Have you ever wanted to travel to the Holy Land on Pilgrimage? Maybe you’ve been blessed to have had the chance. After hearing from so many who have been there, I would love to have the opportunity one day to make the journey myself. The Holy Land is often referred to by Christians as the ‘Fifth Gospel’, as this is the place where ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14). This is the place where Jesus walked and taught and, so often, he used the splendour of the location to accompany his teachings.
As we enter into another Lent, no doubt with any number of ideas as to what we can ‘give up’ or ‘offer up’ (ideas which we hopefully carry on for the duration), we are again presented with an opportunity to reflect on the life of Christ and, more directly, reflect on his passion and death. Throughout our journey, especially as we get towards the final days of this Lenten season and we hear the Gospel accounts of Christ’s passion, are we going to just ‘hear’ them once again, or are we going to actively ‘listen’? Why is this an important distinction to make? Allow me to elaborate, just a little.
When we were babies, we learned to speak by ‘listening’ to our family and to the wider community around us. Initially, we learned to mimic what we heard. Later on, with further education and with context added, we began to effectively communicate. So what am I getting at? Right from our earliest days, as we learned to understand what’s going on around us, we didn’t just hear. We had to actively ‘listen’. We had to ‘pay attention’. We needed to concentrate and, in a sense ‘study’, so that we could learn to interact and communicate with the world.
Bringing this back to the Gospel… even if we ‘hear’ the scriptures over and over again and get to know these stories fairly well, have we actually ‘listened’ and understood the more intricate details and discovered the deeper meanings? Why does it matter? It matters because we are called to effectively communicate what it is that has been spoken to us… ‘Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation’ (Mark 16:15). How can we possibly share the Good News with those around us if we haven’t first ‘listened’ and understood it ourselves?
The scriptures are so rich that we could easily pick up on something new every time we read them if we remain attentive.
A lot of the details will not just jump out at us from the start. We have to work and study what it is that’s being spoken to us. Understanding the background, the location and the culture of the time can really help us to dig deeper into the scriptures. That’s why being able to go to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage and interact with that ‘Fifth Gospel’ can be such an eye-opening experience. All of a sudden, things that were always there, staring us in the face, actually do jump off the page and open up a deeper understanding of what it is that the Lord is communicating to us. With this deeper meaning, we are then excited at any opportunity we may find to share this with others.
Now, we aren’t all in a position to get to the Holy Land and experience this Pilgrimage in person, but there are some wonderful resources that have been produced in an attempt to provide us the next best thing. One in particular which I would like to highlight this month is a learning program produced by Ascension, featuring Dr Edward Sri. This program is called ‘No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk Through Christ’s Passion’. The following is taken from the program description on the Parousia store page and provides a fantastic overview of the aim for this program:
Filmed on location in the Holy Land, No Greater Love is a biblical pilgrimage that reveals Christ’s amazing love for us. Best-selling author Edward Sri guides you through the last hours of Christ’s life. You will walk step-by-step with Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to the Mount of Calvary. Every step of the way, Old Testament prophecies, messianic expectations, biblical symbolism, and historical context shed light on the mystery of Christ’s suffering and death. With these insights, Catholics can come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of God’s immeasurable and unconditional love for drawing closer to Jesus than ever have before.
Having now completed the program and also having read the book (it was so hard to put it down!) I cannot recommend it enough for anybody who would like to ‘listen’ more intently and discover the deeper layers of what is actually taking place.
This Lent, I encourage you to put some time into your own further study of Christ’s passion and death. I invite you to walk with Dr Sri and unpack the scriptures in a more meaningful way than you may have ever done before. Then, inspired by the Holy Spirit, I pray that we can all go out proclaiming the Good News.
To purchase a copy of this book or program, please follow the links below: