DAY 4 – PERSONAL ANNUNCIATION

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Coming to Holy Land is coming to visit sites where our faith was born, where it first took root. Today’s journey into our inner selves reached a road sign at a junction on our spiritual path. It asked, “Where do YOU want to go?”

The words of Mary and the silence of Joseph at their personal annunciations searched deep in our hearts for what Jesus is trying to tell us on this pilgrimage. What is our personal annunciation? We strained to listen for the answer from our hearts, here now barely audible as we find ourselves lost in the events of our personal lives.

IMG_0006The day began with the last words of Mary found in the bible. At Cana she said to “do whatever He tells you”. It was here too that Jesus performed his first miracle. And it is here today that we heard the first words in our group prayer that will lead us to the healing Jesus want to give us. For some of us, our life transformed would be a miracle in itself.

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Mary did whatever she was told and her little ‘yes’ gave us salvation for all man. The Basilica of The Annunciation is huge and hugely impressive, somewhat like a big cave trying to house the exploding effect of a little ‘yes’, now with the glorious splendour the “yes” has consequently created. In front of the small grotto where the angel appeared to Mary we knelt in silence, awed and touched.

IMG_0060We went to where Mary went; to the house of Joseph to contemplate his annunciation and celebrated mass. St Joseph, patron of the worker in us, queried about our conflict in our work and faith lives.

IMG_0139We went on to Magdala, the only place where 1st century stone structures were never built on and over. Here was the place of Mary of Magdala, one chosen to be privileged to be first to encounter the Risen Christ. Here ancient stones spoke. Here, history, present and future is one because the Risen Lord lives!

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In our sharing of our personal annunciation, our personal history was made relevant in the context of our present spiritual life. Fused together we could see that it formed a path on which the Risen Christ had walked all along with us. We are now at this crossroad pondering on where we now want to go. We want to take up the invitation of Jesus to come closer to be loved and healed, to know him better in scripture that has come alive before our eyes, to say “yes” to the calling in our hearts to transform and to change our lifestyles so that we can embrace our annunciation as a call to mission, simply to make his love known.

We seek to be rooted in faith so that through us will sprout shelters of love.

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DAY 3 – INTRODUCING JESUS, AGAIN

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There is something about the Galilean landscape. The hills are alive. They are speaking to us.

5Our mass on the gentle slopes of Mt Beatitudes came alive as the very words of Jesus were proclaimed, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. We found ourselves like one in the multitude sitting on the grassy slope, eagerly listening to the Sermon on the Mount.

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We were then spiritually transported, and physically too, onto the slopes where we were eager to be fed, our eyes feasting on the 5 loaves and 2 fishes and our sharpened sense of the Gospel opened our hearts to realise that our limited gifts and talents could also be multiplied if we only came forward to offer them.

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We then heard something else from Jesus, this time up in the Golan Heights at Caesarea Philippi, “Who do YOU say I am?” We had been asked this so many times before but today this question seem to have far greater weightage. It was ask of us by the very rock Jesus stood by as he told Peter, “you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church”. Today this question was harder for us to answer, hard like the very same rock Peter stood by, as it searched an answer deep within ourselves.

IMG_0112We pondered this when we returned to Mt Beatitudes, today a garden manicured by human hands offering us a landscape of peace and tranquillity. The breeze from the Sea of Galilee blows through, softening us. In this calm we begin to find some answers to the hard question.

The answers are not new but they have been extended to go deeper. Jesus is keen to introduce himself to us again, after today’s experiences no longer confined to the limited definition we have been giving him. The mighty rock illustrated that He is “Lord and God”, yet He is friend, a constant, always there, yet He is a God too. From our experiences collected over three days, this question was like a key to our hearts opening up the desire to say “yes” to the mission call of Jesus and to continue to walk our life with him, knowing that he will always shelter us.

IMG_0053The intense heat, the cloudless sky, the midday sun leaves no shadows on the desert plains. There was one tree and many cows huddled below it seeking its shelter. Even the cows are speaking to us.

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DAY 2 – GOD IS ALLOWING US TO EXPERIENCE HIM

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Excitement, awe and wonder led us through the day. Today we went onto the land Jesus really walked on. At each site, beneath our natural excitement, and the draining heat, each of us began to hear a personal message. Today felt like a day Jesus started to talk to us in a very special way; through these holy sites where his Gospel began to take shape so as to shape all our lives.

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IMG_9730We were high at the first site; high on a mountain, high in spirits and spiritually high. Petitions carried by us for family and friends were expressed vocally at mass, our raw emotions met by the consoling touch of the Holy Spirit. This mass at the Chapel of Elijah in the Church IMG_9731of The Transfiguration atop Mount Tabor will always stay with us; somehow there is now meaning to the routine, mundane celebration of mass. We were falling deeper into our faith life.

IMG_9796Descending the mountain, ascending in spirituality we moved on to St. Peter’s Primacy. Though we did not have breakfast with Jesus, we fed on his love and forgiveness for his disciples and pondered on the mission call to feed the sheep.

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We went onto the Sea of Galilee floating for a storm. The wind really blew, strong enough to get an idea that a miracle is needed to calm it down. We took in the physical landscape of Galilee and imagined the footsteps of Jesus, the lolling hills indeed ideal for a sermon. We were greeted at Capernaum with a sign saying “the Town of Jesus”. He was here, with Peter in his house, and was there in the synagogue. We are here to follow in his steps.

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His steps led us on a climb again. We are up on Mount Beatitudes. It is beautiful, calm and tranquil. Peace is with us for the next three nights.

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We had a night-cap acknowledging the spirit. Today was a cocktail of various graces; a mix of love, gratitude, joy, forgiveness, transformation, thanksgiving all served to a personal preference.

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DAY 1 – GOD’S WELCOME

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We were asked at the end of a long day, “How did you feel about, or experienced God’s welcome to Holy Land in the things we did or through the people we met? Our reflection question was a welcome to go even deeper into why we all came.

happyadamThe long flight did not at all affect the excitement of finally stepping onto Holy Land but gradually being exposed to the sun along the Mediterranean coast at Caesarea Maritima sapped away at our energies. If left unchecked, we will perhaps not see God’s welcome at all!

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MassStellaMarisAnd so, Mary continued to be the star leading us on this pilgrimage. We arrived at Stella Maris at the Carmelite Monastery to celebrate the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, having left Singapore on the wing of the blessings received on the Solemnity of the Assumption. MassStellaMaris2She is determined that we pilgrims mark each day with an awareness that God is indeed present in the little details of our personal life.

20150822_142433We felt God’s welcome at Istanbul airport when we finally linked up with the person of Ding who we had shared preparations with through Facetime from her base in London. God’s agents of a warm welcome in Tel Aviv came in the LunchPortCafepersons of Fr Angelo and the still awesome Mr Issam. The very pretty setting and the sea breeze and the wonderful food at lunch was God’s ‘disguised’ welcome, as how often do we take the nice things for granted?

And so it is. Having come with ‘eyes opened’ we are now journeying into our itinerary with ‘eyes searching’, searching for the deeper meaning of the ‘why’ we actually came and opening our hearts to welcome Him in as He welcomed us in.

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HOLY LAND 2015 – “I WILL FOLLOW IN HIS STEPS”

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We have come to follow the footsteps of Jesus with the hope that the physical steps we take will lead us to experience in a special way the meaning of His life. We hope to follow his spiritual imprint that will transform us and give us the courage to change our lifestyle, gradually but convincingly to live a truly meaningful and holy life. 

This pilgrimage was meant for 2014 but troubles in this land meant we could not come. We dedicate our footsteps to all who were in the original group but are not with us on this journey. We know you walk with us.

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