The Scriptures tell us that Jesus had the custom of rising early each morning to pray. Today I enjoyed rising early and going out to look over the sea of Galilee as I made my morning prayers. It’s amazing to realize that I’m looking at the very same sight that inspired the daily prayer of Jesus. If Jesus, who is God, needed routine regular prayer every day, imagine how much more important this daily prayer is to us!
After breakfast we boarded the buses and headed for Nazareth. On the way we stopped at the site of Jesus’ first miracle in Cana. It was here that Jesus was invited to a wedding along with Mary and the apostles. The main site in Cana is what is known as “The Wedding Church.” This special church marks the spot where Jesus changed the water into wine at that famous wedding 2000 years ago.
While at the Wedding Church I had the great blessing of helping many of the married couples with us renew their wedding vows. It was so beautiful to see the faithfulness of these couples. Marriage and family is very much under attack in our culture and we need strong witnesses like this. Married couples are called to be a sacred sign to the world of the way that God loves us. It’s no surprise that such an important sacrament is under fire from the evil one. I pray that God may continue to bless all those called to the vocation of marriage. We prayed today especially for all those spouses at home that could not join on our pilgrimage.
Leaving Cana we finally arrived in Nazareth, the town where Jesus lived for the first 30 years of his life. In the first century, Nazareth contained only about 150-200 people. We saw the excavations of many of these first century homes, most nothing more than caves for protection. Two of these houses have great significance for us. The first was the home of St. Joseph and eventually the home of the Holy Family. Here we heard a beautiful reflection on the life of St. Jospeh given by Troy followed by Holy Mass. Just as in Bethlehem where every day is Christmas, we celebrated today the Solemnity of the Annunciation in the very place where event happened.
After celebrating the Mass of the Annunciation, we when to visit the Church of the Annunciation. This large modern church is built right over the site of Mary’s original house in Nazareth. Upon entering we were all drawn to the little cave in the crypt where our Blessed Mother grew up and had the amazing encounter with the angle Gabriel. I prayed the first mystery of the Rosary in surrounded by the very stones which first heard these words from the mouth of Gabriel.
In yet another incredible gift of providence, we arrived at Mary’s house just as the Angelus bells were ringing at noon. For those unfamiliar, the Angelus is a prayer that recalls the encounter between Mary and Gabriel. It is normally prayed three times a day at 6, noon, and 6. To pray the Angelus right in the place where it all happened was beyond description. The thing that most struck me was when we came to the verse that reminds us that because of Mary’s yes, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We say this prayer three times a day, but it really happened right here. In this little cave God became man. I couldn’t help but notice the inscription under the altar which reads simply, “The Word became flesh HERE.” What an amazing site this little cave is.
After lunch in Nazareth we headed back home for some much needed rest. I must say that it is quite a bit different being here in the summer heat verses the winter coolness of my last trip. After dinner, Mike had an adventure in store for us. We hiked down the Mount of Beatitudes where we are staying to a special cave built into the side of the mountain where tradition indicates that Jesus spent his time alone praying. This is the view that Jesus would have seen (I think I could pray better with a view like this too!)
One nice thing about the weather is that it gets much cooler in the evening. It was a nice hike down to the cave followed by a visit to the seashore. We visited the site where a waterfall enters the Sea of Galilee. It was here that the apostles would wash their nets after fishing and is also the place where Jesus called the first apostles. I prayed that many more people would say yes to God’s call the way Mary, St. Joseph and the Apostles did. Today was an amazing witness to the power of saying yes and remaining faithfully committed. If today had a theme, I would call it a day of faithfulness.
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