Walking in faith on trip to Holy Land Day of Prayer challenged
By Richard and Jeannie Sheldon
Our journey to the Holy Land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem came on the eve of the season when Christians remember the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also preceded the period when those of Jewish faith celebrate the Feast of the Passover.
Our desire to see this land was tied to our beliefs as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jerusalem blends modern city life with the ancient past, as well as the holy with the secular. The presence of the 2,000-year-old Western Wall, temple mounts, synagogues, churches — along with tolling bells and the muezzin call of the faithful — gives one a feeling that Jerusalem is filled with an air of prayer and reflection.
Few of the landmarks described in scriptural accounts, however, remain unchanged.
Some of the important religious sites linked to the life of Christ have been claimed by religious groups that through the years have built huge churches and cathedrals over them.
In Bethlehem, for example, the Church of the Nativity is built over the manger where Jesus was born. The cave-like appearance is dark and cold. Upon seeing the humble beginnings for the Son of God, we wondered if Mary sensed the enormity of her task as mother of a child who would one day save the world.
To the east of ancient Jerusalem is the Mount of Olives, where Christ taught his apostles and disciples to be watchful, prayerful and faithful. It was there he was betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was there he appeared as a resurrected being to teach and commission his apostles. And it is there where he will come again to show himself to the people of Israel.
Within the ancient city, the Western Wall is the holiest of places for Jews because it is the visible spot closest to the center of the destroyed temple — where Jews believe the ark of the covenant, carrying the broken remains of the original 10 commandments given to Moses by God, was kept.
Those who come to the massive wall of huge stone blocks recite daily prayers and leave petitions to God for special blessings. All visitors are invited to share in this tradition. In the spirit of gratitude for all blessings, we wrote this line of Scripture: "I know from whence cometh my blessings, my blessings cometh from the Lord." Our petition was added to hundreds of others left at the wall.
We also walked along the path to Golgotha and reflected on the injustices the Savior suffered on our behalf when sentenced to death by crucifixion. We stopped where Simon was summoned to carry the cross as physical punishment by flagellation had left the Savior barely able to stand. We wondered what the weight of the cross felt like.
On the path — amid the call of merchants selling wares, goods and souvenirs — is "Our Lady Chapel," which covers the ground on which Mary stood helpless at the sight of the passing Savior. Reflecting on the mother's feelings of despair, we were filled with emotion. The path ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where the Savior was crucified and placed in one of the garden tombs.
As we concluded our journey of the land, we appreciated the opportunity of being briefly swept back in time to glimpse His ministry and redeeming sacrifice for all mankind. In the spirit of the recent Easter season, may our thoughts turn to our Savior. And may we show our gratitude by bearing the weight of the cross to become better human beings by living good and righteous lives.