“Lord, You once favored this land…” (Psalm 85)
January 14, 2019
After months of eager anticipation and preparation, and after the anxieties of packing bags and fretting over weight, the long-expected time had come: the time to spend 12 hours on a trans-Atlantic flight to reach the much-desired destination of our pilgrimage: the Holy Land. Having passed most of the flight in the darkness of night, I was relieved to see the light of day around the eighth hour of our journey. Relieved though I was, the sunlight also increased my hunger to reach our destination, for it revealed that the Holy Land no longer lay far off. Like a good appetizer to a multiple-course meal, seeing the Alps Mountain Range and the Mediterranean Sea from my seat on the airplane only served to increase my impatient excitement to arrive, at last, at the Holy Land.
Why was I, with my many classmates from Mundelein Seminary, traveling so far to visit this particular land? Why were we enduring the many inconveniences—the deprivation of leg room, plastic trays rammed against our chests, the insomnia of travel, airline food, jet lag, and more—in order to visit this very particular plot of land, so very far away, for a pilgrimage? To us, who are Christians, the answer springs forth immediately: “Because it’s the Holy Land! That’s where Jesus was—where he was born, lived, breathed, walked, and died! It is the land in which God chose to become man for the salvation of us and of all!”
Yes, and what a marvelous reality! Truly, this is an awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping fact which we marvel at! “It is the land which God chose…”! This land could never be merely ‘ordinary’ after such Divine election! His choice holds true even from the Book of Genesis, when God promised Abraham, “for all the land which you see, I will give to you and to your descendants forever” (Gen. 13:15). Out of the vast and varied lands of the earth which God had created—Africa, Europe, North & South America, Asia, and even the great state of Indiana, USA—God chose as His own this relatively little piece of land on the Eastern Mediterranean; and this much He did, all for love of us. Truly, God favored this land—this Holy Land—with His word: at first, His word spoken to Abraham, and later, his Word, Jesus Christ, through whom He created and redeemed all. And we, as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and imitators of God the Father, have chosen, like Him, to visit this land; to walk where Jesus walked, to see where he was born and, like the Magi, to adore.
After the many hours of travel, we finally caught sight of the coast of the Holy Land. Before long, our plane had landed. At last, we set foot on the land of God’s promise to Abraham and the land of God’s fulfillment in Jesus Christ. “Lord, You once favored this land,” I prayed, departing the airport; “help us to love this place as You did—and as You still do.”
Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana