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Photo: Melanie Williams

The shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus met the disciples after the Resurrection.

A Holy Land Pilgrimage: Pt. 2 — Lord, When We Met By the Seashore

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The Church of the Beatitudes on the Mount of Beatitudes

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Inside the Church of the Beatitudes.

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Outside of the Church of the Beatitudes. The eight sides of the church represent the eight beatitudes.

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The altar in the garden outside the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. It reads, "Here, Jesus entrusted to Peter the primacy of love."

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The rock inside the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter which early Christians believed was where Jesus laid out the breakfast he made for his disciples that morning on the seashore.

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Inside the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in Tabgah.

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The ruins of the Byzantine church built around the house of St. Peter in Capernaum.

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Looking down into the house of St. Peter, as the men who lowered their friend down on a mat would have seen into the house.

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Inside St. Peter's Church in Capernaum. The center of the church is a glass floor to look through and see the remains of St. Peter's house where Jesus would have stayed while in Capernaum.

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The ruins of Capernaum. Jesus cursed Capernaum for not believing, although He had worked many signs in their midst (see Mt 11:23).

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The ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum. Here Jesus Jesus healed the servant of the centurion (Lk 7:3), was confronted by the demoniac (Mk 1:21-27), and gave the bread of life discourse (Jn 6:35-59).

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The synagogue in Capernaum.

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Inside the Franciscan Wedding Church in Cana.

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The ruins of the synagogue in Magdala.

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The original mosaic floors of the synagogue in Magdala. Jesus may have walked on these very floors.

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More of the synagogue in Magdala.

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The ruins of the city of Magdala.

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The Duc in Altum Church in Magdala, created to honor women in the Church.

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In the lower part of the Duc in Altum Church, a painting depicting the woman with the hemorrhage touching the tassel of Jesus covers the wall next to an original street of Magdala. Perhaps on this very street, or one like it, Jesus performed many healings.

By Melanie Williams (Feb 13, 2018)
From Oct. 26 - Nov. 5, 2017, staff writer Melanie Williams went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Having walked where Jesus walked, prayed where He prayed, and experienced the current Middle Eastern cultural and political climate, she would like to share some of her pilgrimage and journey with you. Today, in the second part of an nine-part weekly series, travel with her from the Mount of Beatitudes, to the Sea of Galilee, to Capernaum and Cana, and other towns and places where Jesus ministered in Galilee.

I awoke in the morning on our second full day to a friend talking about how loud the wind howled outside our hotel the night before. Our hotel was on the Sea of Galilee, which is below sea level and surrounded by mountains. When bad weather comes, the air pressure quickly and drastically drops, causing terrible storms out on the sea. All was calm now, but I had a bit of an understanding of what the storm out on the sea was like for the apostles (see Mt. 8:23-27, Mk 4:35-41, and Lk 8:22-25). It just so happened that today we were going on the Sea of Galilee, just like they did.

But first, breakfast. Throughout the Holy Land, you realize how much the nation of Israel has been, and continues to be, a Jewish nation. For example, for breakfast at hotels, you won't find one piece of meat. Instead, you find the greatest spread of dairy products that you could imagine: yogurts, firm cheeses, soft cheeses, salty cheeses, stinky cheeses, puddings, and milk. At dinner, you will not find even a taste of dairy, but, you find a complete assortment of meats. Daily life is ruled by the Kosher laws. Even something as small as this was quite eye-opening to me.

After breakfast, we began our day by making our way to the Mount of Beatitudes. Sitting on the side of a mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee, I realize why Jesus picked such a place to come and pray, and to teach. The land was covered in green and overlooked a beautiful landscape of the water and mountains.

The gardens were full of greenery and flowers of every color. Along the pathway lie stones engraved with the revolutionary teachings of Jesus from this very place (see Mt. 5:3-12).

We then made our way down by bus to the seashore, to the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. This is the very spot where Jesus appeared to Peter, James, John, and four other disciples after the Resurrection, as recorded in John 21. Picture the scene:

Not really knowing what to do now that Jesus is gone, the disciples went back to what they know - fishing. They are casting their nets out on the Sea of Tiberias (Galilee). It is common to fish here in the morning due to the green algae that forms at this spot in the morning. The fish love to feed on it. From the shore, at dawn, you can see the areas where the green algae are and splashes of where the fish are feeding. Jesus comes to the shore and can see where they need to cast their nets. This also just so happens to jog Peter's memory of a similar occurrence three years prior (see Lk 5). "It is the Lord," Peter cries out and jumps into the sea to meet the Lord (Jn 21:7). Jesus makes them breakfast on the shore. Afterwards, He pulls Peter aside and asks him three times, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" The Greek word Jesus used for love was agape — self-giving love. Peter responds three times with, "Lord, you know that I love you," using a different Greek word for love, filio, which means to love like a friend. Jesus calls Peter to feed His sheep and to lay down his life like He did.

This is where we had Sunday Mass, in a garden by the seashore.

After Mass, we were given free time to go to the water. I walked along the rocky shore and picked up a few pebbles to bring home. I looked out to the water, and it was one of the most peaceful experiences I have ever had. I thought of one of my favorite songs, "Lord, When We Met By the Seashore." I thought of His smile, His gentle touch, and His loving presence. He was with me, and He called me to continue to follow Him.

This was just the beginning of our day. We also had a boat ride on the water in store for us. Granted, this boat was at least 10 times larger than the ones the disciples used, and it was motorized, but there is nothing to compare with being out on the water like Jesus was with His disciples. The mountains and scenery hasn't changed since the time of Jesus, except for a few buildings here or there. Otherwise, it is mostly untouched. What I could see from our boat is what He saw from His boat. I stood out on the bow and felt the breeze and mist hit my face. The sun shined down and warmed my skin. In the background people were singing "How Great Is Our God" — truly, how great is our God, I thought.

We also were able to go to Tabgha, home of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, which has fourth-century Byzantine mosaic floors. Beneath the altar is the rock on which, tradition holds Jesus placed the loaves and the fish when He blessed them and gave them to the disciples to feed the 5,000, as recorded in all four of the Gospels.

For lunch, we ate tilapia, also known as "St. Peter's Fish," fresh from the Sea of Galilee. Most likely it was the species of fish that Peter pulled from the sea to find the two coins for the temple tax (see Mt 17:24-27).

After lunch we journeyed to Capernaum, the town where Peter lived and where Jesus made His "home town" for most of His public ministry. There are ruins of the synagogue where Jesus healed the servant of the centurion (see Lk 7:3), was confronted by the demoniac (see Mk 1:21-27), and gave the bread of life discourse (see Jn 6:35-59).

Jesus stayed at the house of Peter — the ruins of which were easily identified because as early as the second century, shortly after the time of Christ, Christians began to worship there and marked the wall of the room in which Jesus stayed with various Christian symbols, including the Cross. It's the only place in the whole town that had those symbols marked on it. The first church was built there in the fourth century, and a Byzantine church was built around that in the fifth century. Today, the Franciscans have built a church made out of glass so that you can look through the floor to see the house of Peter, and the room in which Jesus stayed, just as the friends of the paralyzed man looked down through the roof into the house to lower their friend to be healed, as described in Luke 5 and Mark 2.

As I walked out of the church and over to the ruins of the synagogue, I felt like I was walking with Jesus. This was His hometown during His public ministry. This is where one of His closest friends was from, and it was like He was right beside me showing me around. I cannot describe how shaken to the core I felt. I got back on the bus and broke down into tears. It struck me how real Jesus is. He was a real man who walked this earth and is still with me now, in my heart, and in the Eucharist. He is with us every day. He is not some far-off God or a figment of my imagination. He is real, He cares, and He is love.

Not even the end of my day yet, I had no idea how much more could be in store. At the risk of being overloaded, we continued on to two last places: Cana and Magdala.

Cana was the place of the first miracle of Jesus. My parents and another couple took the opportunity to renew their wedding vows here. It occurred to me how human Jesus and Mary were. They experienced human joys and human sufferings. They both cared enough for the bride and bridegroom at the wedding, even for something as insignificant as the wine running out. I reflected on Mary's words to the servants: "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5).

We ended our day with a tour of Magdala, where Mary Magdalene was from. The ruins of the synagogue have mural floors that date back to the time of Jesus. I was in awe as I looked on the exact floors that Jesus would have stood on when He passed through Magdala. How He preached with authority, healed peoples' sicknesses and diseases, and drove out demons. This impressed upon me even more that He is real. He's not just a storybook character that children learn about to make them feel good. He was real, He is real, and He is Lord.

I could have experienced half of what I did this day and been changed forever. A day like this showed me that God as Father not only loves us, He goes out of His way to pour out an abundance of love upon us. He has done that in Jesus, and I pray that by my sharing I have been able to share some of this grace with you.


Follow the entire series.

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Jeannette Clark - Mar 28, 2018

You have indeed shared some of this grace with me. As I am reading, my tears are falling as my soul cries over the awesome beauty and unconditional love of Our Lord. Thank you for bringing us along with you to this most Sacred Place. I am touched to my core.

Brenda - Feb 27, 2018

The pictures are separate from your writing, cannot print like Part 4
Can this be fixed?
This is so beautiful, would like to print and read. We were there in 2017, this is so meaningful. Would like to re=live it through your pictures and explanations.
Thanks!
Hop it can be fixed
God Bless!

Bernardita Bragado - Feb 26, 2018

Thank you for sharing with us your beautiful thoughts and walk with Jesus to the Holy Land.

Sammie Wood - Feb 14, 2018

Thank you for sharing your pilgrimage. It is a blessing to “travel” with you to the Holy Land!