Holy Land Pilgrimage

Great Expectations

January 21, 2020

After a 4-hour delay on the tarmac of O’Hare due to the snow storm, a 9-hour flight to Germany, a 8-hour layover in Frankfurt airport because we missed our original connection flight, and then a 4-hour flight to Tel Aviv, I was exhausted! I was unable to sleep for nearly 28 hours straight. I think all the apprehension of this pilgrimage was literally sucked out of me… Our ways are not God’s ways. He wanted to knock it out of me fast so He and I could get to the very reason He brought me here.

During the months leading up to this pilgrimage, I was telling people that I was going to the Holy Land. Invariably I received one of two replies: “Oh, I was there. You’ll love it” or “God Bless you, you’ll get so much out of it.”

I prayed long and hard on what to expect from this pilgrimage. In my experience, I discovered that when I ask for nothing, God gives me something incredible. My resolution was to become tabula rasa. Tabula rasa is a Latin phrase often translated as “clean slate” in English. I emptied myself out of all expectations. I wanted nothing. I hoped for nothing. I expected nothing.

God was quick to engage. After 5 ½ hours sleep to recharge my batteries and breakfast to fortify my body, my brothers and I went to one of the most beautiful churches. It had all the bells and whistles. It had the marble, the stone, the icons, the incense, the statues, the holy priests and nuns, and on and on. The crucifix on the altar with a suffering Jesus was simply gorgeous. I could not take my eyes off of it; I began to cry.

A young couple sat down in the pew directly in front of me. The young man was carrying an oblong-shaped, corduroy bag of some sort. The young woman unzipped the bag in front of me and inside was a newborn infant, not more than 8 weeks old. This infant was beautiful; I could not take my eyes off of her. Again, I began to cry.

God was overpowering me with beauty. I know He prevails over the evil that roams about the world. Today, He showed me how He does it…it is through an overpowering and an overabundance of joy, and love, and beauty.

Be assured of my prayers for all of you.

Sam Conforti

Diocese of Joliet

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