We ended our time in Galilee today by ascending the famous Mount Tabor. It was on this mountain that Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John. I was blessed to be able to be the main celebrant this morning at Mass. The beautiful and large Church of the Transfiguration made for some great singing. In my homily I reminded all of us of how the apostles saw the glory of God on this mountain. They fell down in fear. At Mass we not only behold the glory of God but are called to receive him into our very bodies, not in fear but in love. Jesus gave the apostles this vision of his glory to give them strength to endure the tough times that lie ahead. May we continue to be grateful to God for all those “transfiguration moments” in our lives. My thoughts this morning concurred with St. Peter, “Lord, it is good that we are here.”
Despite having lived here for 3 months previously, there are still many places that I haven’t been. Today was a day I was really looking forward to because we were going to some new places for me, most importantly the site of the burial of St. John the Baptist. We don’t know for sure where John was buried, but tradition has long identified the place as Samaria, Herod’s capital of Israel. We visited the ruins of the church containing the original tomb of St. John. His body has since been moved and lost, but being at this spot was a very moving connection with my patron. I got to give a little talk about John and it was amazing to be some of the only pilgrims that ever come to this site. St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
The next site we visited was also new for me. In the city of Nablus one will find Jacob’s well. This is the famous well where Jesus had his encounter with the Samaritan woman. There is one priest who lives there who has taken care of the church for decades. He has personally painted all the icons on the walls of the church and it is truly magnificent. Check out all the pictures below.
Of course the highlight of the church of Jacob’s well is…well…the well. This site is actually fairly certain as wells tend not to get destroyed. We got to lower the bucket down and I can attest that the woman in the Scripture was correct; the well is indeed deep. We all got to drink from the well and pray that the life-giving water of God’s grace might increase in us.
Finally it was time to make our ascent up to Jerusalem. Obviously this is a moment that most of us have been waiting for. We arrived in time for dinner at the Notre Dame center for Catholic pilgrims. I lived here for 5 weeks while in seminary and it was a little like coming home. The head waiter even remembered me from seminary. Wow! Unlike my previous visit during the winter, this evening is absolutely beautiful and I am currently sitting outside on the roof looking at the Dome of the Rock as I write these words. We made a quick trip to the Holy Sepulcher right before it closed just to show people the way. Tomorrow many of us will be heading down early to pray. Tonight we sleep in Jerusalem. Praise God, it is good to be back!