Keeping up with my 25th ordination anniversary, I thought of doing something spiritual while focusing on the 25 years of my journey as a Missionary Priest. It has always been a kind of a dream for me to visit the Holy Land. It is true that, as priests, most of our studies about the holy land are limited to books, but we really do comprehend on a deeper level what it is all about.
I organized this pilgrimage in 2018, but due to my transfer to another parish, I had to call all the people who had planned to participate and postpone the tour. However this time, being taken by surprise, more people joined from different parts of Japan decided to join our trip: people from Tokyo, Kansai, Nagoya and Fukuoka. Our flight from Japan took us to Korea Inchon airport and from there, a 12-hour flight to Tel-Aviv.
There were 28 people, including myself, who joined the trip. Most of them joined for the first time and it made a very memorable impact on all of our lives. People have been asking me how was the trip and my answer to them is wonderful, tremendous, joyful memorable, etc. But if I were to say it in one sentence, I would put it this way, it was a spiritual journey, a chance to acquire an insight into the history of what this Holy land is, and finally to renew ourselves to live a new and transformed life from this experience.
In our visit to Holy land we started in the North, visiting famous places like Galilee, Capernaum, Jerrica, the Dead Sea, Beersheba, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Emmaus. In all these places we allowed enough time to read the particular Bible passage which pertained to the area and reflect on what it meant to us and to our lives. Sometimes we also had a chance to celebrate Mass there. In the evening, when time permitted and not tired, we were able to share and get to know each other.
Sometimes this consisted of getting to know each other better by sharing our backgrounds, where we came from and other personal information.
Other times we shared by focusing on the life of Saint Peter. How steady he was as a rock and yet how weak he was when he said that he did not know Jesus. Then we followed up by discussing how this experience has made an impact on our lives so far.
Lastly, we discussed what would be a good “OMIYAGE” (Souvenir) that we could take home and incorporate into our lives.
In these discussions some even shed tears because it was so meaningful. There is no doubt this pilgrimage gave everyone a chance to view where the Bible originated, it’s history, deep meaning and the personal message it leaves with each of us.
During this time, I also took personal time to reflect on my own vocation and had a chance to receive the sacrament of confession. I was blessed to have a very holy priest who advised me to continue praying as a missionary, to pursue my apostolic ministry through preaching and to follow Jesus who was crucified while doing mortification.
I was happy to share this experience with others upon my return. My bible teaching has also a more profound meaning. I give thanks to God for the gift of priesthood and for giving me a chance to visit the Holy Land.
Finally, I strongly recommend that everybody visit the Holy Land at least once in their lifetime.
Jude Peirispulle, OMI