Reflections on the Holy Land

Phil reflects on his experience as a pilgrim in the Holy Land, talking about how being there has given him fresh insight into the life of Jesus and the Gospel.

Overlooking the Sea of Galilee from the shore
Overlooking the Sea of Galilee from the shore

It’s been a few days since I returned from the Westminster pilgrimage to the Holy Land and I have had time to reflect on my time walking in the footsteps of our Lord.

To be honest, I’m still coming to terms with the enormity of the experience and I suspect it might be while before I manage to untangle the range of emotions that I brought back with me.

Nothing could really prepare me for the sights and sounds that unfolded in front of my eyes; each and every turn had me trying to make sense of what I was witnessing and desperately clutching at passages from scripture that referenced places that I was visiting. Breathtaking.

Here’s a very typical example of where I’m at just now. I have been to Mass a number of times since life returned to some form of normality and morning Mass on Wednesday 3 December was typical of how my mind is swirling. The Gospel, if you remember, is from Matthew 15: 29-37 – we hear about Jesus on the Sea of Galilee – it’s the miracle of loaves and fishes. As I heard this Gospel I thought, I’ve just been on the Sea of Galilee and I can now visualise where this miracle happened and can imagine the scene and the impact on those who experienced first-hand the miracle.

Our guide, Ibrahim, talking us through Jesus' final hours in Jerusalem
Our guide, Ibrahim, talking us through Jesus’ final hours in Jerusalem

For me though, the greatest impact during the pilgrimage was after we’d visited Dominus Flevit and looked across to the Holy Sepulchre. The final hours of Jesus’ life were played out in a very small area of Jerusalem and from our vantage point our guide walked us through those final few hours – it was, and is, almost impossible to reconcile. I had no idea about the distances involved and hadn’t really thought about it before the pilgrimage, but now I’ve seen the steps taken and find it bewildering.

There were so many joys over those nine days and I walked alongside a wonderful group of fellow pilgrims; my first time in the Holy Land will stay long in my memory and each and every reading and Gospel from here on in will help me remember my blessed experiences.

If you can get the Holy Land then do; like me, your life will be enhanced.