A Holy Land reflection from pilgrim Chris McMurray: We spent the first eight days of our Holy Land pilgrimage focused, among other things, on Jesus’s life, teachings and miracles outside of Jerusalem. Our travels took us to such places as the Sea of Galilee (loaves and fishes, Sermon on the Mount, and others), Bethlehem, Nazareth, Cana (water into wine), Mt. Tabor (the Transfiguration), Bethany (Lazarus raised from the dead), and the wilderness where Jesus withstood the Devil’s temptations. 

Now, we are focused on Jesus’s last days – days of initial triumph that turned into intense suffering and death for our Lord. We walked from Bethpage – where Christ mounted the donkey colt – down the Mount of Olives, roughly following the path that he took on his Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem.  We stood in the room that tradition holds was the site of the Last Supper, and in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was betrayed and arrested. It is a place of great beauty, but where the anguish Jesus felt as he awaited his betrayal is palpable.

I was most affected, however, by walking the Stations of the Cross this morning (Friday). I have never walked the stations before, and never really knew what each one was about. It is a powerful experience, starting with the site of Jesus’s conviction and flogging, continuing along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) as he struggled to bear the cross, and ending with his crucifixion, death and burial in the tomb, now located in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We entered the empty tomb – its emptiness being the essence of our belief in the resurrected Christ.

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After every Eucharist, I say a prayer thanking God for Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross for my redemption, and asking God to help me be worthy of this gift. Viewing the sites of Christ’s suffering makes this prayer all the more real and powerful in my life.