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March 11, 2018: Following in the Footsteps of Jesus

by Martin Geiger, Seminarian

This January I spent several weeks in Israel and Palestine on pilgrimage, with fellow seminarians. While we all approached the trip with different goals, we shared a desire to see the places of Jesus’ ministry and to deepen our appreciation of the Gospels in our encounter with the land. One of our guides told us that Christians in the Holy Land sometimes call the land “the fifth Gospel” because the experience of being there teaches so much about the life and work of Jesus.

While I found that idea interesting, it didn’t actually sink in for me until the very end of our trip. We had followed the course of Jesus’s life, beginning in Bethlehem, going north to Nazareth, and visiting the Sea of Galilee. That meant our very last day was in Jerusalem, walking the Stations of the Cross through the Old City, and ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—the site of Jesus’s death and burial. I thought, at the beginning of this walk, that I knew what to expect. I had participated in the Stations before in multiple churches, and I was familiar with the liturgy. I did not expect just how different I would feel when I walked them in their original context in the streets of Jerusalem.

The path between the stations of the cross is winding, following narrow, crooked streets. The sites of some of the stations are far apart, and much of it is uphill. Some of the streets are even named “ascents” rather than streets. On that long, slow walk, I felt something of the physical burden it must have been to carry the cross all that way. The stations have Jesus falling three times during his journey, and I could see and understand why he fell on the steep, uneven path.     

Experiencing the terrain really brought the stations to life and made me feel the story much more deeply.  And in that experience I can say that I truly felt something of the love that Jesus expressed for all of us in that walk as I followed in his footsteps. This week’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was sent by God because “God so loved the world” (John 3:16)—and nowhere is that love more visceral to me than in Jesus’s slow, painful walk toward the Cross. For me, the heart of Lent is not about giving things up but, rather, about our need to pay attention to that love, and learn how to make it known in our own lives. As we journey with Jesus toward Holy Week, I urge you to pause, reflect, and look for this love in each and every step that he, and we, take toward the cross.


Last Published: March 8, 2018 11:36 AM
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