My Holy Land Journal: Day 1

From February 5 to 12, a group of Senior High School students had the wonderful opportunity of doing a retreat-pilgrimage in the Holy Land. They were accompanied by Father Roque Reyes, their Theology Teacher and School Chaplain. According to Father Reyes, he initiated and organized the trip because “I wanted my students to see where Jesus lived; and walk where He walked in order to know and love Him better. It was only for a little over a week, but it was a life changing experience for all of us. Seeing the place where God who became man lived and walked left an indelible mark in our Christian life and changed forever the way we look at life.”

The group was also joined by some parents, alumnae, faculty and staff. Among them was Chiqui Agoncillo, Woodrose Class of 2012, whose daily reflections we share here.

 
06 February 2018

Shalom from Nazareth! The students and teachers stayed at a Franciscan guest house in the town where Jesus spent his years growing up. Father Reyes reminded us pilgrims today that God called each one of us to be here in the very land where Jesus was born, lived, and died, simply because He has something special prepared for all of us. We wondered: Where would this pilgrimage take each of us? Though we were all to go through the same pilgrimage externally (i.e. by seeing and hearing the same things/places), it was a mystery what each would encounter internally, uniquely. Exciting!

Today, our group visited Nazareth Village, a replica of what 1st-century Galilee would have been like. What a wonderful way to begin the pilgrimage, by helping us better imagine and contextualize the Gospels! Next was the Synagogue Church, built on a site where Jesus is thought to have preached. Our archaeologist and tour guide, Murad, made a good point: whatever the accuracy of a place is in the Holy Land, it would serve one well to remember that the faithful do not base their faith on places per se, but on the person of Christ himself. Still in the Synagogue Church, Father Reyes drew a good point out of the Gospel reading as well: that unlike the people of Nazareth in Jesus’ time, we as pilgrims should take care not to reject Jesus in our hearts over the next few days.

At the bold and distinctively beautiful Basilica of the Annunciation, Father Reyes, during the first meditation of the day, reminded us to try to develop the skill of listening with the heart during pilgrimage, in order that we may discover and say “Yes!” to our vocation. This, he said, requires the interplay of grace and freedom. Our last stops were St. Joseph’s Church nearby, and Mary’s Well. Indeed, it was good to be “home,” in the Holy Land as Catholics, as Murad told us earlier.

 

 

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