Before getting into the meat of this short dispatch that I am typing from Jerusalem, I ask you to say a short prayer to God for the souls of all those who have died for their faith, or due to acts of terrorism, or because of sectarian violence here in the Middle East, and everywhere around the world.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
LORD, hear our prayers.
Now, I can tell you that if you desire to visit the Holy Land (especially the sites in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon) on pilgrimage, you should offer up your safety to God, and simply book the trip. That is what my wife and I did roughly 11 months before we started our journey here.
I don’t ask you to do anything I myself am not willing to do, see?
As you can imagine, the world did not stop turning when we decided to visit the places where Our Lord pitched His tent among us.
Think back over the last 11 months and you will find no shortage of stories reported in the media that left you with the sure knowledge that very bad things are happening in this world. Things that could possibly end your life, therefore ending your existence, and your joy.
The world is certain of one thing: death is the end of everything. Practically everything that is printed, published, broadcast, or transmitted, warns us of this (or that) person, place, or thing, that will bring us harm. Be it the weather, political news, famine, sickness,international conflicts, wars, or rumors of wars, the news out there is simply dire.
The secret of the news cycle is this: everything is of vital importance to whether you live or die, and we have the goods on what will help you do the former and avoid the latter. STAY TUNED!
By staying tuned, though, folks tend to stay put.
Now while staying put has many benefits, and lots of things going for it, if you fail to do things because of what has been said on the news, then you are going to miss out on a lot.
For the news media has the need to take everything that happens anywhere and ratchet it up to the absolute worst that has ever been. Every conflict is the attack on Pearl Harbor; every natural disaster is worse than the pyroclastic explosion that buried Pompey; and every act of terrorism is 9/11 all over again.
And so we are back to the title that drew you here at the outset: Don’t travel to the Holy Land, for thou shalt surely die (though probably not while you are on pilgrimage).
The thing is, the chances of your dying because of very bad things happening to you on the trip are lower than you dying crossing the street back home, or driving back and forth to work.
As Christians, being afraid to die is nonsense. St. Paul notes that to die is gain for the faithful. Jesus himself said that He came so that we would have life, and have it more abundantly. Cowering in fear over things one cannot foresee (or control) is the opposite of living abundantly. Recall that Our Lord admonished us as follows,
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
St. Luke reemphasizes this again a few chapters later, in case we missed it the first time.
That is the Good News. By dying, He restored us to life. And by traveling to the Holy Land you will begin living more abundantly, as you more easily die to yourself through what you have experienced.
I guarantee it.
You will probably die to your self, though, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
*All photographs belong to the author.