A Pilgrim’s Focus
November 22, 2021
What a blessing to set foot on the land where our King was born!
It is fitting that we arrived last night in time to celebrate the Feast of Christ the King. In addition, the first holy site we are visiting today is Mount Carmel, now dedicated to our Lady. What a great way to begin our pilgrimage—being accompanied by our Blessed Mother as we follow in the steps of her son!
My brothers and I are in the land where Elijah lived and preached, and where he was taken up in a whirlwind of fire. Today in particular we are visiting where Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal and where St. Simon Stock the hermit received the vision of our Blessed Mother and founded the Carmelite Order. However, how can we know that these events happened exactly where we stand?
A wise professor, Dr. Barrett, gave me a profound insight into this question. She encouraged me to not be distracted, wondering whether we are ten feet or miles away from where an event actually happened; the important thing is to be there. We may or may not have mystical experiences at each of the holy sites we visit, but the most mystical encounter we will have wherever we go is in the Mass. It is in the Eucharist that we will experience the real presence of Christ with us at the sites we visit.
Most Carmelite saints never visited the Holy Land. Yet, they experienced God and witnessed Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and in contemplative prayer. Some of you who are reading this reflection have not visited here either. Hopefully, one day you can come. But if not, remember that a pilgrim focuses on the place where Jesus is rather than the places he may have been.
I pray that you may experience the mystical presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, where together we are unified and sustained in this pilgrim journey toward our heavenly home.
Deacon Manuel Barrios
Diocese of San José, California