Bishop Nelson Perez and 50 pilgrims from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland began a 10-day journey to the Holy Land on Oct. 23. The Catholic Community Foundation coordinated the trip and Deacon Dennis Conrad from St. Christopher Parish in Rocky River will be sending regular updates to share their experiences throughout the pilgrimage. His fifth installment is below.
Our pilgrimage day took us from sea to sea -- that is, from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.
As we journeyed along the Jordan River, we stopped to renew our baptismal promises at the site where it is believed that Jesus was baptized. Then we headed to what is considered the oldest city in the world: Jericho. We celebrated Mass in Jericho, observed a sycamore tree near the town center and saw the old city.
Next, we stopped at the base of the Mount of Temptations, where Jesus spent 40 days and nights after his baptism. Then we journeyed to the Dead Sea, where some floated in the salty water. We ended our day with a drive to our hotel in Jerusalem, which was only a short walk to the walls of old Jerusalem.
The pilgrimage focused my thoughts today on the walls built to keep others, who were not like the residents, out of the cities. The people of Jericho found out, these walls cannot keep God out because the walls crumbled as Joshua and the Israelites brought God to the city. The people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus through the gates in their city wall. But when they did not like Jesus’ ways, they led him outside the walls to be crucified. This did not work either, because Jesus found his way back into the walls in a way the people of Jerusalem never could have imagined.
We, too, build walls in our lives -- to keep out those whom we consider are not like us. As pilgrims, we should ponder, where are the walls in our lives and how can we remove these walls so we can follow Jesus by loving our neighbors as ourselves.