This was always going to be a special journey taken to mark our fiftieth wedding anniversary, but we did not anticipate quite how blessed it was going to be.
The programme was packed; so intense that it was sometimes difficult to remember everything we had seen and done each day. It will take time to process it all. But, as we reflect together, our focus – surprisingly – is not primarily on the places where we visited, prayed and thought about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Of course it was wonderful to look down on Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, to follow in Jesus’ steps to the Garden of Gethsemane, and pray the Stations of the Cross carrying a cross up the Via Dolorosa. We prayed where Jesus was condemned to death and where Peter denied his Lord. It was awesome to walk in the hills of Galilee, and to take a boat on the Sea of Galilee where we watched the moon rise while being anointed by our two bishops, We wept as we prayed in the various sites in Nazareth where the Holy family had lived, and renewed our baptismal vows being sprinkled with water from the Jordan. As Bishop Paul said, it was a baptism of the imagination feeding our meditation now we are home.
Yet what touched our hearts most was that we have glimpsed the unity for which Jesus prayed. We shared in prayer, received blessings from each other, and renewed our baptismal vows together. We worshipped together in the Mass and the Eucharist, respecting our respective disciplines, yet experiencing a profound sense of spiritual communion. It was a foretaste of that glorious day when we will share fully at the Lord’s table. After this week together that day seems not only possible but close. We experienced a model of what life could be like if we practised such unity in our local communities.
We came home pondering all this in our hearts. The deep unity we felt was a gift that we received because we were walking together on the way of Our Lord. On this pilgrimage we were able to walk in His actual footsteps. Now the challenge is to continue to do so in our daily lives.