Holy Land Pilgrimage

The Promised Land

February 24, 2018

We are in Heaven…well, sort of. We are on the other side of the Jordan, the Israelites’ destination in their escape from slavery, the land set apart for them. When we Christians pray the Psalms, and we come across language like “The Promised Land,” we take this as meaning the Kingdom of Heaven, of God, life eternal, into which we all have been initiated by Baptism.

The Old Testament view of the land informs much of our Catholic liturgical action. Now that we are going through Lent for 40 days, we remember the Israelites’s 40 years in the desert, trying to get to the Promised Land. As they followed a “pillar of fire” through the night in their journey, so we, at the Easter Vigil Mass, the night that begins Easter Sunday, will follow a huge Easter Candle into a darkened church. The lights will turn on, and we will celebrate the new life Christ has brought us with the Resurrection.

It is easy to understand why the Holy Land is so revered (and, for millennia, fought over). We are here in “winter” when the temperatures are moderate, the fields and mountains are green, and at the Sea of Galilee, there are palm trees, parrots, and tropical flowers. Of course, in the summer, I understand that everything is dry, the sun is extremely hot, and not much grows. But, since we are here at this time, it seems like paradise.
While it is a heaven-like land, there are many reminders that we are still on this side of death and are still on pilgrimage towards our Heavenly Home. Little human things, like colds, coughs, stomach aches, crowds, rain, jet-lag, living out of the suit case, and distractions keep us from fully appreciating the mystery that occurred for our benefit in this land. But, perhaps that is a good thing, since Christ became a human being in order to draw us to a greater reality, to ascend above the grind into a relationship with the Trinity.

By Andrew Ayers, Diocese of Grand Rapids

Photos by Declan McNicholas, Diocese of Gary, and Peter Pedrasa, Diocese of Tucson

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