December 2, 2016

Archbishop Tobin’s first visit to the Holy Land provided lasting impact

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, center, celebrates Mass at the site venerated as Christ’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Old City Jerusalem on Feb. 13, 2015. He is assisted by Father Robert Mazzola, left, and Father Joseph Newton, right. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, center, celebrates Mass at the site venerated as Christ’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Old City Jerusalem on Feb. 13, 2015. He is assisted by Father Robert Mazzola, left, and Father Joseph Newton, right. (File photo by Natalie Hoefer)

By Natalie Hoefer

As of February 2015, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin’s service for the Church and the Redemptorist order had taken him to a staggering 70 countries.

Defining Moments logoBut for all that travel, there was one special place of religious significance he had not visited—the Holy Land.

So when Archbishop Tobin set forth on a pilgrimage there with more than 50 Catholics from central and southern Indiana, it was as a pilgrim that he traveled, and not as a guide.

“For most of my life, I have been fascinated by the meaning of the ‘Word made flesh’,” he told The Criterion in an article announcing the pilgrimage in June of 2014. “God took flesh—became one of us—at a specific moment in human history and really walked this Earth in a particular land. I believe that tracing those footsteps will help me be a more committed disciple of Jesus and a better shepherd for his people.”

Many of his homilies since that pilgrimage have featured meaningful events that made an impact on him, and seven of his weekly “Rejoice in the Lord” columns during Lent and Easter of 2015 reflected upon his journey.

While every day of the 11-day pilgrimage provided meaningful, impactful moments, walking and praying along the Via Dolorosa, the “Way of Sorrow,” also known as the Stations of the Cross, in Old City Jerusalem was especially memorable for the archbishop.

“Occasionally, a shopkeeper would attempt to sell us something,” he recalled in his March 27 column. “Once or twice, we were scolded—even spit at—for reasons we can only guess.

“Jesus received similar treatment [only much, much worse] as he carried his cross through the narrow streets and outskirts of Jerusalem on his way to the Skull Place [Golgotha].”

On the last full day of the pilgrimage, Archbishop Tobin had the privilege of celebrating Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the chapel over the site believed to be Christ’s tomb.

“Here, in this very place, he rose from the dead,” he wrote in his April 3 column. “Here, he overcame my sins—and the sins of the world—and conquered death once and for all. Here, he triumphed over the evil that even today appears to us to be insurmountable. Here, Love was victorious once and for all!”

Archbishop Tobin and the pilgrims not only walked in the footsteps of Christ, but also of Christ’s Apostles, particularly St. Peter, the first leader of the Church. He noted in his Feb. 27 column that the pilgrimage took them to important sites in the life of Peter, including Jaffa, the Sea of Galilee, Capernaum and Jerusalem, where Peter denied knowing Christ.

“Our encounters with St. Peter in the Holy Land brought my fellow pilgrims and me closer to the humanity of Jesus, who loved and forgave Peter just as he loves and forgives us.”

In a question-and-answer interview with The Criterion the day after the announcement of his designation as a cardinal in October, Archbishop Tobin mentioned his continuing identification with St. Peter several times, particularly when the Apostle saw Jesus walking during a storm on the waters of the Sea of Galilee—waters the archbishop saw and rode upon during his pilgrimage.

“Peter, for reasons that have never been clear to me, blurts out, ‘If it’s you, have me walk on the water’ [Mt 14:28]. Why didn’t he say, ‘If it’s you, calm the storm?’ ” Archbishop Tobin reflected. “Maybe it was that visceral desire to follow him.

“And Jesus says, ‘Come’ [Mt 14:29]. And [Peter] gets out of the boat. … He was OK as long as he maintained his eyes focused on Jesus. What I’ve tried to do in the last 24 hours is to think, ‘You invite me to get out of the boat. Help me to see you.’ ”
 

(For access to photos from the Holy Land pilgrimage and the archbishop’s columns, reflections and homilies from it, log on to holylandarchindy.blogspot.com.)

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