Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Down to the River to Pray

This morning we left the little town of Bethlehem and headed down to the Jordan River to the site where John was baptizing. I must say that this was quite a highlight for me as this spot has only recently been opened to pilgrims. Since the Jordan River is also the international boundary between Jordan and the West Bank it is a very controlled military area. I was not allowed to go to this most special site 5 years ago. I felt very close to my patron at this site that is truly “in the wilderness.”

Shawn the Baptist at the Jordan River
Shawn the Baptist at the Jordan River 

While at the baptism site, we recalled how this was also the place where the Israelites crossed over into the Promised Land. What an important boundary this little bit of water is. It marks the crossing from the wilderness to the land of promise as well as the crossing from death to life in baptism. Just as the Israelites had to renew their covenant with God after crossing the river, so we too renewed our baptismal promises. It was a very special moment that gave us all a new sense of purpose and commitment.

Renewal of Baptismal Promises
Fr. Brian Helps Us Renew Our Baptismal Promises
Note His Fancy Apergillium

Leaving the Jordan River we entered the oldest city in the world, Jericho. It has been continuously inhabited for at least 10,000 years. It is also the lowest city on earth by elevation. The main highlight of our visit here was to make the climb up to the Temptation Monastery. It is built right into the side of the cliff overlooking Jericho. It marks the spot where Jesus spent his 40 days and nights being tempted by the devil. It was very hot and we all certainly got our exercise. Even though you ride a cable car most of the way up, there are still 200 stairs to climb. While there, Mike reminded us that the key to overcoming temptation is to be committed to meditation. We cannot overcome temptation on our own, but by remaining in union with God, he will deliver us from the test.

Temptation Monastery Cable Car Up From Jericho Monastery Chapel
Mt. of the Temptation Monastery

Our final trek was north to the Galilee where will be spending the next three days. It was so wonderful to see the Sea of Galilee again. We are actually staying inside the walls at the Church of the Beatitudes on top of the mountain overlooking the sea. You might doubt the location of some places in the Holy Land, but there is no doubt that the Sea of Galilee is still right where it was 2000 years ago.

The Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee 

We ended our day by celebrating Mass outside the front of the church as it was much too warm inside. I got to give the homily and it just so happened that today’s Gospel from Mass was on the Beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew. You can’t ask for a more obvious blessing of Divine Providence. It was wonderful to read and preach on these 9 keys to be blessed right in the place where Jesus spoke these words. We are truly blessed. We don’t have to wait for heaven to be blessed, but we are blessed right here and now, even if our circumstances might seem otherwise. I pray all of you at home enjoy a blessed day.

Our Mass at Church of the Beatitudes
Our Mass at the Church of the Beatitudes

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6 Responses to Down to the River to Pray

  1. Bob/Kathy Dorst

    Wow! Truly awesome, and exciting to read. Yes, please pray for us as we pray for all of you! The Corpus Christi procession and holy hour yesterday at Assumption was awesome!

  2. Cathy Brennan

    Enlighten us – what is an apergillium?

  3. Kathy Welch

    It’s been wonderful reading your blog & viewing your pictures. What a great “gift” to us as well as those traveling with you to have such “expert photography” and capturing the details of your travels!
    As Bob/Kathy said…The Corpus Christi procession was awesome!
    P.S. A side note…Also, thanks for the beautiful wedding picture from MPHM’s balcony & your gift of musical talent…beautiful!

  4. Debbie White

    Your blog and photos are a wonderful way for those of us “back home” to share what the lucky travelers are experiencing!

    Please say hello to Mom (Frances Holman) and our friend, Elida Gibbons.

    Best wishes for a safe journey!

  5. margaret radiel

    It ia really great to be able to follow along on your trip. Just want to wish my brother and sister in law a happy anniversary who are on the trip Christopher and Cathryn Radiel

  6. Christine White

    Fr. Shawn/ Fr Brian

    Thank You so much for us at home to follow your journey through the Holy Land. Pls say hi to my mother Frances Holman and her good friend Elida Gibbons. I know they are having a wonderful time and wishing them a safe trip home.

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