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When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.
What is my least favorite thing about being a priest? I would have to say it is all the traveling that I must do.
Tomorrow, December 27th, I leave for the Holy Land. I will not be traveling alone. In fact, I will be with a group of approximately sixty pilgrims. A while back I was invited to be the group’s chaplain. I have no idea why I said yes, but I did. It was one of those God moments where the mouth speaks before the brain has time to think! A while back it sounded like a great idea. But now that the moment has arrived, I have been working very hard to get excited about the whole thing. I have been praying a lot about it.
On one particularly bad day, I began to complain about this trip to a good friend of mine that lives here in Dallas. I was on the phone, pacing back and forth, inside the main entrance of the McManus building at St. Monica’s parish. I was complaining about everything. I was complaining about the length of the flight. I was complaining about the food and the lack of comforts I would find over there. As soon as I finished complaining, an image, hanging on the wall, caught my eye. It was a painting of our lady on a donkey traveling to Bethlehem.
It was another God moment, for as soon as I saw this image, I began to reflect upon my words. I couldn’t believe that I was complaining. I confided in my friend that I was standing next to a painting of Mary on a donkey and Joseph walking by her side. I told my friend, “I can’t believe this! Here I am complaining about my flight to the Holy Land and here is Mary, serene, collected and calm, riding on a donkey, heading to Bethlehem.” My friend responded, saying, “Don’t forget…she’s also a teenager, a woman and pregnant!”
Mary and Joseph had little or no money. They had no health insurance, no food provisions, no medicines, etc…and here I was complaining about going to Israel, sleeping in Hotels, traveling by bus and having four square meals a day!!! I was complaining about visiting THE HOLY LAND!!! How foolish of me!!!
Before I knew it, God had quickly and suddenly put my foot in my mouth. I really had nothing more to say because I didn’t want to sound so silly.
Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Let us take some time today to reflect on these words, on Mary’s words (I am the handmaid of the Lord) and of course on our words. Is there any unity among the three? There should be.
Tomorrow I depart. Please keep me and the group in your prayers as we travel quite comfortably where Jesus walked not-so-comfortably. We too will be walking a lot, but not exactly with the same urgency and passion as he did. I think the best way to go on a pilgrimage like this is to remember that although I will be walking in his footsteps, He, along with His Mother on a donkey, were the first in creating them!