Today we travelled North-East past Cana, Magdala Bethsaida, Tiberias to the Sea of Galilee. Again, the landscape changes due to volcanic soil and semi-tropical weather near the Sea of Galilee that is really a large lake. To get there we passed by the Horns of Hattin where the Crusader army was routed by the Moslem forces of Saladin. Half were slain and the other half were ransomed from slavery then left to return to their homes in Europe. Tiberias was a Roman city and also known for the important Jewish interpretations of the Torah known as the Talmud. As we travelled one can see the rich soil producing a variety of mango, avocado, olive and other fruit trees. The Sea of Galilee or called the Lake of Tiberias is quite beautiful with almost a torquoise color and gentle waves under spacious, fluffy clouds. One thing I also noticed the last two days is the absence of the military everywhere which contributes to a more peaceful environment to enjoy the sites.
The Mt of Beatitudes gently rises in elevation to offer a panoramic view of the lake with bright flowers and palm trees. The church there was a visual disappointment; but I did appreciate the beatitudes encircling the altar from above reminding viewers the essence of Christianity- Blessed are the poor, merciful, meek, peacemaker- much needed in these lands, those persecuted for righteousness sake as I remember Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador being beatified tomorrow. These are the attitudes of Jesus that creates the consciousness of the Blessed Community given a mission to build the world of justice with peace.
We had liturgy a little farther down the road at a site called Tabgha that commemorated the “Primacy of Peter” and the famous line from the gospels after the Resurrection when Jesus tells him to “feed my sheep.” On the walking path there was a poster with a list of all the popes. It is a beautiful setting with a number of outside altars to support the variety of pilgrims. We celebrated liturgy in a lovely semi-circle amphitheater with stone rows for sitting and facing the Sea of Galilee. During the liturgy, Fr. Joe told a story from Peru where he was a missionary for 15 years. There were two friends of his at a place to eat near the mission. When they receive their plates of rice hand beans, an elderly woman of the made gestures to them asking if she could have the leftover scraps. The two men ordered an additional plate of the rice and beans. She was delighted. Later, another woman came and the men thought they would have to buy another meal; instead the first woman picked up a piece of cardboard, wiped it off and placed half of her meal for the second woman. That generosity of the widow’s mite is the spirit behind the Beatitudes and the Multiplication of the Loaves. Scarcity transformed into bounty. Fr. Joe challenges us by gently asking the question: “Am I good news to the poor?” Throughout this site there were boulders of volcanic rock from this area.
After liturgy and picture taking, we proceeded to to another site that commemorates the story of the Multiplication of the loaves and fishes run by the German Benedictine community. The previous one was a Franciscan place. There seems to be some friendly competition here. In the church under the altar is a rock that the site proclaims is where Jesus laid the loaves and fishes to bless and multiply them. Interesting. The altar is built around this large rock. After a time for quiet reflection and, of course more pictures, we proceeded to the restored ruins of a town called Capernaum where Jesus visited the home of Simon Peter and the fisher people recruits for this new Blessed Community. The Franciscans did a spectacular job re-constructing the ruins so one can view the layout of the prosperous town with a grand synagogue featured in the center facing Jerusalem. The stones of what is believed to be the home of Peter is featured underneath the Church which is shaped like a boat. Quite fascinating to read the explanations and descriptions of the ruins. Apparently, the one we are viewing was the second one constructed around the 6th century. The wealth of this town is displayed by the fancy carvings in the huge pillars that held up the thatched roof. I could visualize the story of the paralytic being lowered through this thatched roof to Jesus for healing. Apparently there was an earthquake in the area at some point destroying the town which was never rebuilt until
the 20th century because the fear of future earthquakes. Our guide stated that the last earthquake hit around 1927. We then finished the trip with a quite breezy boat ride on the lake imagining the stories of the stormy seas. The ship’s mate played the Star Spangled banner and also displayed the US flag. This shows the close connection between the two nations. There is a t shirt displayed in a number of shops that reads: ” Dont worry America. Israel has your back.” There is a picture of a F 16 on the shirt. So much for the peacemakers.
We then proceeded home to eat dinner, pack and be ready to go to the airport at 1;30 am!! Yes, that early due to a change of time by the airlines. We will have a 7 hr layover in Istanbul. Some of us are considering going on a tour of that spectcular city if possible. Stay tuned. Peace.