Friday, June 10, 2011

Holy Land: Mount of the Beatitudes, Sea of Galilee, Capernum (Day 3: Morning, 31 May 2011)

Day three of our trip was filled to the brim with unforgettable sights and experiences!  We started at the Mount of the Beatitudes.  It was not hard to imagine Christ giving His sermon on the mount in this peaceful, picturesque setting.  The top of the mountain was covered with beautiful gardens and shady trees.  A grand church sat nestled in the gardens for pilgrims to visit.  The view of the Sea of Galilee and the surrounding landscape from atop the mountain was breathtaking.  Though there were many pilgrims there, it remained quiet and serene.  It was amazing to think that from the spot where we were standing, we would have been able to hear Christ's voice proclaim the Kingdom of God had we been back in time.

Next, we embarked on one of my favorite experiences on the trip: a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.  As I mentioned before, the Sea of Galilee is simply mesmerizing.  The water is radiantly blue and clear.  Sailing out on the Sea of Galilee felt unreal.  It was incredible to reflect upon all of the Bible stories I've heard since childhood involving this famous sea as we floated along these holy waters.  To think that Jesus could have walked on the water or calmed the sea right where we were sailing was amazing.  After a while, the captain of the ship turned on festive Israeli music and Peter hopped off of my lap and danced joyfully. 

We recalled a passage from John 21 as we floated:
"Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.

We soon floated to the spot where Peter and the apostles spotted the Risen Jesus on the shore.  It was incredible to picture Christ standing on the shore from the perspective of Saint Peter on his boat.  I could almost hear Saint Peter splash into the Sea and swim toward our Risen Savior.  It has been said that a visit to the Holy Land brings the Bible from black and white into color.  This story will always be vivid and colorful in my mind now. 

The Church of the Primacy of Peter on the left where the Risen Christ stood on the shore and had breakfast with the Apostles.
This picture is taken from near the spot where the Apostles saw Jesus from their boat .

After docking the boat, we walked to the shore that the Risen Lord called out to His Apostles in John 21.  Here is the rest of the story:

9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.

15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.

Resting upon this holy shore was a small church called the Church of the Primacy of Peter.  Inside of the church is a large stone, believed to be the stone that Christ shared breakfast with His apostles that morning (the Mensa Christi--"Table of Christ").  As Catholics, we celebrate the Primacy of Peter here: Christ calling Peter to be the first Pope, and the unbroken line of Popes leading our Church since the time of the Apostles.  After stopping in the church, we had a few minutes to visit the shore.  We let Peter take off his shoes and wade in the cool waters, right where his patron Saint did.  Peter happily splashed and splashed.  We had to drag him away from the shore when it was time to get back on the bus.  Our little guy cried all the way to the bus.  He could've splashed in the Sea of Galilee all day long.  Who could blame him?!

Peter splashing in the Sea of Galilee

Next stop: Capernaum.  Here we visited the ruins of the town which was Christ's "main base" for his Galilean ministry.  It is referred to as Jesus' "own city" (Matthew 9:1; Mark 2:1)  and a place where He lived (Matthew 1:13).  We got to see the ruins of Saint Peter's house (and the beautiful church built over it) where Christ healed the paralytic lowered through Peter's roof.  Many other recognizable events from Christ's ministry happened here as well:  Jesus' healing of the Centurion's servant, the healing of Peter's mother-in-law from a fever, the calling of Levi (St. Matthew) from his tax-collector's booth, the healing of the woman with hemorrhages, and the resurrecting of Jairus' daughter.  Nearby Peter's House, we visited the ruins of the synagogue where Jesus gave His Bread of Life discourse (John 6).

The late fourth cenury AD "White Synagogue"
 built upon the remains of the "Synagogue of Jesus" (the darker stones)
 where Jesus gave His Bread of Life Discourse

Saint Peter's House!

After a busy morning, we were all ready to hop in the bus and drive to lunch.  While riding in the bus, we crossed the Jordan River and viewed the Golan Heights from afar.  We also saw the cliff where the swine possessed by demons had run off after Jesus had cured the demoniacs (Matthew 8: 28-34).  We soon arrived at another kibbutz for a fresh fish lunch on the Sea of Galilee.

No comments:

Post a Comment