About a year ago, I was blessed with a two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I know that I am very fortunate to be able to experience this kind of journey so I very much appreciate the opportunity.
The Holy Land is often called the “Fifth Gospel.” To walk in the land and culture today is truly an experience of walking in the footsteps of Jesus who is our Lord and our God. This pilgrimage reminded me of our Church’s annual pilgrimage through Lent to the wonderful celebration of Easter. During these final days of Lent we will continue to attempt to follow our Savior as he leads us through the purification of Lent to the renewal of our Baptismal life of the Easter Season.
One of my favorite sites in the Holy Land is in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. Located among the many shrines and churches, there is a traditional site of the upper room where many believe that Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. In our tradition this is where Christ instituted the Eucharist – giving us his body and blood.
The architecture of the upper room is from the 12th century, but there is one column that is probably from the 4th century. Carved into the column is a pelican with two smaller sized pelicans eating at the larger ones’ breast. This is an ancient belief that when her children are starving a pelican mother sacrifices herself in order to feed her children. Tradition holds that when a mother sacrifices herself in love she will be resurrected.
This simple image is the reason that the pelican is an ancient symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice offered in great love for us. The self-sacrificing pelican becomes a symbol for Christ’s self-giving at the Last Supper, which culminated with his death on the cross. This self-giving continues today in the Eucharist. During the Mass, we experience Christ who continues to offer himself to us through great love. As we live the stewardship way of life, it is always important to ask the following question: If Christ offered himself so much – how much of our lives are we offering back to Him?