Pilgrimage Journal - The Holy Land

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by Giuseppe Mignano

"Jesus playing you is the best you." As Jim Caviezel said these words during a question-and-answer segment he did with a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land last month, I felt that he was opening up and being vulnerable. Which, to me, made him more real than I imagined he would be.

Jesus playing you is the best you. While on this amazing 206 Tours pilgrimage of the Holy Land with Jim Caviezel, we encountered a side of the actor that not many people get to experience.

During the pilgrimage he also gave two incredible personal testimonies. From his two talks, that one line stuck out the most to me. Jim Caviezel was describing how opening ourselves up to Jesus is more important than acting and playing Jesus on film. Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's 2004 blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ," was inviting us to open our hardened hearts to Jesus, so that Jesus can enter our hearts and guide us, through the Holy Spirit. So Jesus playing me, is the best me. In order for us to do God's will, we have to open ourselves to allow Jesus to "play" us in this role of life.

Reflecting on those words, I am reminded of Galatians 2:20: "Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me."

Jim is a man. He is an actor. He is a sinner struggling through life like most of us practicing Catholics. When I first heard of plans for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Jim Caviezel, I felt a strong tug on my heart to attend. After returning from the trip, I can say that the growth I had received from this trip was tremendous.

When spending time reflecting in the garden of Gethsemane, one can't stop but think of how real and in-your-face the truth is, especially while standing at the foot of the Mount of Olives. This is the exact place where Jesus wept tears of blood the night before His crucifixion. That garden still contains trees that can be dated back 2,000 years, to Jesus' time. At the Church of All Nations, built over the "Rock of Agony" where Jesus prayed and wept, we heard a heartfelt homily given by Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, who served as spiritual director of this pilgrimage. Watching Fr. Donald as he led as a shepherd should, was awe-inspiring. He tried his best to spend time with all the 230 pilgrims on this trip individually.

Being at the Church of the Nativity, the birthplace of Jesus, was a great way of experiencing Christmas, during Easter. HIC DE VIRGINE MARIA JESUS CHRISTUS NATUS (Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary)is a Latin inscription on a silver star located underneath the altar in the Church of the Nativity. One feels compelled to kneel down and touch or even kiss this plaque under the altar.

One thing I came to learn on this pilgrimage is that I can't live this life alone, without Jesus. Jesus made me realize that I have to continue moving forward with Him as my guide. The more I try to say "It's OK, Lord, I got this," the more I realize I have no control. After this trip I've realized the times I find the most peace are when I stop trying to do what I want and start doing what I feel inspired to do. There's a big difference between my will and God's will, and it comes down to a constant fiat and acceptance of His will.

Amazingly, the trip went fairly smoothly. We were blessed with nine amazing priests on this pilgrimage and a man that will soon reprise his role as Jesus in the upcoming sequel to the "The Passion." "The Resurrection" is still in the pre-production stage, and while on this pilgrimage, Jim Caviezel personally asked us for prayers. So we are asking you to keep the writers, production team, and cast of the film in your prayers. May God protect and guide them.

Giuseppe Mignano works as a videographer for the Marian Fathers.

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