On Friday, July 11, I had gone into Old Jerusalem to pray the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa at 4PM.
There were many, many, many people. The streets are quite narrow, and therefore, the three major monotheistic religions that divide the city (Christian, Jew and Muslim) intersect each other. As I tried to focus on the Stations of the Cross, I became increasingly aware of so many different people from these faith traditions, AND the Israeli soldiers with their guns, which are there to insure peace, as this country contends with so much violence.
Standing on the Via Dolorosa with so many voices, languages, sounds, faces, and smells swirling about me, I could only think of the layers of ancient structures that archaeologists are still uncovering in this ancient city and land. One of my guided lectures took the group I am studying with at Tantur throughout the city one day, so as to understand how Jerusalem came about.
Praying at holy sites, like the Via Dolorosa, and visiting important archaeological sites can be chaotic. But I have realized that bumping into one another, not experiencing silence because of the noise and languages that I do not understand while trying to pray, is what life is about.
We as different people, coming from different ways of understanding God, are challenged like archaeologists to uncover the layers that are beneath the surface of one another as human beings, so as to better understand, respect, and love one another.
All of us, whether we are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. are in this sea of humanity. The streets of life can be narrow and difficult because of our narrow attitudes and our inability to intersect each other in life because of strongly held beliefs or prejudices.
After praying the Stations of the Cross I realized this chaos, this lack of silence, this bumping into one another can be holy. The chaos is holy because it puts me in touch with humanity. But only holy if we see God in the face of others, who are no less human than ourselves.
"God can only come to any of us in images that we already trust and believe, and that open our hearts......."to one another. (Richard Rohr)
Shalom. Salam. Peace. Paz
Dear St. Matthew's:
From July 14 through the 18th I had the opportunity to travel to the Galilee region of Israel. It must be said that Galilee is the place of beginning for Jesus from which his movement begins its journey that will eventually lead it to the end in Jerusalem.
Scripture states that, "he (Jesus) stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here." And, "you know what is happened throughout today, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached." (Acts 10:37).
While in the Galilee I had the opportunity to visit various "holy sites." I visited Caesarea founded by Herod the Great, Nazareth (Church of the Annunciation), Mt. of Beatitudes, Mt. Carmel, Mt Tabor, Capernaum, the Sea (Lake) of Galilee, the traditional sites of St. Joseph's house, the traditional site where Jesus performs the multiplication of the fish and loaves (Tabgha), and other holy sites.
However, one must remember, as our tour guide said, "let the Holy Land live through you! Don't make yourself busy about these holy places! But be busy about being holy!"
For me, her words were the best spiritual guidance thus far!
If the Galilee region is the place of beginning for the Jesus movement, and is the location from which Jesus "stirs up the people," then we must do the same.
We must be, as the tour guide said, "busy about being holy," from the center of our being. We must "stir up" our own time and space "making holy" the places where we live and work NOW with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I have been in a region of the world for the past few weeks that is very violent, and seeks a solution of peace and justice for Palestinian and Jew. Yet, I can also think about how the situation is quite complex and volatile regarding the unaccompanied minors who are coming from Central America to the United States. Should these young people, and their mothers, not "stir us" with the Good News of Jesus Christ and truly make us uncomfortable, so our borders become "holy sites," if not holier than the Holy Land where I am, with the Gospel of justice and compassion?
A parishioner recently emailed me with a message she sent to the White House website
with a possible suggestion regarding the unaccompanied minors as they await their cases to come through the court system. Her message is spot on with how we could make holy our lives and our borders, and "stir up" our hearts, as Jesus did in the Galilee region. She says:
Perhaps if you made an appeal to the citizens of our country to make donations to help in this crisis. These (unaccompanied) children certainly must need clothes, shoes, blankets, diapers, food, etc. Asking the congress to vote more money to support them seems to only make very right wing conservatives angry. Perhaps by asking the generous and compassionate people of this nation to help these children as a "choice" would show the world that the United States is not full of selfish, mean spirited people. Another helpful idea might be to ask for retired teachers to help tutor the children waiting in detention centers. Thank you for your service to our country!
As a priest on sabbatical I will probably never have the opportunity to visit the Holy Land again. But I know that after visiting these "holy sites" of Jesus, I must move from the center of my heart, so as to "stir up" my part of the world with compassion and justice.
The Jesus movement does not begin and end in Galilee. The Jesus movement must continue in our own time and space with what we are even doing at our own borders of the United States!
Let us make the borders of the United States a "holy land" by doing the work of Jesus Christ for the least and weakest among us!
Be busy about being holy!