by Christopher Cross
In the last 39 years of going to the Holy Land, I have learned certain truths and observed in the pilgrims traveling with me a lasting effect upon their lives. Most of the pilgrims had no idea how this trip would greatly affect their future and show them how to bring God back into their lives. These two simple truths had a tremendous impact on both the clergy and laity who traveled with me. One of the truths I learned over the years is that God will use you to touch other people if you only let Him. The other truth I saw manifested so many times in other people is that God is more interested in changing you than your circumstances. WOW! How very simple but true. In scripture, the Magi came to see the Child Jesus and, after seeing Him, they were warned by an angel to take a different route back home. King Herod wanted to cause harm to the Child Jesus, so, being forewarned, the Magi made changes in their return journey. Just so, once you make a trip to the Holy Land, you too will go home a different way and become a different person. How true this is in the many people who have traveled to the Holy Land. I personally know 8 men who came to the Holy Land and later became Priests. I currently know 7 young men now in seminary studying to become Priests and 3 young women who have become Sisters. Interestingly, I also know several Priests who were considering leaving the Priesthood who came back from the pilgrimage to the Holy Land totally refreshed in the Spirit and willing to serve God for the rest of their lives. Wow! How moved I was to see how the Holy Spirit used me to touch so many people, causing a change in their lives for the better. There have been numerous laity who shared with me that it had been 25-35 years since they had gone to Confession, and they finally came back to the Sacraments after being away so long. What causes such change? I guess the same Spirit that touched the Apostles also touched those who traveled with me. You see, all the Apostles except St. John suffered martyrdom. These Apostles loved Christ so much that they were willing to die for Him. A good saying for the Apostles is “You don’t die for a lie.”
The other truth I would like to talk more about is that God is more interested in changing you than your circumstances. Many of us have to take a deep look within ourselves and realize that we need to change, notour circumstances. I do prison ministry, and I tell the inmates that their circumstances are not going to change in the next 20 years, but they need to change and adapt to the circumstances. They might have a difficult family environment, or their spouse doesn’t appreciate them, or alcohol and drugs may be in the picture. They might have just been laid off from work or been fired, have health problems, or family stress. All these problems will continue, but God is more interested in changing them so they can cope with these circumstances in a more Christian way. Jesus is the best consoler there is, because He was the biggest victim of injustices and not appreciated at all by the locals. He knows what it feels like to be misunderstood, ridiculed, and alone. It is so important to establish a communication line with God, and that communication is prayer. It can take many forms and I don’t think there is a wrong way to pray. All prayers are answered by God in one of three ways. He will say “Yes” to your prayer request, He will say “Not now,” or He will say, ” I have a better plan”. All prayers are answered this way, so if your prayers are not answered immediately, do not become discouraged. PUSH = Pray Until Something Happens.
Recently, there has been a noteworthy undertaking by several local pious men who are attempting to start a new movement within the local Catholic Church in the Huntersville, NC area, with hopes to reach people worldwide. Their mission is to be fed by God and to call ourselves, our Church and our country back to Him. They have been called to pray in the public square and bring Christ with them when they go out to pray. All but 1 of the men who have started this Apostolate have all traveled to the Holy Land with me and are willing to share the experiences they encountered while they were in the land where Jesus was born, where He lived and, eventually, where He died.
There are many stories I have to tell, but thought this would be a good start or introduction. May God continue you on your mission and bless all those involved.