Holy Land Pilgrimage

The Stump of Jesse

February 6, 2018

Ton Nguyen (Chicago) tries to shepherd goats at the Neot Kedumin nature reserve.

Staring at a leafless tree planted in dry, rocky soil, it seems there is nothing amazing happening. However, I can see at that very same place, after being nurtured for a few days in the warmth of spring, some energetic shoots sprouting forth carrying their hopes and dreams. The sun welcomes them by presenting its beautiful golden beams that break through the darkness, covering the earth. And I start to observe those shoots carefully, so that I can distinguish the best shoots destined to become future trees. This is one of my most enjoyable experiences from growing up on a family farm.

We had the opportunity to visit Neot Kedumim, a Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel that holds many of the trees, animals, plants, and scenery that are mentioned throughout the Bible. I felt as if I were at home. My classmates and I had a chance to relate those concrete images to the Scriptures. We could make olive oil, take water from a well, shepherd sheep, make medicine from hyssop (a small bush symbolizing humility), etc. Since seeing and touching these images in real life, the use of parables makes more sense for me. Specifically, the image of us being “the salt of the earth” brings me so much consolation.

While we were walking in Neot Kedumim, I questioned myself, “there is no salt in this park; why am I thinking and reflecting on this parable?” The more I chewed it over, the sweeter it became. It is like the lively shoots that burst forth through the desolate, rocky soil to receive the first morning rays of the sun. We all desire to come closer to God and to become saints. Those desires are strongly experienced at Mass, prayer, or daily activities. However, what happens after those fruitful encounters with God? How am I transforming my life to be more like Christ to the world or as the salt to the earth?

May God bless you with a pure heart full of joy and love!

By Ton Nguyen (Archdiocese of Chicago)

Photos by Peter Pedrasa (Diocese of Tucson) and Declan McNicholas (Diocese of Gary). Video by John Hoang (Diocese of San Jose).

Blog Home
Blog Archive
2018 Archive
2019 Archive
2020 Archive
2021 Archive
Blog Archive

Subscribe to receive pilgrimage updates