Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Day Four in Israel

by Steve Ray on March 13, 2007

Day Four began with a 6:30 Wake-up Call and breakfast at Nof Ginosar in Galilee. We boarded the bus and headed a few minutes along the shore to Tabgha — which is short for longer Greek word meaning "Seven Springs." That is why the fish gravitate toward the northwest corner of the sea because of the warm water in the winter months. Tabgha is where Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes. There are ancient evidences of Jewish Christians gathering here as early as 34 AD. The mosaic of the loaves and fish is from the 4-6th century.

We then went to Mass above the ruins of the House of St. Peter in Capernaum — one of my all time favorite holy sites. It was here that Jesus healed many people, cast out demons, and preached the kingdom. He also healed Peter's mother-in-law, which some people joke is the reason Peter later denied him :-) It was a beautiful Mass as you will see in the video clip. The Church is above the ruins with a glass floor so you can see where Jesus lived for 3 years during his Galilean ministry.

After Mass I described to everyone the archaeology of the site before going to the synagogue where Jesus taught the sermon on the Eucharist saying "Unless you eat My Flesh and drink My Blood you have no life in you." This is recorded in John chapter 6. I showed the pilgrims the part of the old synagogue that was actually there when Jesus taught about the Blessed Sacrament.

We then gathered on benches under the trees and I gave my talk "Defending the Eucharist: You are What You Eat!" in an empassioned but abbreviated form. After many pictures we boarded the bus and headed for Kursi where Jesus cured the demoniac by casting the demons into a herd of swine.

Then to lunch. Set in front of us were whole fishes with heads and tails. They were the same fish Jesus cooked for the disciples and the main fish caught by the disciples in the Sea of Galilee. They are like tilapia and are called in Hebrew "Amnum." I went fishing all night once catching these fish.

We then arrived at Yardenit along the Jordan River where we all collected Jordan River water in our empty water bottles. I caught a crab to show everyone and then the two priests and two deacons assisted us all as we renewed our baptismal vows. We were NOT rebaptized because there is only one baptism, but we renewed the pledge of our baptism and got wet in the river. A great time was had by all.

Next was our long ride of about two hours through the West Bank along the Jordan Valley, the way the Holy Family traveled many times between Nazareth and Jerusalem. Everyone is always amazed that Mary walked ALL this way so many times. She was a tough little Jewish girl! We saw camels and sheep and donkeys. We saw the mountains of Moab in Jordan and Bedouin encaments. We saw the north tip of the Dead Sea and the city of Jericho.

We arrived up to Jerusalem (up 4,400 feet above the Dead Sea below) in time for dinner some time to rest up. After dinner we all gathered in a private room and Fr. Ed and I gave an hour presentation on the Israeli – Palestinian situation before handling questions for another hour. It was enlightening, got heated at times, but over all was very educational to help everyone better understand the history, geography, politics and religion of the land.

Then everyone crashed into bed awaiting Mass at the Holy Sepulchre early in the mornings.