This Friday, the first Friday of the month, is also the commemoration day of Saint Blaise when it is traditional for us to receive the blessing of throats. Then less than [four] weeks from now, we receive ashes on Ash Wednesday as we begin the holy season of Lent.
And today, I’d like to reminisce with you a bit; reminiscing is one of the characteristics of those who have gotten old! In the gospel of this Sunday’s Mass, we find Our Divine Lord in the town of Capharnaum, on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. On the day after the Sabbath, Our Lord got up in the dark to go off to a quiet place to pray. But he had been healing many sick people, and more were seeking cures and looking for him. This passage speaking of Our Lord’s rising before dawn and seeking solitude and privacy reminds me very well of my first visit to Galilee many years ago. My travel group had spent several days in Jerusalem and its environs, and then we drove up along the spine of the Holy Land to Galilee, which I liked better because it is more natural. What you see around the Sea of Galilee, also called the Lake of Tiberias, is basically what Our Lord and the apostles saw during their life. A lovely lake, nestled among hills, fed by streams coming down from the region of Mount Hermon in Lebanon, and then draining out of its basin into the Jordan River valley and eventually coming to the Dead Sea where it evaporates because of the heat and aridity, leaving behind it an extremely salty deposit at the lowest spot on the surface of the earth.
On the night of our arrival, as we were shown our rooms on the top floor of a hotel in Tiberias, I noticed a staircase going up to what looked like the ceiling of that hallway. I hoped that that staircase would give me access to the roof the next morning when the sun had risen. Sure enough! I went up the steps and pushed on a trapdoor over my head. It yielded, and there was a device to prop it open as I went out onto the roof. I remember to this day the thrill that I had as I stood there, looking eastward to the rising sun whose reflection created a bright orange path of light across the water to where Tiberias and our hotel were located.
This was the lake where the apostles spent much of their lives fishing. This was the lake where Jesus walked upon the water. This was the lake where Our Lord miraculously multiplied a catch of fish that caused Saint Peter to fall to his knees in the boat and say, feeling very unworthy, Depart from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! This was the lake where the apostles, after Our Lord’s resurrection, found Jesus bending over an open fire while cooking breakfast for them. Had I been able to remain there on that hotel roof in Tiberias all my life, I wouldn’t have had sufficient time to meditate on all that happened in those places that I could see from my vantage point. The lake is only ten miles long and three miles wide, and from the roof of a hotel halfway up a hillside on its western side, one can see the entire lake and identify a number of the places mentioned in the gospels.
Travel is great, and our faith makes much of it a pilgrimage. I heartily recommend the Holy Land to those of you who can go there. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.