Holy Land Pilgrimage

The Power of Childhood Joys

March 15, 2020

As a young child, I gained many fond memories from our annual parish festival. Jumping in the giant bounce house with all my friends, playing the Teddy Bear ring toss game with my god-father, visiting my sister at the lollipop tree, asking my dad for more carnival game tickets, and visiting my mom waitressing in the dining room to get my dinner during which I would always drink way too many Chocolate milk cartons. These are just a small sample of the many joys of my childhood. The gathering of dozens of families united in our work and our faith to support the parish we loved during those beautiful summer days, these experiences provided me with the memories that helped to form my understanding of what it means to be a community.

Across the old city of Jerusalem, beyond the Kidron valley, is the Mount of Olives. On this mountain, many of the significant events of Jesus’ life took place. We visited the Carmel Monastery of the Pater Noster where Jesus taught his disciples the Our Father (Luke 11), we visited the Dominus Flevit Church where Jesus wept over the coming destruction of Jerusalem just before entered the city on Palm Sunday (Luke 19:41-44), we visited the Garden of Gethsemane were Jesus sweated blood while anticipating His imminent suffering and death (Luke 22:39-53), and we visited the Chapel of the Ascension where Jesus rose to His heavenly Father after His resurrection (Act 1:6-12). The significance of these events made these sites very powerful places to visits, but what struck me was something new I learned about this mountain.

As a faithful Jew, Jesus, along with all His family and friends, would visit Jerusalem regularly for various religious festivals. During these festivals, Jerusalem would be overwhelmed with pilgrims. This overcrowding would require many of the pilgrims to camp outside the city walls. These various clans of pilgrims would camp together next to their neighbors from home. Since Jesus was from Galilee, He would have camped where the rest of the Galileans were assigned to camp. Their campsite was none other than the Mount of Olive.

This pilgrimage helped me to understand that Jesus and I likely had very similar joyful childhood memories. Visiting the sites that were important to Jesus’ adulthood was powerful enough, but realizing that this was a place where Jesus had so many good childhood memories really unexpectedly hit me.

Jesus knew this mountain well. Here, He reconnected with distant family members while celebrating the great joys of their festivals. Here, He played for hours with His friends. Here, He had powerful childhood memories like the fond memories of my own childhood.

This realization helped me to better understand how difficult it must have been for Jesus to suffer on these grounds. I would not want the place of my childhood memories tainted by the betrayal of the community I loved so much, yet this is precisely what Jesus was willing to suffer. Jesus allowed himself to be turned over and condemned to torturous death by the same community that once embraced him so lovingly on this mountain. Reflecting on the love that Jesus must have had for us to be able to do this makes taking up my own cross a little easier this Lenten season.

Michael Lingaur
Diocese of Gaylord

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