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Day Three Novena in Israel

boots closeup

I have a mountain to climb tomorrow.

It rises above the Sea of Galilee in one pleasing swoop. Like the horn of a saddle. I´m not sure how I will manage to climb any distance at all.

I have only seen it from the waters of the Sea of Galilee, taken pictures of it which I had blown up and printed on canvas for my office.

It is the backdrop not only for the Sea, but also for Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene. I have been there before, but my eyes were on the church. What a church it is, with its pillars dedicated to women of the New Covenant and an altar shaped like a boat with a magnificent window behind it that frames the Sea perfectly.

The priest celebrates the Mass, prays the Liturgy of the Eucharist from here, and looks like Jesus in a boat on the Sea of Galilee.

Like I said, I have been to Magdala. On my last visit, though, I didn´t turn around and look at the backdrop of the mountain. I had tunnel vision.

Today, I took the time to really take in the place, and the surroundings.

And there it was, so close that Magadala makes up the footbed of the mountain.

Tomorrow, I will get up, put on my hiking boots which have been with me on every pilgrimage I have made. I will set my cap for Mount Arbel, literally. Pony tail hanging out the back of the baseball cap.

I will put on sunglasses, and begin the climb.

Then I will wish that I had exercised more consistently in the months before this retreat to the holy sites in Israel.

I doubt I will get as far up Mount Arbel as the cows I saw grazing tthe gently  sloping side of the mountain.

But I will try. My friend will encourage me to keep going. She is young. What does she know of bodies that resist the will?

And yet, it is good that she will propel me upward. We all need that, well, almost daily.

She will walk slightly ahead of me, but never appear to be waiting on me. She will bring the snacks and remind me to drink plenty of water.

Sometimes, I will want to reach out and grab her hand. She has become so dear to me. And tomorrow night she leaves to return to Jerusalem. I will be on my own to face other mountains.

This retreat will take on a new dimension. New vistas. New spiritual muscles enlisted. New reasons to learn how to propel myself forward when there is nobody else to do it.

Mount Arbel.

Solitude.

They have something in common, here in The Galilee.

Or at home or at work or when raising a family or when dying in a nursing home.

Tomorrow, I will face a mountain that I will climb. And I will look down upon the Sea of Galilee and remember Our Lord did everything first. Every challenge, he overcame.

And in the final hour, he had only Mary Magdalene, John, and His Mother to walk with Him up that mountain.

He offered it all up for us. I will offer tomorrow up to Him.

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