…What we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands… we proclaim now to you … so that our joy may be complete.
1 John 1, 3
The excitement was tangible as we stood beside the stone ruins. “We are nearly 100% certain that this was the home of Saint Peter,” explained Said our guide. Below us was a humble structure – a rounded enclosure of walls and chambers sheltered from the blistering heat by the church built directly above. Humble too were the beginnings of Jesus’ public ministry as we toured the site of ancient Capharnaum on the Sea of Galilee. The simplicity of the place was an ‘aha’ moment like so many we shared. In this small town we recognized the mustard seed of Jesus’ early ministry that grew to become a global reality in our Christian faith.
These and numerous other scenes form a series of profound memories from our community’s recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Through the generosity of a few dear friends and benefactors the entire Brotherhood of Hope spent 12 days, from July 4th to the 15th, touring Israel and visiting the lands of the Bible.
We plunged into the Jordan river, hiked the walls of Old Jerusalem, marveled at the gardens of Haifa, sang “Silent Night” in the crypt of the Church of the Nativity and prayed at the Western Wall. We explored, discovered and delighted in retracing the roads our Lord knew so well during his earthly life. We carried a deep awareness that as pilgrims, our steps were guided by the Holy Spirit and our company extended far beyond the brothers present. We brought all our friends, family, alumni and supporters with us in our daily prayers at the holiest sites for Catholics and indeed for all Christians. One follower on Facebook commented, “It feels like we’re there with you.” We felt exactly the same way.
On the third day of our journey, on top of Mount Tabor, we prayed over our newly vowed brothers Logan and Ray. Earlier that day we had celebrated their vows mass and prayed the angelus in Nazareth in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. As we gathered around our young brothers at the traditional site of the Transfiguration we interceded and sought the Lord’s blessing. “I will make you new men.” This was the sense we received from the Lord and truly we descended from Tabor (thankfully by bus) knowing that we all had been changed.
We are deeply grateful to those who gave so generously to make this pilgrimage possible. We also thank our excellent tour guide Said and the Guiding Star tour company for seeing us all the way through our travels. And we thank all of you who prayed for us as we also prayed for you.
“Hic.” Throughout our trip this simple Latin word was our constant companion. It means “here.” The Word became flesh “hic.” Our Lord died on the cross “hic.” He rose from the dead “hic.” With our pilgrimage finished we return to the daily matters of our common life and mission. But like Peter, James and John descending the Mount of Transfiguration, we come away changed. With new vision, new passion and a new closeness with Jesus our All-Sufficiency. All this because we knew over there that He was “hic.” With each of us now he remains “hic.” When we open our hearts to this knowledge, can anything ever be the same?