In November of 2018, my life was forever altered through an opportunity to co-lead a trip to Israel.
I had never really felt particularly called to visit the Holy Land before. I will be honest, I was afraid. The Middle East is a known place of conflict. I made a promise to follow Jesus wherever he called me, and I have tried to obey that call. Yet as a wife and mom of young children, I just wasn’t sure if the Holy Land would be a safe place for me to go. In retrospect, I think of how often we all say through various circumstances, “Yes Jesus, I will go. I will follow you… just not there.”
The invitation had been extended but I was fearful. It’s easy to make the case for making a “virtual” pilgrimage. After all, we have Sacred Scripture, Google Satellite, National Geographic and countless documentaries that could just as easily transport me there without leaving the safety of my own comfortable home.
I have answered Our Lord’s summons to go to an unassuming orphanage in Czestochowa, Poland where our little girl waited for a home. I have followed Him to the mountains of Haiti and the hovels of Guatemala. Mostly though, I follow him in the ordinary hours of my life as a stay-home mom. He is Emmanuel, God With Us, and I trust that truth no matter where I am, He is there.
Our Lord is also sometimes called the Hound of Heaven. When I met Father John Michael Paul, a brother with the Community of Saint John, I think it was then that knew Jesus was pursuing me as not just Good Shepherd but holy hound to come to the City of David.
To Galilee. The Jordan River. To Mount Tabor. Gesthemene. To Golgotha and the Holy Sepulchre.
Brother John Michael Paul has a great passion for Israel and teaching others about Jesus as Rabbi and Messiah. When I had the opportunity to partner with him for a pilgrimage, I knew it was time.
I detailed our journey in a two-part series on my podcast, Good Things Radio. Click here for Journey to the Holy Land, Part One.
In Part Two, I share how exactly my life was forever altered by this trip. An unexpected overnight spent in the Church of Holy Sepulchre still remains a surreal and out-of-body experience.
I share this with you simply as a humble invitation. Perhaps you too, are being called to the Holy Land? Perhaps, like me, there is a lingering apprehension and a need for a clear sign. Whether or not you set foot on the soil of Israel certainly has no bearing on the power of God’s love and daily presence in your life. Our Alpa and Omega! The one who is, who was, and who is to come, resides in your heartbeat and every breath you take.
Yet, consider this. The Holy Land has been called The Fifth Gospel:
“Five gospels record the life of Jesus. Four you will find in books and one you will find in the land they call holy. Read the fifth gospel and the world of the four will open to you.” –Father Bargil Pixner
As you stand among the ruins at Capernaum, absorb the breathtaking panorama of the Mount of Beatitudes and enter the Jordan River, it is impossible not to become enlivened with the living Spirit of God. Our imaginations are illumined in a way that captures the scenes of the world Jesus lived in. I can remember standing in “The Sacred Pit” where Jesus was held the night of his arrest. My heart was seized with such profound sorrow that I literally began to tremble.
During Holy Mass in Bethlehem during Advent, tears from our pilgrims were plentiful as we collectively pondered the Word Made Flesh, born into our broken world just steps from where we stood and worshipped as the Wisemen did.
Perhaps the most powerfully unexpected moment was at Lazarus’ Tomb. Suffocatingly small, we braved our claustrophobic apprehensions and crawled into the cramped crypt as a group. We prayed for a happy death, all those so in need of a resurrection of heart and spirit.
One of the most astonishing revelations to me on the trip was learning that the most common phrase in both the Old Testament and the New Testament is “Be not afraid” or “Fear not!” I knew of the many times this phrase was uttered (especially in the New Testament) but my heart was moved when I was reminded of the very reason I hesitated to come on the pilgrimage. Fear! Our loving Abba-Daddy knows us so well and speaks through all circumstances to draw us to Himself. Our Good God.
For the rest of my life, I will cherish the days that I spent in Israel getting to know my Champion, my Father, and Redeemer. It is with great honor that I invite you to join us again, as Brother John Michael Paul and I journey to Israel, March 2-12, 2018.
Find out more about this once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage, here.
I hope you will consider joining us!