|a serpentine cross sculpture on the summit of Mount Nebo, |
symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses (Numbers 21: 4-9) for healing
"Everything about my specific reality is part of God’s divine and merciful plan to show me that he is already with me. God is the path itself. Just as something transforms a trip into a pilgrimage and a tourist into a pilgrim, the awareness that God is The Longing transforms my life-quest from mere self-knowledge into a true pilgrimage. In the words of the German philosopher Meister Eckhart, "No man desires anything so eagerly as God desires to bring men to the knowledge of Himself. God is always ready, but we are very unready. God is near us, but we are far from Him. God is within, and we are without. God is friendly--we are estranged,” he said. “Whoever seeks truth seeks God, whether he knows it or not."
This is what it means to have a pilgrim heart. It begins with self-knowledge. It demands a constant awareness that God is already with us. It is nourished by the sacraments and by daily prayer. It is focused on our inner journey home, to the God already living within us. It is a conscious decision to call our daily journey a pilgrimage, whether we never leave our living room or we travel physically across the ocean to a remote destination."
~from my book "The Journey: a Guide for the Modern Pilgrim"
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“[T]he LORD said to Moses: Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and everyone who has been bitten will look at it and recover. Accordingly Moses made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever the serpent bit someone, the person looked at the bronze serpent and recovered.”
~Numbers 21: 8-9
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The day we went to Mount Nebo our group of Catholic bloggers and journalists began the visit by meeting with one of the Franciscans in charge of this holy and significant site.
Mount Nebo, in what was then called Moab and is today Jordan, is the place where Moses stood overlooking the Promised Land. It is where Moses anointed Joshua as his successor—and where Moses died and was buried, although the exact place for that remains unknown.
With great enthusiasm and zeal, Father Fergus Clarke greeted our small group and smiled, “I am yours until the next group arrives. Let’s hope they are late… Would you like to start by celebrating Mass?”
I somehow missed the announcement that –since the mosaic-laden 4th century Basilica atop the 2,700 foot mountain is currently undergoing renovations, celebrating Mass meant entering the beautiful, small chapel within the rectory grounds where the three Franciscan priests living there worship daily.
Instead of the day’s readings, Father Fergus had us listen to the story of Moses, who stood right there — on top of that mountain — and heard God’s voice reminding him how He had fulfilled His promise to bring them out of the desert and into the Promised Land.
“God always fulfills his promise,” Father Fergus paused. “Always.”
Moments later as I stood on the platform in front of the church and took in the landscape before me, I was suddenly overcome with emotion… I was seeing the same scene Moses witnessed thousands of years ago—the Dead Sea, the Jordan River Valley and the lavender stone mountains surrounding Jericho.
God always fulfills his promises.
I sat down, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes, hoping to be able to write down a few thoughts, describe in some way the strong wave within me, but I had no words.
I put pen to paper and waited.
My prayer was instead silence, hearing only my name in the wind, and saying yes with my heart and tears.