Monday, June 19, 2017

I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked and Felt His Presence There

I was up at 4:30 am to watch the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee. It didn't disappoint. When the breakfast buffet opened, I got my plate and took it outside to hover in God's presence. I shut my eyes to think about Jesus calming the winds & waves & walking on the waters. Is this for real that I'm in this place I've only read and heard others talk about?
I read my morning Gospel reading that brings together all the reasons for this faith journey: John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life."

Soon, one my fellow travelers came and sat by me with a chair between us. Our conversation included who I knew on this pilgrimage, and why now? I told him this was my sweetheart and my "bucket list" trip and because he gave this to me at his passing, and I'm here with our dearest friends. He said, "I'm so sorry about your husband", and I said, "Oh, don't be. He earned his trip to heaven and besides that, we celebrated 44 years of marriage before he left, in addition to being together since we were 12 & 13 years old. He replied in the sweetest and tenderest way, "I'm going to go now and let you and your husband enjoy yourselves together. He's sitting right here beside you (in the empty seat between us). Then he gave me the biggest "daddy hug I could possibly take. Of course, my heart was tugged and my eyes were filled with tears at this "heaven-to-earth" moment.
Just a little later when we were on our large boat, riding the waves on the Sea of Galilee (I can hardly believe I just put those words in a sentence), and after we had heard scriptures that spoke of the miracles and works Christ did in this region, the sailors of the boat mentioned they were selling laminated maps of the region as well as stones necklaces with momentos of this experience.
A short while later, my friend from this morning, came over to me and said, "My wife and I looked for one of those stones that was the closest resemblance to a heart for you and this is it. It's from your husband." Oh my. This precious couple tugged at my heart strings that created "transcends earth" moments.

Nothing could be said that can compare to this day. Riding in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, hearing God's words to us from scripture that resonated in our hearts as we witnessed the sights and sounds. Our guide brings all this to life for us as he covers it all and explains it all with such wisdom and finesse. I sure didn't realize that the Sea of Galilee is so small. You can be in the boat in the middle of it and see land all around: It's only 8 miles wide and 13 miles long.

This post is longer because I have a good wifi connection and I could add more thoughts and photos!! YAY! The photos will best explain but cannot possibly provide adequate explanation of this experience. Highlights are:

1) On the Sea of Galilee (in John 6) we know that Jesus was above the waves as He walked on water. Seems remarkable as you look at the size of this sea, however our guide told us the waves have gone as high as 8 stories. No wonder the disciples were afraid when they were about to be overtaken by them. Our guide emphasized, "Since our Lord is higher than the waves, He can sure take care of any problems we may have. Peter, in his quest to walk on water with our Lord, took his eyes off the Lord, panicked and began to sink, but as he cried out to the Lord, "Save me!", the Lord did save him.. And that same Lord responds to our call when we cry out "Save me!" How beautiful it was when the boat stopped and we were told "Now, take in the peace of God that Peter must have felt when he gave up his will for Christ's will".

2) After this wonderful boat ride around the Sea of Galilee, the motorcoach took us to the Mountain of the Beatitudes where Christ gave His Sermon on the Mount. Our guide said the hills were the perfect spot for the sermon.
The mountain is so beautiful with lush plants, trees and birds chirping as the backdrop for our morning celebration of mass and communion.

4) We had lunch at a lovely restaurant at Magdala (the home of Mary Magdalene) and were served pita bread, hummus and so many veggies, PLUS a whole fish -- head and all (talapia). So delicious!
Of course that's what we ate. How could you just go see the mountain where Jesus gave His famous sermon and feed over 5,000 men, plus women and children with just 2 loaves of bread and 5 fish? At Magdala is where the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes is located.

5) Then we went to Tabgha where we saw a primitive olive press (of course you need an olive press because of all these olive trees that grow here). Here is the Church of St. Peter's Call to Ministry. Remember after Peter completely "blew it" when he denied even knowing our Lord? We can only imagine the regret Peter had after that. How could he have rejected Christ so easily after he had a front row seat to every miracle and every outreach to others that Christ performed? So he was living in anquish, I'm sure, BUT, Christ forgave him -- so much so that He asked him "Do you love me" over and over and Peter's response was "Yes, Lord, you know I do!" And Christ's reply was "Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep." Once again, the beloved St. Peter went on to build God's church. The rock that Peter was standing on when Christ called him is here at this shrine.

6) Capernaum was our next stop -- Jesus' home town. Jesus' fame spread everywhere when He cast out the unclean spirits from the man. Mark 1:21-34 "Jesus and His companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, He went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at His teaching, for He taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law. Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” But Jesus reprimanded him. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” He ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him.a Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey His orders!” The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee." Capernaum is where the remains of Peter's house, are located. The remains of the oldest synagogue that Jesus taught in is in Capernaum. Capernaum, at the Sea of Galilee, is the place Jesus called Peter, James and John to follow Him.

That was a power-packed day that leaves me overwhelmed at the end of this day. The finale of this day was stepping into the Sea of Galilee -- those waters aren't the same waters, but that place and that sea were once Jesus' place of ministry. In the coolness of the breeze at times, the sea and waters, the hillside, the restaurant, the motorcoach and the holy places......taking in the wonder..... this same Jesus lives in ME and YOU. I didn't need to come here to know that, but coming here has increased my faith in the Son of God, the saints and martyrs, Blessed Mary, Joseph, the apostles and my brothers and sisters on this pilgrimage -- everything and everyone has had a profound effect on my life. Yes, Il'll never be the same!

This morning we leave Tiberius for JERUSALEM! Shalom!