Day 2-4 (July 30-August 1)

I am writing this update on Friday at 5:22am local time. This is really the only opportunity to reflect and write on what has happened since the first post. We have been up early and moving quickly. We travel purposely and we return filled and fatigued.

In every place we read and pray and in every place we try to absorb the land so that they story will absorb us. It’s not always easy, but it is always important. I only have a few minutes to write, so let me offer one example.

On Thursday, Day 4, we began the day at the Jordan River, the body of water where the Hebrews crossed over into the Promised Land and the body of water where John the Baptist baptized Our Lord. There is a traditional tourist place to visit the Jordan River. It has a spiral staircase down into the water and gift shops, etc. I’ve been there before. I was pleased when our guide said he had another place on the river to take us. To say it was the opposite of the commercial site is to be a gross understatement. He took us to a campground on the river. The site was muddy and smelly. Trash was near the water’s edge and water bugs were hovering over nearly every inch of the “river” (creek!). It was not postcard vista. To be completely honest, it wasn’t what I was expecting. I knew it wasn’t going to be the touristy commercial site, but it could have been just a little nicer.

And yet…and yet…this is why Our Lord was baptized. Not because he was in need of repentance. Not because he had sins to wash away. His baptized is identified with his cross. He was baptized to stand in the nastiness of sin. He waded in our water so we may have life in his. I could think of no better spot, theologically, for us to renew our own baptismal vows. To acknowledge that our own trash had been absorbed through Jesus Christ and that we had been made clean through our baptism.

This has been one of my more meaningful experiences precisely because it wasn’t a postcard moment. We’ve had mass every day, either in the Cathedral in Jerusalem, on a site, or the guesthouse (as we will tonight). We are keeping the same readings and feasts as we would back home, and as we should. We need to connect the natural rhythm of prayer to the extraordinary power of this pilgrimage. We continue to pray for you. Please pray for us.

I think I am the only one with a laptop, so the reflections have been mine thus far. I hope to post reflections from other pilgrims in the coming days.

Fr Steve

Fr. Steve Rice