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Pilgrimage doesn't
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placeholder June 26, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA

Rev. Jayababu Nuthulapati, CPPS, center, with some members of the pilgrimage group taken on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Pilgrimage doesn't end with the journey — a reflection

After this year's Easter Sunday, there were about 60 of us who went on a pilgrimage to the Land of the Bible.

We started our journey in Jordan at Mount Nebo, where it is believed Moses died and was buried and where he viewed the Promised Land. To step on that ground where those holy feet must have trodden and stood on thousands of years ago and to feast one's eyes on the same vast land that those eyes that have seen God through the burning bush was just so overwhelming.

We continued by crossing the border between Jordan and Israel, and found ourselves on one of the most holy places — the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and where the three divine persons of the Holy Trinity were present at the same site and time. May the renewal of our baptismal vows in this place give us the grace to become more beloved children of the Lord.

We proceeded to the Shepherd's Field where the angels announced to the shepherds the birth of Jesus. Then we went to the site where Jesus was born. What could be the gift of "gold, frankincense and myrrh" from each one of us? "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son …"

In this place, I pondered the essence of silence in our relationship and communion with God. Baby Jesus could have been born during daytime. But He has willed Him to be born amidst the stillness of the night — when everything was so quiet except for the hymns of angels glorifying the newborn King!

In the Upper Room, the thick stone walls bore witness to the sacred silence that St. John embraced as he leaned to listen to Jesus' heartbeat during those last moments in the Last Supper. Jesus Himself sought silence while He went to a deserted place to pray. He told His disciples to wait and keep watch while He went to pray in silence in the Garden of Gethsemane. Indeed, silence from the world brings us closer to God.

As we walked through the ruins of the village of ancient Capernaum, visited the remnants of the porticos of the healing pools of Bethesda, strolled along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and climbed the mount to Calvary through Via Dolorosa, I came to realize that discipleship remains wanting after two thousand years.

If Jesus wept over Jerusalem at The Mount of Olives, He still weeps over the outside corners of Jerusalem because of the lack of faith.

The Beatitudes during His Sermon on the Mount have never been more relevant than these times in the history of mankind. I still find Him moved with pity upon seeing the flock that needs more shepherds. He healed 10 but continues to look for the other nine that didn't go back to Him to express gratitude on the road to Jerusalem.

And yes, we still find ourselves in the crowd screaming for His crucifixion by our repeated sinfulness. Yet, He is the same loving God feeding us in the Eucharist and at the deserted place of Tabgha, the site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

He is the same forgiving Master waiting for us to ask to be healed like the paralytic by the pool. He still assures us that we will be with Him in paradise in our prodigal state. I firmly believe in His love as I touched the rock that held up the Cross where He died. And I profess faith in His resurrection and life after while I touched His empty tomb.

As we rounded up our pilgrimage in Egypt, my reflection was centered on motherhood; being a mother myself.

It is very difficult to fathom the pain that St. Anne and her daughter, Mary, must have had being separated in the early days of her motherhood. Was St. Anne very concerned of the Holy Family's safety during their flight to Egypt? Was she worried about how Jesus, a newborn baby, would fare in the long journey in the heat of the desert? Will there be kind people to offer roof over their heads to rest at intervals along the way? How would they be welcomed in a foreign land? How much she probably would have loved to take a turn to take care of Baby Jesus so her daughter would get some rest.

On the other hand, Mary, her daughter, must have been so sad to bring Jesus, their only grandchild, so far from His grandparents. Did they get to hear Him utter His very first words from Whom mankind learned truth? Did they witness His very first baby steps which eventually became the giant steps that climbed Mount Calvary for the salvation of us all?

"Wake up time. Baggage out ..." the pilgrimage did not end there. We still continue the "wake up call" in our slumber periods to find our own road to the new Jerusalem. We have to get the ‹baggage out" again and again in the sacrament of reconciliation.

In one of the conversations during our final dinner, I heard somebody say to Father Jay: "Please don't give up on me, Father ..." This made the pilgrimage all worth it for I do care.

Because he is my brother!

(Bella Asis, a parishioner at Holy Spirit Church, Fremont, wrote this after her Holy Land and Egypt pilgrimage earlier this year. It was led by "Father Jay," Rev. Jayababu Nuthulapati, CPPS, pastor of St. Edwards Parish, Newark. The extension of the pilgrimage to Egypt was optional, Asis writes. "We were scared to go but so glad we did. It's a place to see and experience in a lifetime!")

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