Holy Land Pilgrimage

Many Altars, One Lord

January 27, 2022

We just finished our first week of the pilgrimage and we have already had the privilege to celebrate Holy Mass at many historic locations. At each place, I have been struck by the way the Eucharistic sacrifice has overshadowed even the most holy of holy sites. In the Church of the Nativity, we stood at the place where Mary gave birth to our Lord and Savior. The sacredness of the place was palpable. Yet, when we finally had the opportunity to attend Mass at that holy spot, as with all the other places, we were raised to another level. Sure, Jesus, God made flesh, walked these very streets around us. But He does not walk them anymore. In the Eucharist though, we are not just “reminded” of Jesus’ earthly sojourn, but we experience Him face to face. His Holy Presence fills us up.

Most Catholics will never have the incredible privilege that we have of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But every Catholic does have the privilege of experiencing the living God in the Mass at their local parish. So far, visiting the holy sites of Jesus has simply reminded me how special it is that He is still with us. In the remotest places on Earth, thousands of miles away, Jesus can be found. He may not have walked on the soil of Alaska, China, or Argentina, but through the missionary activity of the Church, He has made his way there in a truly physical way, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. This journey to the Holy Land has served as a reminder of this fact. In reverencing the holy sites of Jesus, we yearn for His presence, the way He was present to the people of this land. And in this yearning, we become convinced, as the Catechism says, “It is highly fitting that Christ should have wanted to remain present to his Church in this unique way.” Before leaving, “he wanted to give us his sacramental presence” (1380).

St. Catherine of Siena reminds us of what it means for God not only to have become man for us in the Incarnation, but also to have left us His Real Presence in the Eucharist:

O boundless charity!
Just as you gave us yourself,
wholly God and wholly man,
so you left us all of yourself as food
so that while we are pilgrims in this life
we might not collapse in our weariness
but be strengthened by you, heavenly food.

O mercenary people!
And what has your God left you?
He has left you himself,
wholly God and wholly man,
hidden under the whiteness of this bread.

O fire of love!
Was it not enough to gift us
with creation in your image and likeness,
and to create us anew to grace in your Son’s blood,
without giving us yourself as food,
the whole of divine being,
the whole of God?

What drove you?
Nothing but your charity,
mad with love as you are!

Michael Mehringer
Archdiocese of Chicago

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