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Holy Land Pilgrimage

Blessed are the Poor – Journeying With the Shepherds to Bethlehem

November 29, 2022

Greetings from Bethlehem! Over the weekend, we visited Shepherds’ Field in the town of Beit Sahour. This is where the angels announced to the shepherds the birth of Jesus. It sits on top of a hill overlooking nearby mountain towns. It is a beautiful and tranquil place with many caves and large stones. These caves serve as a place of refuge for the shepherds and animals in times of inclement weather.

We were given some time to explore the site and pray. As I was reciting the rosary in one of the caves, I couldn’t help but notice the waves of pilgrims joyfully singing Christmas songs such as “Angels we have heard on high.” The place was coming to life with people singing as if the angels had just appeared to them. I was trying to imagine what it would be like when the angels appeared and announced such important, momentous, and significant news to the shepherds. They probably wondered why angels would appear to them, the lowly shepherds. It reminds me of the Beautitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5: 3).

Following in the footsteps of the shepherds, we decided to walk to the Church of Nativity to adore Jesus instead of taking the bus back. It was about a 3-mile uphill walk in the rain. We began the hike by listening to an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke and continued while praying the rosary. We arrived, soaked, at the Church of Nativity, and when I told one of the locals about our journey, he said it would have been easier had we walked there and taken the bus back. We, however, were in the spirit of pilgrimage and didn’t mind the more difficult journey. Then, we lined up with the rest of the pilgrims and visited the manger and the birthplace of Jesus. Afterwards, we gathered to sing “O Come, All Ye Faithful” in the cloister outside the Church.

Today, we celebrated Mass in the grotto of the Nativity. It was so special and beautiful. This is where the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Out of all the places on earth, he chose to be born among animals in this poor city (Bethlehem is still very poor). God loves us so much that he chose to be like us in our humanity so we can be like him in his divinity. He loves us so much that he chose to be poor so we can be rich in his love, a love beyond our understanding.

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