Where else can you see and feel and touch the stories from the Gospels that you’ve heard in every Sunday Mass of your life?
I first visited the Holy Land, Israel, in February 1995. The trip was organized by a Catholic Parish Deacon in New Jersey where my sister used to live. She and my mom talked me into joining. So off we went with a bunch of relatives and friends. I did not know then the impact it had on me.
I was so awed, by the holy places we visited. In the tour group were our Spiritual Director, Fr. Walter from New York, and Deacon Ed Guidotte from New Jersey. Deacon Ed’s comment: "Every person should visit the Holy Land before he or she dies." I truly believe what he says. Unless one has personally experienced tracing the footsteps of Jesus Christ -- from His birth to His death -- one cannot truly measure You know what? It’s true. It was so strong for me, it affected me so much that from then on I have been encouraging my friends and relatives to go to Israel and trace the footsteps of Jesus Christ . After that trip and shortly after, it was the Holy Week. Everything that I hear, during the services about the passion of Jesus, was received with much
more meaning. I was there, saw the places, touched and felt them. The Bible came to life.
From north to south, we may say that everything recalls Christ … and Jerusalem in a sense sums them all up. Virtually , all the stories in both the Old and New Testaments happened in this tiny strip of land, Israel.
The significant Biblical sights that the pilgrims visit are: Nazareth, where it all began – the Angel Gabriel appeared to our Blessed Virgin and where Jesus grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men ; Cana – sight of the first miracle of Jesus; Galilee- the home of the best gospel stories ever told. We usually stay for 2 nights here in a hotel by the lake, and people get the chance to meditate at the beach, the next morning a ride on the lake. It allows you to meditate and reflect on Jesus spending time with his apostles and his walking on the water. The boat is similar to that used in the ancient times; Capernaum, where Jesus spent 3 years of his ministry; Tabgha- miracle multiplication of loaves and fishes ; Mt. Of Beatitudes; Mt Tabor – or Mt. of
Transfiguration; Bethlehem, sight of the Nativity; The River of Jordan; The Via Dolorosa, allows you to carry a small cross and re- enact Jesus’ suffering- - this is one of the most touching moments when one walks the actual path in Jerusalem - onto the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is on top of Golgotha. Here you will see the big rock where Jesus died on Cross, then onto the tomb where Jesus was laid to rest; The Upper Room , sight of the Last Supper; The Garden of Gethsemane –you will find many living olive trees that dates back in the time of Jesus.; The House of Caiphas, in his basement you’ll find the original dungeon, where Jesus was imprisoned before he was sentenced ; Meggido – sight of the Armageddon ; and many more.
Israel , rich in history, is a very beautiful country. For a day’s trip you, may visit the Dead Sea and Masada, one of the palaces of Herod. The visits to churches, basilicas, temples, the Western Wall, the Dome of the Rock, and other manifestations of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, adds up to an unusual experience. Tourist and visitors cannot remain indifferent before these elevated expressions of the cultural and religious heritage of a large portion of the human race.
Since 1995, Dindo, my husband, and I became committed to organizing one or to two trips a year to the Holy Land. You can call it a mission. The satisfaction is – we see people somehow improve their spiritual lives, some converted from being non-active Catholics to better practicing Catholics and for non-Catholics – to better Christians. We see our friends happy and to gain a lot of truly good friends is priceless.
Each and every pilgrim (whether Catholic or non-Catholic Christian ) that went with us, after 7 trips, expresses contentment and would always say that he or she wants to go back with the rest of the family and friends. Each trip is always well planned. The services that we get from one of the best tour operators in Israel are very satisfactory, not to mention the very reasonable price we get. The purpose of arranging such pilgrimages , and not through a local travel agent, is to cut the middleman, therefore, the tour quality accommodations and price of the package is at its best. Having been there many times we know what to ask to get the best tour package.
So, friends, how about having one trip , exclusively for us Ilonggos and our dear friends in our community? It would be nice, would’t it?
The millennium is coming. Where else would you go?
For info : Call Dindo Javellana at 410-544-3499 (E-mail address: VinyJ@AOL.com)