Saturday, September 13, 2014

Ecumenical meetings among Day 3 agenda for Peace Pilgrimage

Feast of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor

        Today has been another very long, full day.  However, in light of my very long and full edition yesterday for Day 2 of my travel-Blog, I intend to make this one briefer.  However, there is so much that could be written---that should be written---but not for right now.
        The day began bright and early with breakfast, and then we left at 7:30 a.m. to travel by bus to the Old City of Jerusalem, to the Church of the Flagellation (the Church near the Second Station along the Via Dolorosa where Jesus received His merciless scourging at the pillar, beginning His ignominious and inhumane passion and suffering along the Way of the Cross leading to His Crucifixion on Calvary ). 

I was privileged to be the Homilist for today's Mass which prayed in general for all victims of violence and Inhumane treatment. 

         After Mass, we walked (and walked and walked) through the Old City to the Patriarchate of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.  

We participated in part of the Divine Liturgy at St. James' Cathedral.  They spell the name of the Church in the plural (St. James') because they have the distinction of having the head of St. James the Greater buried in this Church, as well as the entire body of St. James the Minor buried in this Church as well---thus, two St. James'.  

After the Divine Liturgy, we were escorted into the central offices of the Patriarchate where we were received by the Patriarch (whose name, unfortunately escapes me) for dialogue.  

We then traveled by bus back to the Mount of Olives to the Convent of the Bridgentine Sisters to meet with the Patriarch Emeritus of the Latin Rite Church in Jerusalem, Patriarch Emeritus Sabbah. 

Both of these dialogues were quite stimulating, enlightening, and in many ways surprising.  I am surprised by the response that is becoming somewhat normal:  when we say that we are here on a Pilgrimage for Peace, the response is almost dismissive, in the sense that they are living in this impossible and long-lasting complex situation, praying all the while for peace, which has not come.  They seem almost cynical about the possibility that peace may ever come about.  That is quite sad indeed.
        We returned to the Hotel for a lunch meeting with Father David Neuhaus, a priest of the Latin Patriarchate who is working with the serious migrant population in Jerusalem, people who come from the Philippines and Africa and elsewhere, trying to get away from their bad living situations, only to find even worse living situations here in Israel.  We are very familiar with our own immigrant problems in the United States, made very difficult and heart-breaking by the ways that families can be divided, and that people live in fear on so many levels due to their legal status (or illegal status); the situation here in Israel appears to be all of that, and much worse. 
        At 3:00 p.m. we met with a Muslim Arab, Chairperson Abadalquader Husseini (yes, of the famous family of the same name), who spoke with us about the plight of the Palestinian Moslems living as residents (not citizens) in Israel.  Again a very enlightening discussion.
        Finally, following dinner, we met with representatives/staff members of our own C.R.S. (Catholic Relief Services) working on the ground here in Gaza, to give us a briefing on the conditions in Gaza.  Let me just say that it was quite disturbing indeed.
        So, as another long day concludes, there is much for me/us to ponder.  Much of this is new insights, and I know I, and all the Bishops, are grateful for that first-hand information.  On the other hand, much of this is distressing because it is becoming clearer about the immense suffering, persecution, and inhumane treatment that is being experienced in this Holy Land.  It is not restricted to one group; sadly, this reality is being experienced by all the participants.  I find it a blessed act of providence that today is the Feast of St. John Chrysostom who lived not far from here in Antioch/Constantinople in the 300's, when there was a good bit of turmoil and terrible things taking place in his world at that time.  As I pointed out in my homily today, St. John Chrysostom, a Bishop and gifted preacher, as quoted in today's Office of Readings, wrote:  "The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we stand firmly upon a Rock....What are we to fear?  Death?.....Exile?......Confiscation of goods?.....If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear?....He is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way.....Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to His promise...: 'Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world'". 
        As difficult, sad, and upsetting as situations are, whether that be here in the Holy Land, or back home in the United States, Diocese of Kalamazoo, we must first, last, and always make sure that we have built our house on the strong foundation of our faith (as we heard in today's Gospel reading) because as Jesus Himself tells us:  "When the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built."   May we remain firmly built on the Rock of our Faith---the Church; and may all those who suffer from violence and inhumane treatment anywhere in the world this day find relief and consolation in the Love of Jesus Christ.

         May we continue to pray and work for Peace, and never lose Hope.   

[NOTE: If you're interested in hearing/seeing what others on the trip are saying check out USCCB's Storify page here for a collection of "Tweets" and other photos.]

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