Holy Land Pilgrimage

Surprised by God

February 22, 2019

Sometimes we’re blessed by God in the most surprising ways. For myself, I received so many graces and blessings during our Canonical Retreat for Ordination to the Diaconate. I was pushing myself hard during this retreat, and tried my best to make additional holy hours, pray extra devotions, and just when I felt exhausted – both emotionally and spiritually – I would head off on the trail to the Mount of Beatitudes, to the Jordan River, and then to Caparnaum. I simply pushed myself harder and harder whenever I felt the urge to relax, and as you can see in the pictures which I’ve enclosed, every day was a blessing and a gift from the Almighty: I saw magnificent sunsets and beautiful images wherever I went. It reminded me of Psalm 111:2, “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”

I had experienced so many blessings during the retreat that I halfway expected things to get back to normal after our silent retreat had ended, and our schedule returned to normal. That was how things usually went. We visited Mount Arbel (where Jesus passed by on His way to the Sea of Galilee), and the day was rainy and exhausting, so we were happy to get back home for a shower and a quick rest. There’s that word again – “rest” – so what did I do? You guessed it. I forced myself to get back up, put on my hiking boots, and walked right out into the rain for a small hike around the lake while praying my rosary. The mud was vicious (as you can see in the pictures), and it weighed me down considerably while I hiked this barely-marked trail.

The trail was so ill-marked that I was convinced I’d gotten off of it, and I was simply bush-whacking my way down the hill, but low and behold, I saw a small curve with impassible trees on my right-hand side, and there were two people behind it (coming through the trees) who looked to be coming my way. I thought, “Oh, there’s a few people. I’ll go ahead and let them pass,” but this was not a few people. This was hundreds of people! Literally….250-300 hikers. This was a Korean expedition of people hiking from Nazareth to the Mount of Beatitudes, and their leader noticed my rosary. He asked me, “Are you a Catholic?” “Why, yes. I’m training to be a priest.” Bedlam erupts, and I mean bedlam! The people threw up their hands, ran over to me, bowed profusely, with smiles all around. It went from a nice, quiet walk of solitude to a Mardi Gras party in New Orleans! I’d never seen anything like it, and I was elated to hear their priest, “We’re Catholics too! We’re from Korea, but we’re all part of this universal Church. Isn’t it wonderful?” “Yes! I’m so glad to meet you, good sir, and please know that you’ll all be in my prayers.” I waited while 300 hikers passed me by and bowed graciously in my direction. It was another sign from our loving God: keep pushing yourself. You never know what’s around the bend.

James Wallace

Diocese of Juneau

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