Two weeks ago, I got the wonderful opportunity to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Fr. Peter and Catholic Campus Ministry at George Mason. It was a truly incredible experience. I literally walked in the footsteps of Jesus. There were many highlights throughout the trip, but I’ll do my best to share the most impactful!
Primacy of Peter | Bible Verse – Jn 21: 15-23
One of the places we stopped was the Primacy of Peter. This was right off the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Our guide, Hussam, gave us a quick overview of the spot where Jesus cooked breakfast for the disciples and where Jesus redeemed Peter’s three-fold denial. There is a church built around the rock right off the shore (see picture). It is a strongly held tradition that it was there that Jesus asked Peter if he loved him three times. Personally, I had a great reflection on this passage. Using some good old Ignatian Meditation, I put myself in Peter’s shoes. I imagined what it would have been like to be on the shore with Jesus. The cool breeze against your face, the calmness of the sea as you talked with Jesus. As I talked with Jesus on the shore, I truly felt him asking me to love him better by tending and feeding his sheep. Who are these sheep? They’re my friends, family, and brothers in community. I felt incredible peace talking with the Lord on that shore, just as Peter did.
Mary’s House | Bible Verse – Lk 1: 26-38
One of the other memorable places we visited on our pilgrimage was the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth (which contains Mary’s house beneath it). We had Mass right in front of Mary’s House, where right in this very spot the Word became Flesh! It was so neat to be in such an awesome, yet simple place. Hussam told us that before the New Testament, Nazareth had never been mentioned. It was probably a shock for most Jews to hear that the Messiah was born in Nazareth. God was definitely trying to prove a point, though. Mary’s House, as the picture shows, is really more like a cave. It’s has only the basics, and is incredibly simple. Here, in this backwater town of Nazareth, God came to us. He was definitely trying to make a point. We had a Holy Hour one evening with the Franciscans at Mary’s House. It really struck me how God wants us to focus not on the external but on the internal. Mary’s house wouldn’t have gotten a second look today or back in her time. That didn’t matter, though. Her heart was in the right place, and she was concerned with loving God and her neighbor. That mattered more to her than house! As a Youth Apostle dedicated to imitating Mary’s radical yes, it was also extra special to be at this spot. We pray for her intercession daily in our lives and in our ministries
St. Peter in Gallicantu | Bible Verse – Jn 18: 15-27
Gallicantu simply means “the cock crows.” It’s at this spot where Peter denied Jesus three times. It was awesome to be in the spot where Peter denied Jesus and where Jesus redeemed Peter’s denial! Fr. Peter celebrated Mass here for us, and afterwards we were able to go down beneath the church. This was where prisoners would have been kept (the church is built over top of Caiaphas’s house). Hussam told us about the two different prisons: one for common criminals and one for extreme political revolutionaries. Jesus fell into the second category since the Pharisees believed he was trying to overthrow them. It was here that Jesus would have stayed the night before he went to Calvary on Good Friday. As you walk into the dungeon, you can see the imprint of a figure on the wall (see picture). The picture is edited so you can make out the figure on the wall. It was difficult to make out at first, but after spending some time the figure of Christ became clear. When I finally made out the image of Jesus on the wall, my heart jumped. I had seen the Lord! That must have been the feeling the disciples had after they had seen Jesus when he rose. “It was him, he’s alive!” It was a joy-filled moment, and it was truly humbling to know that I stood in the spot Jesus did the night before he offered himself up for us.
It’s not 100% certain that this imprint is of Jesus, but from the evidence found it’s likely that he was here. Above the imprint is a large hole where Jesus would have most likely been hung by chains. To light the dark cell, an oil lamp was used. However, it was also used as a torture device. Oil from the lamp would drip onto the prisoner, causing immense pain. This oil is what left an imprint on the wall, and allows us to see Jesus’s position.
There were many other highlights throughout the trip, and I could write about it for days. Hopefully, though, this gives you a glimpse into the trip and inspires you to go one day! I highly recommend it. The Lord will work wonders!