By Theresa Newell
I recently enjoyed the abundant blessing of going on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. By the Sea of Galilee, God’s love reached me in a new, healing way.
It is beautiful beside the lake. In January, it was temperate—around 70 degrees, and we were blessed with sunny weather. (In other seasons it is typically very hot and humid, but not in January, when it is lovely.) I sat by the lake and took it all in. I heard sounds of wildlife I had never seen before. A bird called out and its mate answered. I looked. It was a green parakeet-like bird sitting in a tree, eating a fruit I did not recognize. Life is abundant by the Sea of Galilee. A fish jumps. There is the flapping of wings as a large heron-like bird takes flight. The water gently laps at the shore. My Lord, did you love Galilee so?
As a child, our family managed to survive. We got by, but we did not have abundance. I never imagined that I, of all people, would be blessed with all the things I enjoy today – such as the opportunity to visit the Holy Land. But while there, I envisioned myself in new light and learned to know more deeply our God of Abundance.
Tabgha, the “Place of the Seven Springs” (the Greek is Heptapegon), feeds into the Sea of Galilee, is said to be the approximate location for the place where Jesus called his first disciples, multiplied the loaves and fishes, and after the resurrection, ate breakfast with the disciples. It was the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes that spoke to me most while I was here. I was able to see myself on a deeper level—my anxieties over money, my sense of unworthiness around material goods, my discomfort around those of higher class—almost a fear of abundance. Here, I allowed myself to be seen within this vulnerability.
Jesus fed many with little (five loaves and two fish). Jesus became incarnate as poor and vulnerable, and understands need so well. Jesus, while identifying with the poor, held out a belief in a God of abundance – a God whose good pleasure it is to give good things to God’s own offspring. Jesus rewrote the story of the poor. The “king” becomes the servant, and conversely, the victim becomes the hero. How might I rewrite my story as the unworthy recipient of spiritual abundance?
When it came time to leave Galilee and head south, I became sad. I had found this place to be pleasant and safe. Beautiful things had happened here. I wanted to tarry and enjoy the abundance. Tabgha, a place of abundance and feeding, even as the springs feed the lake.
Did you feel the same, dear Jesus, when you had to leave Galilee, knowing it was might be the last time you’d see it? Was it was a place of safety for you, too—a home where beautiful things had happened? Yet, you were drawn to move on. Your “family” [that is spiritual family (Mark 3:33-35)] was waiting. You love us so, and you go where you are needed. Allow me to join you—all the way to the end.
Theresa Newell is a hospital chaplain, a postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Olympia, a wife, and a mother to mostly grown foster, adopted and biological children. She lives in the Seattle area with her husband, the youngest of her children, and her Great Dane.