A year ago today, parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes and friends were on pilgrimage in the Holy Land. It was a very moving trip for all who made the journey. Having studied in Jerusalem for three months in seminary and having traveled to the Holy Land on multiple occasions, I told our pilgrims that one of my personal highlights was witnessing how moving the pilgrimage was for them, in the land known as the fifth Gospel.
For many pilgrims, including me, the highlight of the pilgrimage was March 18, 2019. We awoke early in the morning to walk the Via Dolorosa – the way of the cross in Jerusalem. After devoutly praying together the stations of the cross through the streets of the Old City, we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the ancient church that marks the place where Jesus died and was raised to new life.
Upon arrival, we had time for prayer and then ascended the stairs to the location of the crucifixion to celebrate an early morning Mass in the chapel of the crucifixion of our Lord. The steps up to the chapel are worn from the feet of many pilgrims who have, with devotion and faith, trod this same path over many years. In my homily, I said that we are in spiritual communion with all of our fellow pilgrims who have made this same journey of faith.
As I began the Mass, a surprise guest appeared almost out of nowhere, and asked if he could celebrate the Mass with us. He was an elderly diminutive Polish priest who looked like he had just gotten out of bed. He had a kindly countenance and demeanor. As I prayed the Mass, he turned the pages of the sacramentary. All in attendance took note of the presence of our helpful mystery guest. Later, in prayer, I reflected that this is not unlike the role that Jesus plays in our lives. He stands beside us and offers gently to help us. In reflecting on this moving experience, I imagined Jesus say to me: “You just pray, I will turn the page.”
In these challenging times – these times of uncertainty – it is important for people to know that Jesus is beside us, accompanying us on our journey of life and faith. Jesus always respects our freedom, but also generously offers a hand, to turn with grace, the pages of our life. The story that Jesus seeks to write with our response of faith is one of new life, onto God’s boundless glory.