Today we checked out of our hotel after breakfast and traveled to the Qasr Al-Yahud baptismal site. As we continued through the West Bank, we arrived in the Jordan River Valley, which borders the country of Jordan. Here at the border of Palestine and Jordan, in the very waters that John the Baptist baptized Jesus, we were able to take off our shoes, submerge our feet, and renew our baptismal promises.
We continued on to Jericho, the site of the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. On the way into the city, we stopped to see the infamous Sycamore Tree, most likely a decendent of the original, that the short statured tax collector, Zuccheus, climbed to catch a glimpse of Jesus as he walked by. The Catholics of Jericho are served by the Church of the Good Shepherd, which is staffed by Franciscan Friars and Sisters. Father Anthony greeted us when we arrived and told us about his church and school. We celebrated Mass in this church today, and Father Willie Lechnar gave a wonderful homily on shepherds, sheep and Jesus the Good Shepherd. Following the Mass, we had lunch at a local restaurant, and had a little time for some shopping.
Our final stop before continuing on to Jerusalem, was the Mount of Temptation. This is where Jesus spent 40 days fasting and praying, and was tempted by Satan.
As we approached Jerusalem, Mahir announced that our first glimpse of Jerusalem was going to be from the Mount of Olives. This the place where Jesus ascended into heaven. Mahir pointed out all of the important locations that we would be visiting related to Jesus' last days on Earth. He pointed out Mt. Zion, where Jesus would celebrate the Last Supper with his disciples; the Garden of Gethsemane, where he would pray and be arrested; the area where he would be brought before Pilate; the path of the Via Dolorosa; and the Church of the Holy Sepulchur, where we will find the location of his crusifixion and burial. Other important locations were pointed out including the Dome of the Rock, and the Western Wall and our hotel.
After spending some time admiring the view of Jerusalem, and a few camel rides, he drove over to our hotel for the rest of the pilgrimage: the Notre Dame Center.
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