I’ve heard many people say that you know the true people of God by their joy. Today was a particularly joyful day for our pilgrim group, and I know it came from the extraordinary encounters we had with God’s presence.
In the morning, we traveled up to the top of Mt. Tabor, the place where Jesus was transfigured (see Matthew 17; see photos). The church, taken care of by the Franciscan friars, was stunningly beautiful. After an introduction to the site and surrounding area, we had an hour to experience God in silent prayer, meditation or Confession.
Immediately, I was drawn to the left of the main altar (see photo), where the Blessed Sacrament is kept. There, pilgrims from around the world were prostrate at the feet of the Lord, much like Peter, James and John fell prostrate at the sound of the Father’s voice (Mt. 17:6). So I sat down amid them and opened my Bible to Matthew 17.
In an experience that I can only describe as Spirit-led, I became extremely engaged with this relatively short Scripture passage. Previously, the story had not meant much to me. It had seemed like a story that just told us how these three disciples knew Jesus’ glory.
Yet, as I sat there at the feet of Jesus on the top of this blessed mountain, God guided my eyes to read each verse over and over again. With each reading, I began to understand – the eyes of my mind were enlightened.
I saw Jesus bringing his three close friends aside, trekking the terrain with them, and making the steep climb to the top of this mountain – which stands higher above the rest. I marveled at Jesus’ glory revealed to the three in his transfiguration. I laughed at Peter’s eagerness to begin erecting tents for their visitors. I understood the disciples’ fear upon hearing the voice of the Father booming from Heaven. I found comfort in the fact that, when they lifted their eyes after being afraid, they only saw Jesus.
By the time I was finished, I was so convinced of God’s presence and majesty in that place that I knelt with my face to the ground. My mind contained no words or images. All I could do was worship the Son of God.
After an hour of prayer, I joined the pilgrim group as we celebrated Mass at the main altar. Later, our joy overflowed into the Arab town of Cana, where the married couples among us renewed their wedding vows in the active Catholic parish. (Click here to see the video.) In Cana, Jesus sanctified marriage by performing his first miracle during a wedding feast (see John 2; see photos). We had the opportunity to meet a local parishioner, whose cousin was getting married in the evening. She happily told us that to this day, weddings in Cana are a community affair; everyone is invited to celebrate for several days. Perhaps even more than 1000 people celebrate each local wedding. (Our entire pilgrim group was invited to attend this evening’s wedding! While our schedule didn’t allow it, we were touched by her testimony to the local custom.)
Mary Jane has told us that we are “on a honeymoon with Jesus” in Galilee. The landscape is lush and fertile, with fruit ripening on trees everywhere. As we finish this ‘honeymoon’ and transition to the rocky, desert Judean area, we give abundant thanks for these days of prayer in Galilee. May God use the graces and joys of these past few days to strengthen us, so that we may support the crosses that we carry into Jerusalem.