Our flight to the Holy Land had been so delayed that we hadn’t much more than five hours sleep before we were sitting on the coach and driving from Tiberius to our first destination at 8am that first Wednesday morning of our pilgrimage. I watched the pale faces of our group of 32 board a wooden trawler-like boat which was to take us out onto the Sea of Galilee. We had come from home where the temperatures were dropping along with the leaves, yet there the sun was brightly shining on the water and the temperatures beginning to rise. The heat at that early hour was the same as that of a fine summer’s day in Ireland.
I was unsure as to what to expect from the
Sea of Galilee or any other well-known site from the Scriptures. Many times we hear that Jesus ‘got into a boat and went to the other side’ and I marvelled at how close and clear the other side was. We were to discover that the distances between places, be they across water or land, in many cases weren’t that far.
In the middle of the Sea, the engines in the boat were turned off to allow for a piece of scripture or a prayer to be read. Yet, as we read these there was another most surprising revelation all around us. We paused for 5 minutes in what can only be described as absolute silence. The sea was utterly calm and, but for the creaking of the boat, there wasn’t a breath of sound to be heard. As city folk our silences are always filled by an underlying ‘hum’ of movement and life around us but there we were privy to a silence the likes of which we had never witnessed before. Suddenly the words of many scriptures came to mind; the calming of the storm and the silence that ensued at Jesus’ command; the possibility that the voice of Christ from the shoreline could be heard out across the water “Peter, cast your nets to the other side of the boat!” To me this peace was the peace of God.
We return from that place to another that is filled with bright lights, colder temperatures and the expectation of Christmas with all that entails and I know that, for most of us, our feet will scarcely hit the ground in it all. And so from the centre of the Sea of Galilee we pilgrims bring home with us a little piece of the essence of God. The memory of a peace that ‘passes all understanding’ as the familiar blessing goes. It is that peace that we wish for you and your families and loved ones this Christmas time; that whatever the world brings you in the busy ‘hum’ of life, you may find the type of calm that makes more audible that voice from the shoreline; the peace of God in your lives in the quieter moments you give to yourself. God bless you this Christmas time and always.
Rev. Cathy Hallissey Curate-Assistant