“And Zacchae’us stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.'”
Following in the footsteps of St. John, the pilgrims left the city of Jerusalem and drove into the wilderness to visit the city of Jericho, the Monastery of Christ’s Temptation in the desert, the Jordan River, and the Dead Sea.
The day began with Mass at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Jericho. This is the only Catholic Church in the entire city where 25,000 people currently live. Of that number, only 500 are Christians. Aside from its importance in the Old Testament, the city of Jericho is also the place where the tax collector, Zacchae’us climbed a tree to see Jesus as he passed by (Luke 19:1-11). During his homily, Bishop Sarhad spoke about how it isn’t about not sinning, it’s about how we make up for it. In this way, Zachae’us is a great example of repentance. He had many obstacles: his stature, his reputation, his vices, but he overcame them all. The Bishop encouraged the group to allow this pilgrimage to be an opportunity for them to overcome the obstacles that keep them from Christ that they may be victorious and hear the words that Jesus spoke, “Today, salvation has come to this house.”
After Mass, the group drove to the base of the mountain where they could see the Monastery of the Temptation of Christ. From the base, the pilgrims could see the monastery situated in the mountain. The next stop was the Jordan River where the pilgrims were able to dip their feet in the water Jesus was baptized in. Bishop Sarhad and Fr. Noel Gorgis blessed the group and renewed their Baptismal promises by sprinkled them with the water from the Jordan.
The last stop of the day was the Dead Sea, the lowest point in the world. The water there is so salty that it cannot sustain any life. The pilgrims enjoyed themselves by dipping their hands and feet in the water and covering themselves with the mineral filled mud found along the shore. Some of the group even went swimming in the water.