My wife and I, as well as other pilgrims from our group, have been spending our time since coming home letting our bodies adjust to the “jet-lag.” It is easy to blame many things on jet-lag until the excuse will no longer work. I noticed towards the end of last week, that beyond any expectation, I simply missed being in Jerusalem. In truth, I had spent several months ahead of our pilgrimage slightly afraid of what was ahead of us. Our media only report violence from the Mideast – not daily life.
I had no idea, that after a week at home I would feel a certain emptiness that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was not a 20 minute walk from my dwelling. And there are many other places that I came to value, even in a single visit – with the thought that I may not see them again in this life bringing a great sorrow. I understand the drive that took root in the hearts of faithful Christians – from the time of St. Helena forward. We were told at the beginning of our pilgrimage that the average medieval pilgrimage could expect that 30 per cent of its pilgrims would die in the effort. We had no casualties. What is of great interest is that such casualities did not discourage ancient pilgrims.
I have some sense of understanding, now, and pray that if God should so permit, I may return again and stand in those Holy Places. I know that every place I stand is a holy place and I do not mean to increase one or diminish the other. I only know what my heart longs to do. I love Jerusalem, and pray for its peace and all who dwell there.
What I would grieve most of all is the idea that I might have gone there and not brought home in my heart some portion of what was given to me. I do not think I was sent for myself alone. What I saw and what I heard was not “this happened here,” or “this is where so-and-so used to live, etc.”, but a living Church and faithful Christians. The monks of Mar Saba still encounter the great saint from time to time. He still visits the monastery after 1700 years. The keeper of the shrine of the home of the Mother of God in Jerusalem has seen her in a waking vision, in which, in tears, she thanked him for taking care of her home. Such stories abound in the Holy Land if you get out of line and just hang around. Faith speaks to faith.
But I long for faith to speak to faith – mine to yours and yours to mine. May God give us grace in the midst of this world to see with faith, to speak with faith, and to be so blessed as to encounter faith in the lives of others.