Holy Land youth Pilgrimage: Testimonies
After being told by many friends that a pilgrimage to Israel would revolutionize the way with which one would see and experience the Bible, I made up my mind to go. However to be honest, I changed my mind quite a few times between going this time and leaving it for the next time round – but by God’s grace and providence I eventually went for it. And believe me, it was all worth it! It is not just a matter of visiting the places were Jesus lived. It is an indescribable experience were yes, you actually live in the Word of God, just as we were constantly told in the preparatory meetings. And living this pilgrimage with a community of awesome people, many of which I came to know there, made it all just perfect. It was an experience that I will cherish throughout all my life, and I thank God for all the fruit that He has given us in those 10 days.
“Hear O’ Israel:, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God will all your Heart, with all your Soul, with all your Strength”
Deuteronomy 6: 4-5.
Walking in Jesus’ footsteps and connecting the scripture passaged related to the places we visited, really made me feel one with the Lord and made me realise how important the Bible is for me in my daily life. Although many of the sites have changed since the time of Jesus, they helped our faith by which we were able to experience His Presence. As we visited the various sites I was encouraged to always keep Jesus in the centre of my heart. Having Mass everyday made the journey even more meaningful. The group has also made it very special, as the communal praise and worship was very powerful. Our fellowship and fun times together also helped us grow as a true Community.
“Truly an experience not to be missed. The pilgrimage program, made up of spiritual, historical, cultural and fun activities,was a perfect balance. The program was jam packed and organized to perfection. I recommend this pilgrimage to anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the scripture by visiting the Biblical sites; to further learn the the amazing history and culture of the area and to make loads of new friends!!
It wasn’t until the fourth day of my very first pilgrimage to Holy Land that it struck me that I was really walking in the same footsteps of Jesus Christ. When we prayed in the rather simply adorned church of St. Peter in Tiberias, I was touched by the Holy Spirit and felt His Love coming down on me. I felt revived! Following such an experience, my faith came alive even more! Experiencing the land where Jesus lived, His ministry, His agony, death and resurrection went beyond any expectations.
Some of the highlights for me were the mass in the Church of Transfiguration, the renewal of our baptisimal vows in the Jordan River, a quite time of prayer and meditation on the Mount of Beatitudes and an hour of deep worship in the Church of Gethsamene. We were blessed to have Andrew, such an inspirational and knowledgeable leader to lead the pilgrimage and Father Brendan who also gave us great sermons to encourage us on the way.
My vision of daily mass has now also been ‘fine- tuned’ as I read the Bible and hear the Scripture with a much greater appreciation and understanding. I look forward to a second, more in-depth visit to Holy Land, and, as part of Youth Fellowship Community. I encourage anyone to visit such a amazing place. The depth of knowledge and experience will leave you wanting to go back for more!
Raquela Dalli Gonzi
The pilgrimage in Israel for me, as I’m sure for the rest of the group, has been a unique experience from many points of view. Although we were very well prepared in terms of history and biblical connotations, I was astonished to see for myself how beautiful Israel is. That just made it a little bit easier for me to fall in love with the Holy Land. I feel extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to visit the places where Jesus lived. Daily mass; time for personal prayer (in the places where Jesus actually preached and performed miracles); and the healing service altogether brought my relationship with God to a whole new level of intimacy. All the group really bonded in these 10 days together. New friendships were formed and existing ones were strengthened. We left Malta as individuals and came back as a community. God truly worked miracles in each and every one of us in Israel!!
The pilgrimage to Israel was a deeply spiritual experience, and God’s presence was truly tangible. I will never look at Scripture in the same way again. The most memorable experience for me during the pilgrimage was the unexpected ministry session after Holy communion during a mass in St.Peter’s church in Tiberias. It taught me that the Holy Spirit can minister to people at any time and place. I also acquired a deeper understanding and love for the mass, as this experience showed that such a manifestation of the Spirit is possible during a mass. It really depends on the openess of the people participating in the celebration.
From the confusion and shouting in the Suk (market) during our prayers in the Via Dolorosa, to the different chants of the worshipping communites the Holy Sepulcher, to the sights of the Jews at prayer at Wailing Wall, the tremendous heat in the dessrt, the tranquil peace on Mount of Beatitudes, the Holy Land is a place of amazing contrasts. For me it all came together during the ‘Ora Santa’ in Gethsemane. In the Church of All Nations I felt that I was part of the story, why the Son of God became man, and the life I have is because of Him, “Behold, I have graven you in the palms of my hands” Is 49:16.
Also my trip to Israel made me value community. It was the first time in my life I had experienced a different kind of friendship, the one that does not care about what you wear and what car you drive, but that friendship which cares about you, for simply being yourself, with all your imperfections – just as Jesus does.
My trip to Israel made me realise that “I am honoured in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength ” Is 49:5.
The desire to go to Israel has been there for quite a long time and finally I had the opportunity to go and it definitely exceeded my expectations. Israel is an amazing country found between three continents, rich in diverse cultures and religions. However what makes it so special is the spiritual significance it has for the three monotheistic religions. Being there and seeing the Jews praying near the Western Wall, an influx of different Christians from all around the world all queuing just to spend some time of prayer in the places most significant in the life of Jesus Christ and the Muslims visiting the mosque, also make a visit to this country such a unique experience.
Visiting the place where Jesus was born, lived, performed all His miracles and died and rose again is just an overwhelming experience. In my opinion it is a place every Christian should try and visit. If I had to choose my favorite place during my stay it would be a difficult decision to make. Whilst staying near the Sea of Galilee I thought that Jerusalem can’t be better than this: my experience there was really fruitful spiritually and the scripture truly came to life. However on entering the walls of Jerusalem I was left speechless. It is more than beautiful due to its spiritual significance. The ten days spent in Israel where balanced. The tour of the country was a complete experience, visiting the main sites most relevant to us Catholics but at the same time getting to know the group and enjoying our time there. A swim in the Sea of Galilee, a float in the Dead Sea, kayaking in the Jordan River, are just a few of the amazing experiences we shared.
A visit to the Holy land makes you understand the scripture better and helps make sense of many things which before might have been a bit vague. The scope of a pilgrimage was certainly achieved since it helped me to encounter God in a new way. This was my first time in the Holy land but definitely not my last.
Lehitra’ot Israel (see you again, Israel).
A truly unique experience in a wonderful place which puts the Bible into context. Before actually confirming going to the Holy Land I had my doubts if I could have actually afford the money and the time.
With hindsight it was worth every second and every cent. Every place we visited was an experience in itself both on a spiritual as well as on a cultural level. The Holy Sepulcher was at first a culture shock due to the vast Christian denominations who all gathered in one church and under one roof. But being there actually touching Jesus’ tomb and actually following his steps through the Via Dolorosa was mind blowing when you think about it. Galilee, Nazareth and Bethlehem!!!… now I can put pictures to words which renders them three dimensional. It was also the land that directed me to a number of decisions. I have only one suggestion to those who are undecided as to whether or not to visit the Holy land. Visit, Visit, Visit, I can assure you, you won’t regret it.
Visiting Israel, the land God chose to fullfill His revelation through Christ makes you realise what it takes to be a Christian: following Jesus. Having the opportunity to walk physically in His footsteps makes you more aware that you might want to take more seriously His invitation when He asks you personally to “forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me”. (Matthew 16:24 )
Christianity is not merely obeying a set of commandments but rather following Jesus Christ, God incarnated in space and time, becoming one like us so to lead us the way to one eternal salvation. Visiting Israel, the land He chose to fullfill His revelation to man is to have the unique opportunity to physically walk in His footsteps. Walking in the same land He walked and visiting sites that are synonymous with this greatest event in history, made us more aware that He has already done it all for us. His invitation to us now, to forget ourselves, carry our cross and follow Him took on new life.