Thursday, April 25, 2013

will you join me in Nazareth?



Church of St. Joseph
Nazareth, Israel

On my first visit to Mary’s hometown of Nazareth and to the Church of the Annunciation, built on the traditional site of Mary’s first encounter with the archangel Gabriel, I parted from my tour group to look for a Mass.

It should not be difficult, I reasoned, in this amalgamation of churches and chapels, to find a place where Mass is being celebrated. I confidently strolled down Pilgrims’ Way, and in no time I was able to join a community of believers gathered in the main sanctuary of the Church of St. Joseph, next to the Church of the Annunciation.

St. Joseph's Church
Nazareth

As I “listened”––in Italian!––to the long homily that cool spring day, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the awareness that here, two thousand years before, in this unimportant village in Lower Galilee, an unimportant young woman had allowed God to be born within her. It was here that Mary said that first incredible, wondrous, and world-changing yes, not knowing exactly what her yes meant or where it would take her, but fully trusting in a God whose presence was obviously central in her life.

This became a vivid and concrete reality for me, and in what St. Anthony of the Desert describes as “real prayer”––one that we do not understand––I heard the words “be born in me” leap out from my own heart as tears surprised my eyes.

There are no words to aptly describe that type of spiritual experience. I simply and clearly recognized the Word’s presence within me. I felt, in a spiritual sense, pregnant with God’s reality. And like the young teenager Mary of Nazareth, I too said yes to God in my life that day in a unique and real way.
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This November I will return to Nazareth, 

There is nothing comparable to standing where Mother Mary stood, or walking the paths and towns where Jesus walked. The Gospels will come to life for you in unimaginable and surprising ways.

That’s why from November 4 to November 16, Fr. Bruce Nieli and I will be leading a pilgrimage following Mary’s life from Israel to Ephesus, Turkey—and I hope you will prayerfully consider joining me.