmelite Order was founded in this site in the 11th century. We will have mass at the church. View of Baha’i gardens. Dinner and overnight in Haifa. (L, D)

Mass in Stella Maris 5 PM

Lunch at Port Café

Sunday Aug 23: Mt Tabor, Boat ride, Jesus boat, Capernaum

We start the day with a visit to the summit of Mt Tabor where the Transfiguration took place. We have time for Mass. Then we return to the Sea of Galilee for lunch and after lunch we visit the church of the Primacy of Peter which is built over the Rock where the Resurrected Christ asked Peter thrice “Do you love me?”. We then take a relaxing boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. We visit the 1st century boat discovered in the mud of the Sea of Galilee. We end the day in Capernaum where Jesus lived during His Galilean Ministry. We visit St. Peter’s house and the synagogue where Jesus preached. Dinner and overnight in Tiberias. (B, L, D)

Mass at Mt Tabor 11 AM

Lunch at Tanureen 

Monday Aug 24:  Mt Beatitudes, Golan Heights, Kursi, and Sea of Galilee

Our first visit will be the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. We continue to Tabgha where Jesus performed the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish. We drive up to the Golan Heights and Caesarea Philippi where Peter said: “Thou art the Christ”. On the way back, we stop at Kursi, where Jesus is said to have healed the two men of demons. Dinner and overnight in Tiberias. (B, L, D)

Mass at Mt Beatitudes 8 AM

Lunch at Daphna

Tuesday Aug 25: Cana, Nazareth and Magdala Center

Depart Tiberias to Nazareth to visit Cana where Christ performed His first miracle and where we can have the renewal of Marriage Vows. We proceed to the Basilica of the Annunciation and the Workshop of S. Joseph Church. We end the day with a visit to Madgala Center. We will pack our luggage tonight. From Galilee, we will drive to Jericho. (B, L, D)

Mass at St Joseph Church, next to Annunciation 10 AM

Lunch at the YMCA Nazareth

Wednesday Aug 26:  Qasr El Yahud Baptismal site, Jericho, Dead Sea

We head to the Jordan Valley and Qasr el Yahud baptismal site on the banks of the River Jordan. We renew our baptismal vows. We visit Jericho and see the Sycamore tree where Jesus’ calling of Zacchaeus is remembered. We will view the Greek Orthodox of the Temptation of Christ Monastery from the foot of Mt Temptation where Jesus was tempted by Satan. After lunch, we have Mass and continue on to the Dead Sea hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Mass at Good Shepherd Jericho 3 PM

Lunch at Mt Temptation Restaurant beside the 7,000 year old Tel (hill).C

Thursday Aug 27:  Bethlehem, Nativity Church, Shepherds Fields, and Mt of Olives

We go to Bethlehem to visit the place of our Lord’s birth in the Basilica of the Nativity. We visit the Shepherd’s Fields where the Angels appeared to the shepherds who were watching over their flocks during the night. In the afternoon, drive to the top of the Mt. of Olives for a panoramic view of Jerusalem and a better understanding of its geography and some of the key sites surrounding the area. We visit the Shrine of the Ascension, Church of Pater Noster where Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, Dominus Flevit and then proceed down the Palm Sunday route to the Garden of Gethsemane where we find the Rock of Agony where Jesus prayed before this betrayal. We visit the tomb of the Blessed Mother also at the foot of the Mt of Olives. Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem. (B,L,D)

Mass at the Grotto of Gethsemane, 4 PM

Lunch at Abu Shanab

Friday Aug 28:  Old City, Mt Zion, Ein Karem, Holy Hour

We have an early start to have Mass at the Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We return back to the hotel for breakfast. We then set off to the Old City via St. Stephen’s Gate. We visit St. Anne’s Church and the Pools of Bethesda, and the Church of the Flagellation. From there, we continue to the Judgment Hall known as the Antonia Fortress where Jesus was led to be condemned to death by Pontius Pilate. We follow the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa through the Old City streets to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In the afternoon, we visit Mt Zion to see the Upper Room or Last Supper Room and the Church of the Dormition. We go to St Peter in Gallincatu, remembering Peter’s denial of Jesus and view the 1st century Maccabee Steps, which was very likely used by Jesus. Continue to the village of Ein Karem, birthplace of John the Baptist. We will proceed to the Wailing Wall and view the two entrances of the Temple from the First century.  Holy hour at the basilica of the agony this night. Back to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B, L, D)

Mass at Tomb in Holy Sepulcher at 07:30 AM

Lunch at Bulghourji

Holy Hour at Basilica at Gethsemane 08:00 PM

Saturday Aug 29: Rest day from Pilgrimage (B, D) – with Bus and Guide

MASS AT MANGER ALTAR, BETHANY IN THE MORNING. FREE DAY.

We drive to Bethlehem to celebrate Mass at the Grotto of Nativity, at the Manger Altar. We drive to Bethany, home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We have a rest day exploring the Old City.

Mass at the MANGER ALTAR at the Grotto of the Nativity (8:30 AM – as arranged by Fr. Angelo)

Sunday Aug 30:  Yad Vashem, Model and Israel Museum, Emmaus, Jaffa

We start the day with a visit to Yad Vashem and then to the model of Jerusalem as it was at the time of Jesus and see the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israel Museum. We proceed to Emmaus where Jesus was recognized by the two disciples. We drive to Jaffa, St. Peter’s Church and celebrate mass there. In the early evening, we transfer to the airport for our flight, departing at 2120. (B, L, D)

Lunch at Modern Israel Museum

Mass at St Peter’s, Jaffa 4 PM

Dinner at St George

GRACES PRESERVED IN ANCIENT STONES

13th September 2015, at Sr. Mel’s

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His were the footsteps we followed. Here we are again, gathered one last time as a pilgrim group, to retrace the footsteps we took. As we looked back, there is a persuasive longing in our hearts to return. We had been wonderfully blessed; our hearts filled with graces to help us walk our journeys ahead.

IMG_0583There is something somewhat different about our faith since we returned. The Word is alive in a very different dimension. As we listened to the Word proclaimed, our spirit wandered into the sites cited. We had been there and this new sense has allowed the Word to penetrate deeper into our senses. Our imagination stirred, and we resolve to dwell deeper into scripture, to study and reflect, and walk the history to its origin, to the time of Adam and Eve. The footsteps we followed had linked for us the Old and the New.

“I believe that I shall see the good things of the Lord in the land of the living” – (Psalm 27:13)

IMG_0547And so we did, abundantly so. Unfolding before us, in the land where he walked, we embraced the unconditional love of the Father, coming home in resolve to love as He did; to pass on this love we have encountered in our privileged life, to allow love to flow through us, so that others will be privileged too.

IMG_0844It is time for us to make a difference, to call for a transformation within ourselves. Graces received will be graces preserved and nurtured. A changed life will be a fitting tribute to the land of the living. A land where we found forgiveness, the time when we wandered away will no longer come back to haunt us.

IMG_0933It is a time for us to make a difference to the people we will meet on life’s journey, to accept each for who they are. For here on this land are a people in conflict simply because we cannot accept each for who we are.

IMG_0995And so we will now walk on, journeying beyond our Emmaus; the Breaking of Bread now personally significant, the Mass now alive in us. Even though we have not found all the answers to our life’s puzzles, we are graced with patience to take each step in hope and anticipation.

One day our steps will return to tap again on graces preserved in ancient stones.

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AT EMMAUS, MY ENCOUNTER WITH MY RISEN LORD.

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“Emmaus was the first site we prayed at on my first pilgrimage and it is the last site of my second pilgrimage. In between was a journey; a changed life and hopefully, and in faith now, a life changed.”

The gospel passage of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus had always meant a lot for me. The stories in my life, the events happened, the initially unseen guidance, the unidentified inner voice, and the road my faith have walked on, is kind of parallel to this passage; I can identify with this walk on the road to Emmaus.

This is my second pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and to this site. A lot had happened in my life since. During my first pilgrimage in May 2013, I had just lost my job; hope for the future was mixed with bitterness about the past. My road in life led me to a job in Bangkok. Displacement had not been easy; I always looked back and wished things never changed, and found myself clinging on to the past. In many sacraments of reconciliation, I heard that I need to “Let go, and God is with you” and that “God is giving you a new life out of your troubles, embrace it”. I had come on this second pilgrimage hoping that this will book-end this transforming period of my life; that I will be free to walk on without the heavy baggage of past needs.

The night before, the last night for our pilgrimage, we were told that the Emmaus site will not be opened as the priest has to tend to an event in Jerusalem. I was disappointed. On the way there, Fr. Angelo said “it would be a miracle if it is open”. An inner voice said that a miracle it will then be; I walked through the open gate with joy and gratitude.

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I ventured on to the path with two other pilgrims just trying to re-enact the walk of the two disciples, not expecting anything ahead; it was just a common, nondescript path. The path rounded a bend where a sign pointed to a Chapel of Adoration up the small hill. We decide to walk on. I was never here on my first pilgrimage. At the top of the hill was a small chapel. Inside, we can spend time with the Blessed Sacrament. We decided to enter to give thanks for a wonderful and blessed pilgrimage.

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Soon after I knelt on the carpet in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I was suddenly overwhelmed. It came without expectation. I cried what must have been a bucketful of tears, I could not control myself; such was the power of whatever that was happening within me.

I was touched, I was healed, I was affirmed, I was assured, and I was comforted. I did not need to find the energy and resolve to surrender all that had been troubling me, in between the tears, they were just taken away from me. Lifted, and I, liberated. In between tears, I felt my grip loosened of things I had been clinging on to. Tears after tears washed away all that hurt, all that uncertainty, and all the fear. When the crying stopped, I felt washed, cleansed, renewed and thankful for my new life. I have finally embraced it; what God want to give me. I can now walk on beyond my Emmaus.

So this is true, the story of Emmaus. We will encounter him at the “breaking of bread”. I encountered my Risen Lord at the Blessed Sacrament high on a hill at the end of a path I was unexpectedly led on. This is my greatest experience of God; my biggest God-moment in my privileged life. This has been a pilgrimage book-ending a chapter of my life. Hopefully it will launch a sequel, with many chapters, for my life to be lived in testimony of the Risen Christ; he who walks step by step with us, never missing one.

His steps led me down that path and up that hill. I have encountered. I want to walk on. I will follow in his steps.

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DAY 9 – HIS FOOTSTEPS FOLLOW OURS

IMG_1159IMG_1160IMG_1161IMG_1162Today is a day of thanksgiving. We have indeed received many blessings and graces on this pilgrimage. We have experienced the Bible in a dimension privileged only for those who come to Holy Land. At the sites and in our sights, through the voice and person of Fr Angelo, from the open sharing of this group, through the people we met and in the silence of our personal reflection, we have heard His footsteps. We have encountered Him.

 

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We visit Yad Vashem to remember the victims of the Holocaust. We visit the Israeli Museum to view the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

We go fittingly to Emmaus. A lot had happened to us over the last 8 days. We have a conversation with our inner self. We quietly ask our inner self, what is happening and what are we to do with this experience? We have come to follow in his steps, where are his footsteps leading us to? Do we want to continue following? 

IMG_1194We celebrate our last mass in Holy Land in a chapel at St Peter’s Church, Jaffa. This is also the home of Fr Angelo. From here he gave us blessings for our journey home. Yet our spirit do not want to leave. The Holy Land is home to our spirit. But we must go as we are sent to continue to live the life given personally to each of us. We will continue to walk the path of our life but now with renewed hope, strength and courage. We must allow the life we live to proclaim the Good News. 

We have come to follow is his steps but from today we walk on, knowing that his footsteps follow ours.

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DAY 8 – O EMMANUEL, GOD WITH US

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We went for Christmas mass in the Manger grotto where Jesus was born! We rejoice! As in many occasions on this pilgrimage we found ourselves truly blessed! God has been generous with his gifts for us and seem to go out of his way to give us the experience. We are first at the Grotto. It is not yet opened to the public. We have the once in a lifetime opportunity to take our time and venerate the star that mark the place where our Saviour was born. He shares with us the humble moment of his birth in the humble surroundings of the cave and manger. We seek the humility to open our hearts to let Him in. 

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Today is our day off; a rest day before we continue ‘our walk to Emmaus’, to come home and allow this pilgrimage to change our lives.

We go to Bethany to catch up on the schedule of holy sites. We visit the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We easily identify with Martha as we are city dwellers always not having enough time to dwell in the Lord. 

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IMG_1031In the compound we find a mustard plant and hold mustard seeds in our palms. They are the tiniest seeds we have seen. Is that all God ask of our faith for mountains to be moved? Indeed, to believe and to give ourselves to him is to rise from our personal tombs of darkness just as Lazarus rose from the dead and emerged from his tomb. 

We visit the Franciscan Church of St Saviour before we let ourselves free to enjoy the sights and shops of Jerusalem, City of God. 

IMG_1063We thank God for the many graces we received on this pilgrimage. We found graces in the passion of Jesus identifying with the cross he carried to the challenges of our life. Our crosses do seem quite small. We regained the meaning of coming for mass, the splendour and beauty of its meaning, and the intimacy we felt with the Eucharist in the small chapels and grottos we celebrated mass in.  

We found love, mercy and forgiveness waiting for us in this Holy Land. We found humility to be poor in spirit, to be more and more dependent on Him. We find some strength to surrender more to his will. We found answers, though not yet complete, to what we are seeking spiritually but confident that it will all be revealed to us, like the little ‘yes’ in Mary that eventually made all these possible. We found our answer in the generosity of his love; to use this love to love others. We find Jesus present in each other from the time more than a year ago when we made preparations to the nightly personal sharing of the steps we have taken to follow in his steps. 

We are indeed grateful for this opportunity on this pilgrimage to renew ourselves and be at peace. In following his steps, He walks with us.

DAY 7 – HE LOVES US

We woke up knowing that the day ahead will be intense. We walked more than 20,000 footsteps following in his steps in this holy city. Our spiritual pulses were racing.

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IMG_0538We started at Calvary venerating the foot of the cross, inserting our entire arm into a hole that held up the wood of the cross. As deep as our arm went, this spiritual experience tore deep into our hearts. This is the depth of his Love.

We entered inside the Tomb of Jesus. Here, on where he laid before he rose, we celebrated mass. In here, the angel sat and told Mary of Magdala to tell others that He Has Risen. In here, John saw and believed. In here, He rose from the dead to become the meaning and reason for the life we live. This is why we have his footsteps to follow.

This is the ultimate privilege – to be here and have mass celebrated for us, hopeful that this experience will lead us to love others the way he loves us. 

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We retraced our steps to start to walk the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross. Just before, we went to the birthplace of Mary and sang her a praise song in the perfect acoustics of St. Anne’s Church. The notes of our hymn lingered on sweet and beautifully; just like the love of our Blessed Mother. We visited the Pool of Bethesda where we prayed for healing; for others and for self.  

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We began at the first station at The Chapel of Flagellation and walked slowly through the old city on its worn stone paths, smoothened down the years. The bustling old city is a distraction but we found solace in the chapels at each station. We enter again The Holy Sepulchre to complete the journey of our redemption at The Tomb. We prayed in the Chapel of Adam and Stone of Anointing, the sin of man now redeemed.

We are somewhat lighter as the joy of the Resurrection begin to take its place in our hearts. We are ready to be filled with the Holy Spirit as we enter the Upper Room (Cenacle). Here we beckoned the Spirit to come. Come sweet Spirit, come. 

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On the way to St. Peter at Gallicantu, we visit Dormition Abbey to remember Mary’s death. At Gallicantu, we again felt forgiveness as we realised the number of times the cock has crowed in our life. We looked at the Macabee steps reminding ourselves of the steps we are taking, as these steps were most definitely walked on by Jesus.

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We moved on to Ein Karem where we echoed Mary’s song of praise, The Magnificat at the Church of the Visitation. Like Mary bringing Jesus to her cousin, we are hopeful for this pilgrimage that we will begin to bring Jesus to others. On the eve of the Feast of St John the Baptist, we visit his birthplace. We too can be St John the Baptist as we make the paths straight for others to encounter Jesus in the mission to reach out to returning Catholics.

We went back to Jerusalem to visit the Wailing Wall and prayed for unity and peace for all people and all faith. 

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Our long day ended with Holy Hour in the Church of All Nations in Gethsemane. After encountering Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we venerate the very stone he prayed on to his Father before his arrest. On this stone, we see the will of the Father fulfilled; from Mary ‘yes’ in Nazareth to Jesus’ ‘yes’ in Jerusalem, “Let thy will be done”. On this stone, we prayed for courage and strength to allow for God’s will in our lives.

DAY 6 – OUR DOOR OF HUMILITY

We caught sight of a donkey as we started off, prophetic of the day ahead. It would be a day of contrasting emotions, ending like that of the donkey, head bowed, just moving on, lumbering along its journey in humility.

20150827_095750We head towards the town where hope was born. We leave the desert joyful in expectations. We sing carols as we enter the little town of Bethlehem. We enter under the roof of the place where our Saviour was born, by bending low to get through the Door of Humility.IMG_0278

We went out to the fields surrounding this cave just to feel the privilege the shepherds must have felt on that first Christmas night; the first ones called to adore Him. Our spirits sang joyfully in the Chapel of the Angels giving glory to the Most High.

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We enter Jerusalem. The city is busy, the pace of life picks up. There are distractions. Holy sites come one after another. But this is also typical of our personal spiritual journey as we head towards our spiritual Jerusalem.

We ascended Mount Olives to stand on the ground Jesus last stood on this earth at the shrine of the Ascension. This was the place of his last footstep. We came to follow in his steps and from here on we must follow in his spiritual footsteps. There is a reverence about this place especially when we hear that He will be with us till the end of time.

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We recite the most meaningful Our Father for a long time at the Pater Noster. We descend lower to Dominus Flevit. We share Jesus’ sorrow as he wept over this city, prophetic as her troubles has continued from then till now. The sight of the city from this vantage point provoked the response, “O, Jerusalem!”

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We visit the Garden of Gethsemane at the Church of All Nations and celebrated mass with a heavier heart in the Grotto of the Betrayal of Judas. Here was also the grotto where the disciples were found asleep as Jesus prayed. Can we do better than the disciples?

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We visit the Tomb of Mary to end a contrasting day when joy and sorrow co-existed. We retraced the spiritual footsteps we have taken in our life and find ourselves in need of direction, affirmation, healing, reconciliations, encouragement, empowerment, assurances to take our next spiritual step.

It was a day of humility, humbled to be here, humbled by his birth and death. Heads bowed we try to take our next spiritual step; that of humility.

DAY 5 – WE HEAR THE SHEPHERD CALLING

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We leave the peace and tranquillity of the Galilee to begin our journey towards Jerusalem. Our spirits had already been stirred over the last 3 days; there is a spiritual call to move on, to continue searching to quiet our hearts. It does feel like we are being prepared to confront our own Jerusalem but now with rays of hope; even the sun spoke through the clouds.

IMG_0212IMG_0199IMG_0207We returned first to the start point of our faith life. By the banks of the River Jordan, we reminded ourselves of our baptism when Jesus marked us with the sign of the cross to claim us as his own. We in turn desired to lay claim to our full Catholic identity and avail ourselves to the love of God. 

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The landscape has altered. We find ourselves travelling through the desert. For all of us, this is not familiar terrain. But deep in the valley of our spiritual selves we know this terrain too well; when we are spiritually dry, where there is pain and hurt from issues yet to be reconciled or when we are simply lost in this world. 

This is the landscape, the terrain, the hot desert, the wilderness, the nothingness where Jesus wandered. We wonder how.

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IMG_0253In the middle of this desert stands the old city of Jericho. In the middle of this old city stands the Church of the Good Shepherd. Long time ago, in the middle of this harsh desert a shepherd left his 99 sheep to go in search of the one he lost.  

IMG_0257 (2)This is how we felt today. We hear the call of the Shepherd. We wished to be the lamb he cuddles but felt more like the sheep jealously tugging at him for attention. We want to follow but there is so much in life in the way. We are lost sheep needing the shepherd. 

Yet this is a desert we must cross. They tell us that the best dates are from Jericho. Unforgiving desert conditions but yielding the best. Life can sometimes be a desert for us due to the harshness of our personal life. But it is a desert we must cross. We know from today that we will come out better for it. 

IMG_0229Indeed, once Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree and saw Jesus, he was keen to reconcile, and keen to channel all his resources to know Him better. Like Zacchaeus, we have gotten a glimpse of Jesus and are now busy preparing to welcome him into our home. We are dead until he comes into us. 

We travelled from the waters of the Jordan that gave us life. We entered a desert and ended up in waters where nothing can live – the Dead Sea. Here we wait for hope to be born. We enter Bethlehem tomorrow.

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