The pilgrims have returned from their journey, the jet lag has just worn off and now there is finally time to reflect on the twelve beautiful days spent in Italy and the Holy Land. It is impossible to say what we expected on that Sunday morning, loading our luggage onto the buses. There was a buzz of excitement among those who were present.
A trip for a group that large had never been done in our diocese, nor had the Bishop, himself, ever attended any of the other pilgrimages done in the ten years since his installation. Overall, the group of 88 people who participated knew that they were in for a once in a life time journey, and they weren’t wrong.
To describe all the beautiful places we visited would be useless. There are some things that are too beautiful to put into words. How can I possibly ever do justice to the glory of St. Peter’s Basilica or the simplicity of the Tomb of Christ? In all the places we visited, I was always struck by the way light would stream through the stained glass. Beautiful beams of light would shine into these places and bring them to life. Electricity had no purpose during the day; the sun illuminated the darkness. Similarly, this pilgrimage was an opportunity for all of us to allow Christ to shine more fully in us. Visiting the many holy places that Christ and the Saints once walked was overwhelming. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, there were moments when our eyes were kept from seeing him, but there were also many times when he made himself known to us.
This pilgrimage allowed all of us to appreciate our Catholic faith more deeply. We were at home at every place we visited because we are members of the Universal Church. Every church, every holy site, every monument was a reminder that we are part of this glorious family. We are not tied to blood and land; this family transcends those bonds. Our family is a heavenly one and this pilgrimage was a reminder that our lives are a pilgrimage leading us to our true home, heaven. The pilgrimage was an opportunity to be reminded of this truth. Often, we get comfortable and forget that we are travelers. We may even stop journeying, thinking that this world is all there is, but as soon as we stepped into those churches and walked on that holy ground, we knew that our true home is not here.
Now that we have returned from our pilgrimage and the memories are still fresh in our minds, I hope that we never forget the time we spent together. By the end of the trip, the group was more like a family than a group of pilgrims.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank our Bishop, His Excellency, Mar Sarhad Yawsip Jammo, for putting this pilgrimage together along with Fr. Noel Gorgis. The presence of our clergy and especially our Bishop was a true blessing during the trip. This pilgrimage, in celebration of the ten year anniversary of the establishment of St. Peter Diocese would not have been the same if His Excellency had not accompanied us. Spending so many days with our Shepherd made the pilgrimage that much more meaningful.
On our last day in Jerusalem, His Excellency, Mar Sarhad Yawsip Jammo celebrated Mass at the Church of Emmaus. During his homily, he spoke of how Jesus is always revealed to us in the breaking of the bread. It is in the Mass that we find rest from this life of pilgrimage and taste the sweet bread from Heaven. In the end, the most beautiful part of this pilgrimage is that the Jesus who traveled with us on our journey returned with us as well and makes himself known to us every time we go to Mass. May the liturgy ever remind us of the glory of our faith and instill the hope of heaven in all of us.