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Carolyn / Presence of Jesus Today / The Presence of Jesus Today
The Presence of Jesus Today
Presence of Jesus Today
By Carolyn M. Kenney
One morning last March, I woke to see the sun climbing slowly above a serene body of water outside my hotel window. I had arrived in the Holy Land and was gazing peacefully at the Sea of Galilee. Birds flew over and around the sun as it rose above low-lying mountains, its golden hue reflecting on the water below. I have never witnessed a more compelling sight in my life; on first glance, my heart skipped a beat.
A beautiful quote from the theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand best describes the sunrise on the Sea of Galilee. It reads as follows, "To whom will the sublime beauty of a sunset or a Ninth Symphony of Beethoven reveal itself, but to him who approaches it reverently and unlocks his heart to it?" For ten days, a friend and I would travel throughout Israel with a group of thirty-three people on an unforgettable trip.
For weeks and months before departing, I would contemplate the sacred places on our itinerary: Nazareth, Cana, Bethlehem, Capernaum, Mount of the Beatitudes, Mount Tabor, Jerusalem and numerous others. We visited not only holy sites, but also historical ones as well such as the Holocaust Museum and Masada. At work, at home, wherever I went prior to leaving people would say, "Aren't you afraid?"
Actually, I do not watch a great deal of news, which helped me develop a fearless attitude. I would say, "If the State Department doesn't want us going, they will cancel the trip." However, despite the unrest prevalent in some areas of Israel, peace permeated the air and seeped into the very core of my being. This is the point where my faith stepped in and played an important role in the trip. Since early childhood, I attended weekly mass, where my faith and love for Jesus grew. During the course of each year, many of the same parables were recited over and over; they became so familiar I could almost recite them by heart.
Over the years, my faith was nurtured by the loving example of my parents, family and friends. It was greatly tested first at the death of my mother and five years later at the death of my father. However, their faith and love for God remained within me and carried me through my sorrow. My inner beliefs remained strong and did not waver. If anything, they flourished when I joined a prayer group from a nearby church. The friendship and faith found there helped me to grow spiritually.
As my faith grew deeper, I decided to visit the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The trip to Mexico proved to be spiritually enriching, so upon hearing of the trip to the Holy Land, I eagerly anticipated visiting the holy and historical places where Jesus walked. Now, I was here and was observing first-hand the villages and towns where these parables had actually been told by Jesus to His followers and to thousands of people from nearby villages.
As I gazed upon the Sea of Galilee, I could almost hear the voices of the apostles echoing over the still waters. Turning, I could picture Jesus calling to Peter, "Come, follow Me." Then looking in my direction He repeated, "Follow Me" and began to walk away; I hurried to catch up.
Later on the Mount of Beatitudes, I was stunned at the peace and simple beauty that enveloped everything. Mass was celebrated outside beneath the deep blue sky, which barely held a whisper of a cloud. The combination of water shimmering on the Sea of Galilee, myriad flowers, velvet green grass, and singing birds touched the souls of all present.
Throughout our trip, we had an outstanding guide who lives in Israel. Some of the first words he said to our group will stay with me forever. He said, "For many reasons, we should love." In all of His parables, the main theme Jesus taught was love. He taught of love of family, love of friends and another very important aspect - love of one another. As we visited Jerusalem, site of recent unrest between various religious groups, these words echoed in my mind and heart.
Upon entering the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus, I caught my breath. This was to be the highlight of my trip, the reason for my coming, the source of my faith. As we quietly entered the cave of His birth, I noticed a beautiful white and purple marble altar. Beneath this altar was a silver star, indicating the birthplace of Jesus. Reverently many in the group either touched the star or kissed it lingering briefly for a moment of prayer. Not a sound could be heard except the soft scuffle of shoes on the floor. Having come so far from home, I longed to stay and contemplate the Christmas story. However, our guide had planned more for us to see that day.
As we walked and walked throughout this magnificent land, yellow mustard flowers flourished throughout the countryside reminding us of the parable Jesus told of the mustard seed. In Capharnaum, where Jesus lived for three years, we visited many biblical ruins, including the home of Peter's mother-in-law. I could visualize Jesus standing outside the stone walls of this home, teaching people from surrounding villages parables rich in wisdom. The love that shone from His eyes came from the passion in His heart. His gentle touch of healing came from the divine depths of His soul.
Within ten days, we would come to love and learn much about the people and cultures of this land, which is so rich in political and religious history and so breathtaking in its beauty. I never expected such diversity and splendor. Yet, that is what makes Israel so captivating. Throughout this trip, I had the distinct feeling I was home. I felt comfortable and at peace; I felt a closeness with those in the group, but most importantly with my God. Everywhere we visited, I felt as though I had come to the home of a distant relative. At each stop, I wished to sit with this "relative" longer for there was more to be learned and shared. So much was left unsaid, but will be experienced at a time in the future.
During the trip, I asked a friend this question: When Jesus walked in the same places we now visit, did He look into the future and see you and me visiting this land? Did He smile at our joy? Today the Presence of Jesus can still be felt; it transcends time. Why else do I feel such joy in my heart - even now? The Presence of Jesus is palpable today in the many places He lived and taught. His Spirit still lives and lingers throughout the land, while the strong beat of His heart transmits love over the centuries. The Presence of Jesus is more than a "knowing" this was where He walked. His Presence is a gentle meeting between His heart and my heart.
- Thank you for expressing your closeness with the Savior in the Holy Land! Yes, His Spirit still lives and lingers throughout the land and all over the world. He is our Relative, and visiting the places He visited is a rare privilege to those who seek Him. Blessed be His Name!
- By Lori 2938 Days AgoSome people come to Israel just to "check off" the holy sites. Some come as an intellectual exercise. But you really came with an open heart, ready to absorb not just the views but the spirit of the place. Your descriptions were wonderful and the joy, love and reverence you experienced seem to come from such a deep place within you. I loved the descriptions not only of the places you visited but your emotions and feelings about the place. Write more!!