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Holy Land Pilgrimage

Hurried with Haste into the Hill Country

February 9, 2019

“During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” (Luke 1:39-40)

Since the start of our Pilgrimage we have had the opportunity to visit the Church of the Visitation, the site of the traditional home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, which is in Ein Karem, as well as Nazareth and Bethlehem and the surrounding environs. The distance from Nazareth, the home of Mary and Joseph, to Ein Karem is about 90 miles. This would be hard enough on foot or on donkey.

However, I now know Ein Karem. Nazareth as well as Bethlehem are very hilly and very rocky, and, because of this, travel is very difficult.

Israel is on a great fault line. It’s the northern extension of the Great African Rift valley, which is a series of connected fault lines between the African and Asian tectonic plates. This fault line gives us the lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea (the water surface elevation is 1,412 feet below sea level) and mountains and ridges and an otherwise rumpled earth.

It’s a twist-your-ankle sort of place. Up and down even over short distances, a need-to-catch-your-breath, when-will-we-be-there place. I can’t imagine walking this while pregnant; even riding on a donkey or camel would be difficult. Some of the guys rode a camel and it is quite jerky to get up and stay on. Suffice it to say, my understanding of what Mary endured is much greater than I ever realized.

We also travel hilly rocky roads in our lives. Life can be very much up and down. Things going well and then in the midst of one of life’s many struggles. Unexpected pitfalls that leave us bruised and feeling beaten. Wondering, “Where is God?”

However, Jesus is always with us. He never gives us more than we can handle (1 Cor 10:13). Mary was brought safely to Bethlehem and then safely to Elizabeth. If we trust God and continue to follow his ways even in the dark times (Ps 23:4) we too will be brought through life’s struggles to the destination that God has planned for us. It might be a stable or cave but what ever it is, God’s plan is way better than our plan and will bring us great joy even in the midst of difficulties. We know how the story ends. Jesus overcame Satan and Death and is the first fruits of those who have died (1 Cor 15:20). For every Good Friday there is an Easter Sunday. Jesus did rise from the dead. We are an Easter people!

Peter Infanger

Diocese of Joliet

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