A Virtual Pilgrimage with St. George’s College

Five short films with on-site footage, which give a taster of the College’s study pilgrimages.

  1. Introduction 
  2. Nazareth
  3. Bethlehem
  4. Galilee
  5. Jerusalem: Jesus’s death, resurrection and ascension

We invite a donation of $25 per person for access to these films and a generous donation for parishes/churches to use with their congregation. To register please email: resources@sgcjerusalem.org 

SGC Lent Course -A River Through the Desert

Six sessions focusing on the physical features of the Holy Land to explore our faith through Lent.

  • Week 1 The Desert
  • Week 2 The Water Well
  • Week 3 The Mountain
  • Week 4 The Sea
  • Week 5 The Road
  • Week 6 The Garden

To register to receive all the material in one email pack please send an email to: resources@sgcjerusalem.org

Pilgrim Talks

A series of short films entitled Pilgrim Talks available on YouTube. In depth teaching with images provides excellent background information and would be good preparation for a pilgrimage with the College or for those no longer able to travel.

The themes are:

1 Introduction

2 Bethlehem

3 Nazareth

4 The Wilderness

5 A Personal Reflection

In YouTube search for St George’s College Jerusalem or /https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99ZRdyGluGw&fbclid=IwAR29N_eqXu9cKjyHslOT_J_a_nMykA2NPX3ZKrujCRinVEyLmEvWPWx9-dc

We produce issue posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Below is an example of a series which appeared on Facebook: A Twenty Day Holy Land Pilgrimage.

Most of St George’s College pilgrimages finish at a small town, called Abu Ghosh, about seven miles from Jerusalem. It is one of several places considered to be what, in the Gospel of Luke, went by the name Emmaus. It is a wonderful place to finish a pilgrimage in the Holy Land.

If you are feeling, on the second day of Easter, like the full joy of the resurrection has not quite yet reached your core then you will be like the apostles themselves. They were not all immediately convinced that the time for grieving and darkness had ended. It took several appearances of the risen Jesus, over a period of time, for them all to realise the new age had begun. This year we may need to allow time for our Lord to do his work on us too.

The Emmaus story is instructive in many ways – it starts in grief, is complicated by unsubstantiated rumour and is mired in confusion. But Jesus gives them time to find their way and he ministers to them first on the journey together and then in a shared meal. One of two churches we visit for our final Eucharist is the Crusader era Church of the Resurrection (pictured) and it has a powerful effect on all those who enter. It is cavernous and its acoustic effect is too. As we gather to hear the story of eyes opened and hearts set on fire and as we share in the Eucharistic meal, Christ is made present for us too. It is a reminder that our pilgrimage continues as we travel home, wherever that may be, and our journey of faith with Jesus our Lord continues in the normality of our lives. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia, alleluia!    

Christos anesti! Alethos anesti! Christ is risen! Indeed he is risen! When in Jerusalem, speak….Greek? Yes, at least for the traditional Easter greeting. Today is Western Easter, and next Sunday will be Orthodox Easter. Two Easters in one holy city multiply liturgies and double the shouts of joy. The crown of any Christian pilgrimage is a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Consecrated in 339 AD, the church rebuilt in the 12th century still encloses the rock of Calvary and the rock-cut tomb of our Lord. Having come from across the world to stand in this church, pilgrims eagerly wait in line to enter the tomb in the great rotunda to kneel and pray at the marble-lined ledge where tradition says He lay. The tomb given to Jesus was largely destroyed in 1009 AD, and it was thought until recently that little of it survived. But several years ago the little building, the “edicule,” over it was studied, cleaned, and strengthened and something marvelous came to light. As stone coverings were removed for the first time in hundreds of years, more of the original bedrock tomb was found to exist than was known. The tomb itself, we might say, was newly born. The pinkish limestone of the edicule emerged from the soot of ages, and steel girders holding the edicule together were removed. The message of the resurrection, however, is not about a building, though that is where it has been celebrated for 1700 years, but about the power of God to bring from destruction, sadness, and death newness of life. And the deeper our distress, the sadder the world’s situation, the more loudly Christians must proclaim and enact the good news of hope and promise. Each of us emerges on Easter from Lenten dust and our true selves are revealed. We are strengthened, rooted in the rock of our salvation, newly born into Christ’s risen body. Alleluia! Christos anesti!

‘This is a non-day, a time of silent waiting, hardly daring to breathe. There is a tradition which says that between the observance of the Lord’s burial and the kindling of the new fire that marks the start of Easter, the Church remains silent too. Waiting alone in the darkness of a gothic church, with the ribs of the vaulting arching above you like the ribs of some great beached whale, you can pray the prayer of Jonah from the belly of the great fish.’

So writes +David Stancliffe in The Pilgrim Prayerbook.

Holy Saturday is the only day of the year when the eucharist cannot be celebrated. It is a day of mourning, a liminal space and time of waiting in fear and trembling. What about everything Jesus had announced and done throughout his life? Had it all come to an end?

When we visit the tomb under the Aedicule at the Holy Sepulchre (pictured), darkness and silence surround us. Mystery is everywhere. As we kneel in the tomb, silence is filled with all that is on our hearts. How many sorrows, wounds, joys, thanksgivings, fears … have been brought to God from there?

Not only Mary and Martha were crying at the death of their brother Lazarus. Jesus too wept. Because he loved him and was moved by their agony. On this day, we too join in the weeping.

The body of Jesus is truly lying dead and Jesus’s followers are mourning. Meanwhile, a cosmic battle is happening that they have no idea about: Jesus is descending into the dead and defeating death forever. This is the most profound paradox on which our faith is founded.

On this day, Good Friday, the attention of all Christians could be on the Holy Sepulchre in The Holy City. However, the holiest Christian shrine is shuttered, closed to the public. Today it accentuates the idea of the place of Jesus’s death as a place of sheer desolation. In normal times pilgrims visit this church for so many reasons and there are multiple places of significance within it. This place (pictured), is one that surprises the first time visitor and is a continual source of spiritual connection for those who return – the Stone of Unction (or Anointing). Here we remember the moment when Jesus is taken from the cross and prepared for burial in the tomb nearby. One can observe the practices of people from all over the world who revere this place where they can recall the sacrifice that Christ made for us all. Fragrant oil poured on the stone might then be wiped with a special garment as a precious reminder. Good Friday is a day of painful loss infused with profound hope. Wherever you are in the world and however you have found it possible to mark this holy day, may the scent of hope infuse your devotions. All is not lost even when things seem at their most grim. The God of love who raised Jesus from the dead upholds us through every trial and threat. Love and justice may seem thwarted but they are not defeated.

“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray’” (Mk 14:32). On Maundy Thursday night pilgrims in Jerusalem make their way to the Church of All Nations in the Kidron Valley. Feet are washed and Mass is celebrated, with the overflow crowd watching on large screens outside. Nearby is the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus went to pray before he was arrested. From the garden Jesus could have seen the very height of the temple itself, his Father’s house. He has eaten his final meal with his friends, interpreting the bread and wine to signify his death. On his way from the Upper Room to the garden he passed monumental tombs in the Kidron Valley, with more modest tombs above.  Did he think of his impending death? There are still olive groves on the Mount of Olives. It is possible to pray on Maundy Thursday night in the Garden of Gethsemane-the only night of the year it is open-or in another orchard, the full Passover moon giving its warm light. The old trees speak silently of the intensity of Jesus’ prayer that night, and the scandal of Judas’ betrayal. This pandemic year we cannot have our feet washed or gather for the Lord’s Supper in Jerusalem and so many other places under restrictions. But we can watch with Our Lord in prayer, giving thanks that he was obedient to his Father’s will. Stay awake with Christ.

On this day, ‘Spy Wednesday’ we remember Judas Iscariot and the deal he made with the religious authorities to betray Jesus. This tree, in the St George’s Cathedral Close is a Cercis silisquastrum nicknamed ‘Judas Tree’. Mythology tells that Judas hanged himself from such a tree, turning the white blossom red and it has blossomed red ever since to remember the sin of Judas. I prefer to see the blossom as a symbol of God’s grace which can encompass even the most lost soul. We can cherish the idea that Christ will tarry in hell whilst even one soul remains to be saved.

The College/Cathedral garden is biblically themed with many flowers and trees planted there which are mentioned in the Bible or which have connections such as Ziziphus spina-christi or ‘Christ Thorn’ because it is thought that Jesus’s thorny crown was made from this.

The College’s gardener, Samer lovingly tends this garden and has done for thirty years. But like all the local staff on the College, he has been temporarily laid off owing to the pandemic. There is much that brings sadness in these days. We believe that this season of fear and grieving will give way to new life and hope as the blossom bursts forth from the bare tree. This is the promise of Easter, when all appears to be lost, it is not lost but waiting to be redeemed.

In these first days of Holy Week the Church is rather still, except for behind the scenes.  Altar Guilds are caring for linens and brass, organists’ feet are flying, and preachers’ pens are scribbling.  Our techie friends are setting up for remote streaming of the services when folks can’t gather.  In Jerusalem last Holy Week the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (where the Tomb of Christ is enshrined) was being cleaned from crevice to corner.  The steep steps up to Calvary, on which more than a million feet tread in a year, got a good slosh with soap and water.  Lent is now behind us, a season that seemed extra long this year as we focused on the distress of the world.  Perhaps we all have some spring cleaning of our hearts yet to do before we are ready to walk with Our Lord through his final days.  Did our Lenten intentions falter long ago?  Maybe we are fearful of adding sorrow upon sorrow, weight upon weight.  Pray, then, in humility: “Do not be far from me, O my God; make haste to help me” (Ps. 71:12).   And be encouraged: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

Matthew tells us that two days before the Passover (which will be celebrated this Wednesday), Jesus was in the house of Simon the leper and an unnamed ‘woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard…and poured the ointment on his head’. It is extravagant, luxurious, but also a gesture reminiscent of the anointing of kings such as Saul, David, or Solomon, to name a few. Also, it is only a matter of days before the Lamb of God is sacrificed and the ointment is points simultaneously toward his death: at the same time Judas is planning his betrayal. In John’s gospel, it is Mary who pours perfume made of pure nard on Jesus’s feet and wipes them with her hair. If servants usually clean the feet of guests with water, as Jesus does with his disciples at the Last Supper, to use oil would be reserved for prestigious guests.

As it happens, both of these stories have been mixed up with another one: the woman in Luke’s account, ‘who was a sinner’, and who, on hearing that Jesus had been invited to share a meal, bathed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed them with oil brought, also, in an alabaster jar, while the host had not even given him water. Each time, either the woman or Jesus is blamed (for bringing such a gift, or accepting such a gift). Each time, the hypocrisy of the accusers is pointed out. Holy Week is a precious time to reflect on Jesus’ body and its mystery, as both fully human and the incarnation of God.

“All glory, laud, and honor to thee, Redeemer King!” On Palm Sunday Christians from the world over, including St. George’s College pilgrims (though sadly, not this year because of stay-at-home restrictions,) meet at the top of the Mount of Olives to follow our Lord on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Pilgrims crowd the streets until the Roman Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem begins the procession. Thousands and thousands of disciples cry, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Banners are raised high; scouts and bands parade. Whole palm branches are carried aloft, woven with flowers and ribbons. Spaniards strum their guitars, singing and dancing down the mount. Italians say their rosaries and wear vestments of their lay guilds. Africans don their colorful national costumes. Maoris catch our ears with the close harmonies of the South-Seas. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” In many of our churches we do not give Palm Sunday its full due. We move quickly in the liturgy to the Passion gospel, leaving the hosannas to fade after the first hymn. Today few of us will be able to worship in community, so join the throngs that pressed around Jesus all day long in your homes. The world needs extra joy! Sing from your balconies, tweet some hosannas, cut a branch to wave. Welcome Jesus into your town. Deep, confident joy can steel us for Holy Week and the months to come.

A pilgrim is essentially, one who walks and a pilgrimage in the Holy Land involves a good deal of walking, some of it on difficult terrain. But that experience is one of the ways in which the pilgrim comes close to Christ, because we know that he did a significant amount of walking and Christians literally and metaphorically seek to walk in his Way.

One of the most instructive things about Jesus’s ministry is his willingness to walk towards danger and difficulty. Where we might be tempted to look for avoidance, he sought to expose injustice and to challenge those who misguided others, he walked towards the wounded. After his transfiguration, Jesus, in Luke’s memorable phrase, ‘set his face to go to Jerusalem’ although he must have known that would take him into the centre of jeopardy. Perhaps it reminds us of those who in these difficult days are putting themselves at risk for the health and welfare of others. For this we owe them a great debt of gratitude.

This path in the desert, not far from Jerusalem, is a reminder that the way can be hard but the pilgrim keeps their heart set on the goal. Hardship is followed by glory, not perhaps in the world’s terms but rather it is spiritual gold. May Christ walk with you on your pilgrim walk wherever you are and wherever you are heading.

Caesarea Philippi (pictured), or Banias as it is also known, is about as far north as Jesus could have travelled with his disciples. It is one of the most pleasant, peaceful, relaxing places we visit on our pilgrimages. There are remains of a shrine dedicated to the pagan god Pan, associated with the wild, shepherds and flocks …
There may be many reasons why Jesus brought his disciples there before heading back to Jerusalem. There may be a statement suggestive of death and pointing to the realm of Hades. When you visit this place in the rainy season, you see an abundance of water, literally gushing out of the rocks. The Golan Heights nearby, is the source of the Jordan river that flows south to the Sea of Galilee and carries on its way to the Dead Sea. If Peter is the rock on which the Church is built, Jesus is the ‘living water’ which irresistibly and abundantly gushes out of the rock.         

Many pilgrims to the Holy Land will come only once. Some return again and again.   Nearly all study pilgrimages at St. George’s College cover what we call “the basics.”  We follow in the footsteps of Jesus or visit the places of his wider context. Our imagination before we come the first time, or our experiences after a pilgrimage, can be turned upside-down. Can you imagine Holy Week in drenching sleet?  Or bananas growing in the desert? Perhaps your course leader will speak of something that a week ago wasn’t discovered. At St. George’s College we work to stay current and to afford new perspectives. Humans are blessed with the ability to imagine.  We thank God that we can change (how’s that going this Lent?) and envision. God’s  “power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). So where was this photo taken? Every St. George’s pilgrim has been here, but only one group, our Level 2 course in January, saw it from this perspective. Enter your guess in the comments, please, and wait for the place to be revealed at the top of tomorrow’s post. In the meantime, exercise your holy imagination. See something anew, allowing God to work abundantly in you.

The panoramic view of Jerusalem from the top of the Mount of Olives is always breath taking. It has captured the hearts of pilgrims for centuries. Jesus’s disciples see Jerusalem and exclaim ‘look Lord what large stones and what fine buildings’ (Mark 13:1). A little later, Jesus views the city possibly from this very vantage point and weeps for the city. Today the city is quiet when usually, at this time of year, it would be so busy as the Christian communities prepare for Easter.   

Here though, in this extraordinary view, we see the history of salvation captured for us in a single view: we see signs of Abraham, of David and Solomon, we can spy the (possible) site of the Last Supper, of Jesus’s arrest and his crucifixion which is covered by a church containing also the place of Jesus’s resurrection.  

It would be easy to feel that God has abandoned the world in our suffering but Jesus’s tears here tell us that God suffers with us and will guide us through the pain into a time of new and renewed life.    

Even when Jerusalem was destroyed, the Psalmist could proclaim: 

‘The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. 
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. 
He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. 
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.’ (Psalm 147) 

The vista of the Holy City is itself an image of hope. 

On our Level 2 pilgrimage last January, we walked to the top of Mount Arbel where a panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee was awaiting us (pictured). Many of us who had been on a previous pilgrimage at the College could identify from afar different sites we had visited: Magdala, Capernaum, Tabgha … Sites where prayers have been offered for ages, through good and ill, where Christian pilgrims of the 21st century walk in the footsteps of pilgrims of the third or fourth century and … of Jesus and his disciples.
Mount Arbel has been the site of many deaths, but now offers the most breathtaking and peaceful view. On this day, as we remember John Donne (in the Anglican calendar), ‘Death, be not proud’ comes to mind. Death definitely does not prevail in Christian thinking.
All pilgrims who come leave a part of themselves behind: it can be a graffito, in the form of a cross, a boat (yes), a name … or a prayer. It reminds us of our connectedness with each other throughout space and time. As John Donne also wrote:
‘No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.’

We are all ‘involved in humankind’, and perhaps we feel it more powerfully at this time.

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’ (Jn 1:5).  Twice a week in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the hanging lamps are replenished with oil and new wicks. In Orthodox churches lamps and candles are everywhere, and pilgrims who are not familiar with Orthodox churches may find the prevalence of lamps a curious thing. Why not just turn on the lights, we might ask?  Well, custom predates electricity. Traditions prevail in Jerusalem, with the lights of Christ serving as practical illumination and spiritual reminders of God’s presence.    The men who refill the lamps are descendants of men before them who had this privilege near the tomb of our Lord. First they lower a line of lamps hanging from a heavy wooden beam by unlashing a rope from its cleats. Then they scoop the old wicks out and add more oil, pouring from huge containers of Mazola corn oil, which is less expensive and burns more cleanly than olive oil. Finally, new wicks are set afloat.  Lamps feed the mystery and warmth of Orthodox churches and speak to the truth that light is not overcome by darkness. ‘Lent’ refers to the lengthening of days towards Easter (at least in the Northern Hemisphere, where the term arose). No matter where you are in our world, go ahead, dispel some darkness. Share the light of Christ.

Passiontide dawns with the remarkable account of Jesus’s raising of Lazarus from the dead. It takes place in Bethany, which scripture tells us, was two miles from Jerusalem. It still is, as the crow flies, but tragically, the building of the Wall of Separation between Jerusalem and the West Bank means you have to travel over six miles now and the Wall has cut off access to Jerusalem for many of the town’s residents.

But it is worth the visit to see the Church of St Lazarus and the tomb of Lazarus (pictured here) which has been a place of pilgrimage since at least the fourth century. To descend into that tomb seems to take us deep down into the realm of the dead. Lazarus’s friends were convinced that he was dead and gone. Not so, Jesus. He saw it differently; he saw another possibility, as he usually did. To everyone’s astonishment, the apparently dead and stinking corpse was transformed into a renewed life. It prefigures Jesus’s own resurrection and gives us something to cling onto as we enter into the dark days of Jesus’s passion.

Perhaps at this time we might feel too that we have entered into a tomb-like experience. There may be moments when we feel cut off and the light of hope has been extinguished. The raising of Lazarus is a sign of hope for us. What appears one way to us, is a moment of possibility for God. We must not give up as Lazarus’s friends had done. “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they will die, will live.’” This is the ground of all our hope.

‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’

But where does our faith find its foundation? The author of Hebrews gives examples in Chapter 11 of those who are model of faith:  Abel, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and from Moses and to them God has shown faithfulness. We never know what the future will bring, but there are times when this uncertainty is more powerfully felt. In these times, it is helpful to look back on our path and remember what God promised and did.

Mount Moriah (pictured) is symbolically and historically deeply significant in the three Abrahamic religions. Tradition holds that it ‘Foundation Stone’ of the world’s creation; it is said to be the place where Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac. It is where the Jewish Temples stood and the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant. It is where Jesus was presented and introduced to Simeon and where he regularly taught. For Muslims, the Haram esh-Sharif is where the Prophet Muhammad was carried by night on his horse Buraq, from Mecca, where he prayed and ascended to Heaven to converse with God, before returning to earth.

It is where heaven and earth seem to touch each other; a place of intense communication with God. It is where faith, conviction and hope have been expressed for thousands of years – and it goes on.

‘O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,

be thou our guard while troubles last, and our eternal home.’

When we ask our pilgrims what places in the Holy Land have made an indelible impact on them, often they mention the Wilderness of Judea. Some countries have vast deserts, but Judea’s is fairly small. Still, it is desolate, affording little vegetation except for scrubby sage and the occasional glimpse of a gazelle. Bedouin still tend their flocks and live in shanty dwellings among the camel-colored hills. We don’t know exactly where Jesus spent the forty days and nights after his baptism, but Christian tradition says it was here.
When St George’s College pilgrims follow our Lord into the Judean Wilderness we speak first about the early centuries of Christian monasticism, some of whose 5th century buildings are still inhabited by faithful monks. Then we read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ fast and temptations during the forty days. Finally, we enter into silence to meditate as our senses are stripped bare by the landscape and our hearts are more attuned to listen what God is saying to us. Some monastics call their monasteries “deserts” even in rainy climes, for a desert can be a place of encountering God when all other distractions are gently let go. In these waning days of Lent, where is your desert? What is God saying to your heart?

For many people, the first time they see the Galilee is a very special moment. It is a place vivid in our imaginations through hearing countless stories from the Bible. To see it in reality, never disappoints. There is nowhere better from which to see its beauty than from the Mount of Beatitudes which is view in the picture below.

In Lent, Christians think about the way in which we should seek to live our lives as faithful disciples. Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount provides a powerful framework for living in harmony with Jesus’s way of justice and peace. It is not an easy way; in difficult times we are challenged to be the ones who walk with the suffering and stand with the grieving and much more. In these strange days, thinking about what we can do for others is a path to peace whilst simply yearning what we do not have ourselves can only lead to discontentment.

Contemplating the beauty of the Sea of Galilee, with the Golan Heights on the far side we might be able to imagine Jesus Christ close to us and leading us into a deeper understanding of how we can serve him.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled’. Matthew 5:6

The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth was built on the site which many people believe is the house of St Mary and where the Angel Gabriel visited her.

            Every time we visit the basilica, our Course Director at the College, invites the pilgrims to carefully look at an inscription on the altar placed in the house. It reads: ‘Verbum caro hic factum est’. Here, the Word was made flesh.

            In Bethlehem, we visit the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born. In this place, now in the basilica, pilgrims have come since at least the fourth century to commemorate the exchange between God’s messenger, the Angel Gabriel, and the Theotokos, the God-bearer, Mary, which results in the incarnation.

            Many centuries and several church buildings later, the present basilica was dedicated in 1964. Its lower level is rather dim, silent, and focuses the attention on the house, also referred to as a grotto. Some compare it to a womb. It is a place of origin.

            As our world is forced to slow down dramatically, as the streets around us become silent, may we trust in God’s silent work within us and have faith in the presence of God, hic (here) and everywhere.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;

Blessed art thou among women,

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.

Holy Mary, mother of God,

Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Earlier this year our pilgrims found themselves waiting on the edge of the highway from Jericho to Jerusalem. Our bus had broken down. We were on our way back to the College after a tiring day in the Jordan River Valley when the driver pulled over at the insistent sound of an alarm. The news was not good. Waiting for the replacement bus, we got out to stretch our legs and lifted our eyes westward to the Judean Hills. Just then the winter clouds became flame above the dusk of the desert floor. Later we reflected on this beauty and how glad we were that a broken down bus had given us a heavenly gift. “I up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:7). Our world feels like it is at its lowest point in these days of pandemic, natural disaster, and war. We rest at the side of the road, in need of rescue. From where is our help to come? The psalm reassures us that God keeps us. We raise our eyes, praying for light to infuse our tired souls and heal our world.

The land of the Holy One is often described as the Fifth Gospel. When you visit Capernaum, you can see and touch the remains of a village built in the C2 BC. You can hear the sound of the sea (right ahead in the picture) on which fishermen would sail, like St Paul himself. There is the dwelling thought to be St Peter’s house, over which an octagonal church now stands. We know Jesus was here.      

The gospel reading today (John 4:43-54) recounts a healing miracle: a royal official’s son in Capernaum is on his death bed. The official begs Jesus to come and heal his son: ‘Go, your son will live’, Jesus replies.

Talk about healing and social distancing.…

Here is an example of healing through the word, performed by the Word made flesh. ‘Only say the word and I shall be healed’.

As the world is stricken by a pandemic, staying at a safe distance from one another is a way of caring for each other. We only have our words to touch and heal. While the hug of a loved one or the possibility to simply hold hands can ordinarily bring us so much comfort and healing, and speak volumes, now is perhaps a time to be more mindful of our words that, through Christ in us, they may bring that comfort and healing which we all need.