Holy Land Pilgrimage

Lord, It is Good That We are Here

February 18, 2022

Visiting the sites in the Holy Land is often a surreal experience. Am I really about enter the place where the angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary? Am I really at the place Jesus changed water into wine? Am I really sitting on the shores where Jesus called his first disciples? I had the same feeling as we ascended Mount Tabor, the traditional site of Jesus’ Transfiguration before Peter, James, and John. Like those disciples, I had no idea what was waiting for me at the peak of that holy mountain.

The church that now sits at the peak is beautifully adorned, including a grotto-style chapel where we celebrated Mass that day. Around the altar were numerous mosaics of angels and scripture verses of the story of Jesus’ saving acts. My eyes were drawn, however, to the mosaic above the altar that read (in Latin): “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” You will recognize these as the words of Peter as the transfigured Lord stood before him conversing with Moses and Elijah. The Latin verb translated as “to be” is esse, which has implications not just of location, but of existence. God was calling me just to be in his presence, just to be his son and disciple in that holy place.

As I continued to pray there, I was drawn by the Lord’s glory revealed in the Transfiguration. It was springing forth from the pages of scripture and from the very place itself. The disciples tasted the glory of Jesus’ divinized form in preparation for witnessing his Passion in Jerusalem. The talk of “carrying your cross and following Jesus” must have been strange, but they had the true glory of the Lord to hold onto.

When it was time to descend Mt. Tabor, we came down out of an actual cloud, just like the disciples did with Jesus 2,000 years ago. As we crept below the cloud, I saw Nazareth in the distance. Tabor’s proximity to Nazareth is no accident or coincidence. In seeing his hometown on the descent, Jesus would have been strengthened in his humanity after he had revealed his divinity in such a clear way. He would have remembered the formation he had received there from his parents. Just like Jesus, we are called not to just stay in seminary, but to witness to God’s glory as priests of his Son. The day atop Mt. Tabor reminded me how good it is to be in God’s presence, and then to go forth into the world strengthened by the truth of who God is.

Kevin Gregus
Archdiocese of Chicago

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