I have, lately (and yet again), been mightily distracted from this blog (my apologies) but perhaps it is just as well as the interlude has allowed me more time to think about our recent trip to Israel and what we learned from it. In our pre-Camino days travel was all about notching up experiences. I don't suppose there is anything wrong with that, but recently that mindset seems to leave us unsatisfied. Something just doesn't add up. It is interesting that as one gets older, and there is more of life behind than ahead, how a look backward can provide both clarity and wonder. It is from this look back, over many years, that a life path emerges. This at once interesting, but also somewhat unsettling as one tries to understand why one choice was favored over another.
Tomb of Jesus, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem
At first I thought who could know, but the more I considered it I saw how all the events of my life were woven together. This growing belief that everything happened for a purpose would have left me in a muddle had it not been for recent journeys to Spain and Israel. Maybe it started to sink in as Robin and I walked the Camino de Santiago, with its quietude, and time to reflect on our faith, and pray. Perhaps, our recent trip to the Holy Land, following the life of Jesus and his ministry from Galilee to Jerusalem, helped tie things together. But, in the end, I could see, or more truthfully feel, a clarity of purpose starting to form. I realized I was not alone (and had never been). My life, and Robin's, were uniquely purposed to fulfill a baptismal promise of God's love. We would always be with Him, and He would always be with us despite, in my case, decades of denial.
Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
Welcome to Bethlehem
While we were in Israel we had the benefit of getting to know two extraordinary Palestinian Catholic guides, Rimon and Raouf. These men gave daily testament to their faith, not by being preachy, but rather by simply demonstrating a stunning equanimity driven by total faith in God. They, their families, and the Palestinian people have seen, and experienced, much suffering, but their faith remains unshaken. Their faith both catalyzes, and comforts them as they rise each day to greet a future rife with danger and uncertainty. It was amazing how much these two, seemingly ordinary people, affected Robin and I. We became very accustomed to watching their faith (our faith) being pushed to the forefront rather than the more usual experience of relegating faith to the rear (and be quiet about it). You don't want to offend anyone, right? Wrong! It now seems that Robin and I were led to the Holy Land not just to roll up and down the countryside gawking at landmarks, but rather to intersect with the lives of two strangers. I know that sounds strange (we had similar experiences on the Camino), but I believe we came to bear witness to the true faith of these two humble Palestinians, to gather strength and resolve for the journey ahead. Thank you, Rimon. Thank you, Raouf. All the subsequent places visited, all the holy sites seen, were wonderful experiences that brought us more intimately into the life of, and love for Jesus, but nothing compared to the invitation of those days in Bethlehem, Bethany, and Jerusalem, where the world always seems off balance, to witness, firsthand, the transforming power of God's love. The Pilgrim Road continues to provide. Who would have believed it.