Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Day 6: Gaining more insight from Nazareth to Ramallah to Jaffa

 This may be the Feast of Sts. Cyprian and Cornelius on our Liturgical Calendar, but for us on our pilgrimage, we were blessed to celebrate the Annunciation in the Basilica Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth to start Day 6.  We left the hotel at 7:30 a.m. to arrive for Mass at 8:00 a.m.  This church is huge and beautiful.  
While we could see the chapel which commemorates the very spot where "Verbum caro factum est" (The Word became Flesh) when Mary said "Yes" to the Archangel Gabriel's request on God's behalf and the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, we celebrated our Mass in the beautiful upstairs church.  And as I reflected in my daily “Tweet” today, since Mary was only a teenage girl when this wondrous event took place, I celebrated my Mass today for all teenagers/youth/young adults so that they will have an openness to say "Yes" to God in their lives.
            Right after Mass, we began a drive to Ramallah, not far from Jerusalem, a large Palestinian city which is the headquarters of all the Palestinian political groups. 
I haven't heard the term Palestinian Leadership Organization (PLO) used; rather Palestinian Leadership Authority seems to be the term.  However, the PLO signs and flags are quite visible.  We had three very interesting meetings here in Ramallah.
            We were first received and had a meeting with Dr. Hannan Ashrawi,
a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and one of the major public spokespersons for the Palestinian cause on international TV.  We were warmly received, and Dr. Ashrawi gave a very strong, rather pessimistic, but quite articulate presentation to us.  There was some time for questions and discussions, but both our schedules were quite tight.  We were there for about an hour. 
            We then traveled to another headquarters to meet with the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Leadership Authority, Mr. Rami Homdallah.  
That too was quite an interesting and enlightening meeting.  Where Dr. Ashrawi was somewhat pessimistic about a just solution anytime soon, Mr. Hamdallah holds out great hope and determination to pursue every peaceful solution possible.
            For our final stop in Ramallah, we proceeded to a restaurant where we had a wonderful time for prayer, discussion and a delicious meal with a number of interreligious Christian and Muslim representatives.
            We then drove to Jaffa on the Mediterranean Sea. 
Jaffa as you might remember is a very biblical town, mentioned in the Old and New Testaments.   There we had the privilege of meeting with the retired President of Israel, Shimon Peres
at the Peres Peace House, a place dedicated to the study and dialogue for peace for Jews and Palestinians.  Mr. Peres looked as stately as he always does; however he is also looking, and sounding, quite frail.  However, his commitment to peace is as strong, if not stronger than ever.  It was a joy to spend the time listening to him and engaging in some dialogue.
            Finally we drove the two hours or so back to Jerusalem where we had a short meeting among ourselves to do some debriefing and to get ready for another full day tomorrow.
            Even though today is not the Feast of the Annunciation, I for one am filled with the joy of what the Annunciation means for us each and every day, whether it's March 25th or September 16th or any other day.  The Word has been made Flesh.  God dwells among us.  Something considered impossible has been made possible.  One of the reasons that is so is because a young, teenage Hebrew girl had the openness of mind, the generosity of heart and the strength of faith to say "Yes"---and with that, the impossible became possible; God became Man; Heaven and Earth were united.  What that tells me is that there is no human problem, personal or societal, local or international, no matter how complex, difficult or long-standing it is that cannot be resolved if only we too have the openness, generosity and strength of a teenage girl to say Yes to God, and Yes to what we know is right.  War can never be right.  Injustice can never be right.  Wrong can never be right.  We must continue to pray, and work, and be in dialogue with one another so that we can say Yes to God, Yes to what is Right.

            Please be assured of my prayers for you and prayers for Peace in this Holy Land.

Additional Highlight photos: 

Interfaith luncheon in Ramallah

 Looking down on the Chapel of the Anunciation
Beautiful sunset over the Mediterean Sea

 Meeting with Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah

 Overlooking Nazareth
Peres Peace House Garden

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