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For earlier entries: see Week 1 June 3rd-9th
Thursday June 16th: Living in the Old City of Jerusalem is something I have always wanted to do and every day I remind myself to be grateful for such a privilege.
27,000 people live in the Old City making it one of the most densely populated in the world. Interesting only 2500 Jews live here and most of the population is Arabic . The City is divided into four quarters: one for Christians; one for Jews; one for Muslims and one for Armenians. The Armenian Christians arrived in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 4th century and claimed to have discovered the true Cross and the site of the Holy Sepulchre.
In the third century the Roman Emperor Hadrian replanned the city in order to control the troublesome Jews so that the two main streets divide the City into quarters.
Wednesday June 15th: There are many worthy causes in the world and most can make good cases for financial support and sponsorship. One of those cases is certainly the young people and families of Bethlehem. The construction of the wall separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem and its hinterland causing much social, emotional and economical hardship for people who live on the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Today I visited the Franciscan Family Centre at Bethlehem. It is run by Sr. Maria Grech and its purpose is to provide counselling for families; to provide educational support including home visits and providing information and referral assistance; to assist parents in knowing more about child development and mutual interaction; to create employment opportunities for the community; to provide sponsors for the education of our marginalised children and to repair and renovate the housing of the poor.
Sr. Maria would welcome sponsors and enquiries from those who could help financially. Her email is : email@example.com
Another worthy cause for financial support from individuals and our Covenant with the Poor would be Bethlehem University which is run by the De La Salle Brothers. Enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bethlehem.edu .
This is a photo of Sr. Maria and me at the Franciscan Family Centre.
Tuesday June 14th: Yad Vashem is the memorial to the Holocaust or, as the Jews call it, the Shoah. It has at least ten exhibition halls which tell the story of Nazism and Hitler's extraordinary rise to power. The exhibitions offer deeply moving presentations of the invasion of Poland in 1939, the development of the policy to solve what Hitler called the Jewish problem and the defeat of Germany in 1945. Many of our group were disturbed by the Jewish ghettoes in Eastern Europe and the vivid presentation of the concentration and death camps. Six million Jews died including one and a half million children whose names are read out continuously.
We had a de-briefing session afterwards which was facilitated by Dr. Deborah Weissmann of the International Council of Christians and Jews.
At Mass this evening the Gospel from Matthew ended with Jesus telling his disciples to be perfect as his heavenly Father is perfect. The original Greek text uses whole instead of perfect.That is something well worth reflecting on.
It is interesting talking with people who are preparing for the new Missal in Australia and America. It certainly brings home the fact that the changes are intended for the whole Catholic English speaking world.
View from the old city wall, Jerusalem
Mark wrote his Gospel for his community which lived in Rome. They met in a house and the community would not have been large. One of the problems Mark encountered was how to deal with those who became obstacles to outsiders being admitted or readmitted to the community. The story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52 is an example of those who would refuse to allow the blind man to return but Jesus told them firmly to "Call him here".
Mark's community and all Christian communities are in danger of failing to see how certain attitudes and judgements can exclude others and categorise them as a nuisance or a threat. Repentance of such attitudes and the actions derived from them is a vital part of the Gospel message. Demonisation was something in which Mark's community was skilled. The same must not be true of disciples in our community.
Canon Paul in the Dormition Church
This afternoon I walked to the Dormition Abbey to collect pictures of possible art for the new centre. The Dormition is a superb piece of architecture and the art work is magnificent. (PJT 14/6/11)
Monday June 13th: Our group gathered this morning for Mass at the Calvary Chapel in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. All the evidence points to the authenticity of the site and I reflected on the truth that to celebrate the Eucharist is to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus and to bring into the present Jesus' eternal act of sacrifice. This great truth challenges us to ensure that our celebration of the Eucharist is worthy and respectful. The proclamation of the word, the music, the silence, the environment, the time, the welcome and the community must all speak of the centrality and importance of this event. Doing it in the beauty of such a sacred space as the Holy Sepulchre Church made me appreciate more deeply the gift of my ordination and priesthood and the gift to us all of the Eucharist.
Mary and Elizabeth
Dr. Deborah Weissmann of the International Council of Christians and Jews spoke this morning. She wants us all to read the 'Berlin Document' which is available at www.iccj.org. I commend it to all of us in our commitment to inter faith dialogue.
I found her commentary on the difference between Christian and Jewish identity very helpful. She rightly said that for Christians identity is religious whereas for Jews it is ethnicity that is the central issue. It is possible to be a non-religious committed Jew who does not believe in God. There is no such thing as a lapsed Jew.
Dr. Weissmann said that many Jews no longer believe in a personal messiah. Instead they look forward to a messianic age when the world will be a better place. Jews do not think too much about after life. (PJT 13/6/11)
Sunday June 12th: It is Unity Week here and Pentecost Sunday has been marked by unity celebrations. One at the Dormition and the other at the Cenacle. The leaders of the different churches, both East and West, were much in evidence.
The Dormition Abbey is near the Zion Gate and on Mount Zion. Tradition holds that it is the place where Mary was assumed into heaven which is a dogma held by both East and West. It is close to the grave of Oskar Shindler and the first century steps which Jesus walked after his arrest at the Mount of Olives. (PJT 12/6/11)
Church of the Dormition
Saturday June 11th: Our work today on Mark's Gospel presented us with the issue of who is inside and who is outside the household of the Lord's disciples.The section we considered was Mark 6:7 to 8:26 and we looked at those in the household are often very much outside in their refusal to acknowledge who Jesus is and the power for good that he has. In this section of the Gospel one obvious outsider turns out to be the one who is strongly inside because of her absolute conviction that Jesus has power to save her daughter who is possessed by a demon.
Yes, it is the Syrophoenician woman with whom Jesus has difficulty in engaging. In response to her request he virtually calls her a dog because that was the way he would have been brought up to understand gentiles like this particular woman. ( Mark 7:24-30) In this astonishing story we catch a glimpse of the historical Jesus who, thanks to the strength and courage of the woman, comes to see that he has in fact been called to minister not just to the Jews but to the gentiles as well. Jesus listens to the woman and her daughter is healed.
To help us apply this part of Mark's message to our own personal story, Fr. Michael gave us some questions for reflection. I will give the questions my answer to each. They obviously are the questions of Jesus to each of us who consider ourselves to be inside the household of faithful disciples:
- Do you still not percieve or understand? The Syrophoenician Woman did perceive correctly and understand who Jesus was. She was one who, from the outside in every sense, came into the house and stands as the insider or model disciple. Those on the inside so often fail to understand who Jesus is, yet they have been given the inside information. Jesus is the source of all nourishment and life. I think that I understand but the perception of my heart has not caught up. The feeling side of my nature cannot bring itself to trust and leave everything to him.
- Are your hearts hardened? Yes, that is precisely the issue. Moving from head to heart so as to accept and trust with my heart. The hardness of heart is coming out of fear. Fear of death; of illness,that my plans will come to nothing; of jumping into the unknown. But Jesus is not unknown to me nor is his power in my life.
- Do you have eyes and fail to see? Yes, my spiritual blindness is a failure to recognise the opportunities, moments, sufferings that the Lord gives me so that I may entrust my present moment to his care. So many miracles reveal him to me and still I am too frightened and walk away full of fear as the women did at the empty tomb at the end of this Gospel.
- Do you have ears and fail to hear? Yes, I have ears and the word of Jesus is constantly speaking to me both in my heart and in the voices and sounds of life. But my ability to listen is not finely tuned. My activity and relentless and undiscerned respondng means that I fail to hear the key messages. The discipline of responding with my heart is submerged in the ocean of infinite stimuli - all too good to miss and it is so difficult to say no.
- And do you not remember? Perhaps this question is the key and the answer to the hardness of heart and the blindness. Remembering and reliving the miracles that I have been given; the huge ones that are never far below the surface of the memory; the everyday ones that can be so easily missed.
It is Pentecost in Jerusalem and I am so grateful for the gift of being here at this time. Be assured of my prayer and best wishes to everyone at this sacred time.
A big thank you to Moira Redmond, our website editor, for putting all this together and to Sue Pickett from Australia for providing the photos during a very busy programme and in a very hot Jerusalem. (PJT 11/6/11)
Sunrise over Jerusalem
Fr. Frans Bouwen is a Flemish White Father living in Jerusalem. He gave us a fascinating and challenging session on the Eastern Churches and our relationship with them. Pope John Paul spoke about the western Catholic Church breathing on one lung and Fr. Frans helped us understand the complex challenge of uniting with the other lung which is the Eastern Church in its different church groups.
That the unity is an important priority for us is indisputable as is the complexity of the task. The divisions have grown up during the past 1500 years and have been caused by doctrinal, cultural, historical, geographical and philosophical reasons.
There are four families of Eastern Churches and dialogue at an international level is making sound progress.For example, major christological issues have been resolved between all the Eastern Churches and ourselves. As Roman Catholics we need to grow in our appreciation that our Church together with our spirituality and mission will be improved and deepened by this dialogue with the East.
We also need to appreciate that the divisions have been caused by by Christians over the Centuries which is why we need to guard against and resist fragmentation and division in all its forms. (PJT 11/6/11)
Friday June 10th: In our journey through Mark's Gospel today we explored the parable of the sower. Our teacher described it as the meta or great parable because it provides the pattern for our response to the Kingdom in Mark.
The parable of the sower, like all the parables, is a metaphor or simile drawn from ordinary life. It provides a snapshot of Mark's household community and of our own Eucharistic community as well. It establishes two things. That through the power and grace of the Holy Spirit ultimate fruitfulness is assured despite the failures and difficulties of the participants. It is also provides a model for our parish to work together for the Kingdom.
Jesus says that we must have ears to hear the message to us of the parables. That means that we must always be open to the chance of repentance or metanoia. This will open us to spiritual sight and hearing.
We were given an excellent definition of a miracle which comes from the writing of the Jesuit Karl Rahner. I find it immensely helpful. Rayner says this "A person experiences God's self-communication in a particular configuration of events in such a way that God's self-communication participates immediately in the events." This means that God's presence and action is experienced with a kind of immediacy in and through the event.
Looking out over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives
I am staying here as a guest of the Sisters of Sion whose apostolate is the promotion of good relations between Christians and the Jewish People. We had a presentation today from Sister Mary Reaburn on 'Nostra Aetate' which is the Vatican II document on Christian relations with non Christians. She explored the responsibilty we have to commit ourselves to interfaith dialogue because it is in the very nature of the Church. We must allow other experiences of God to change us. Sr. Mary reminded us that Nostra Aetate speaks about our unique relationship with Judaism, of the fact that God's gifts to the Jewish people are irrevocable and that as the Church we deplore any display or expression of anti-Semitism. Perhaps it is time we had an inter-faith group in our parish to lead development of our dialogue with non-Christians in our area? (PJT 10/6/11)
Thursday June 9th: Eight miles South West of Jerusalem is Ein Karem which is the birth place of John the Baptist. There is also a church which honours the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth while she was pregnant with John. Both these churches have Byzantine archaeological remains which is evidence of a long pilgrimage tradition going back to the forth century. The journey was long and hot because of the Jerusalem traffic problem but the beauty of Ein Karem made up for it.
The Sisters of Sion have a house in Ein Karem and we celebrated Mass there. The celebrant was Fr. Michael Brennan, who is a parish priest in Adelaide, and in his homily he spoke about the power that intimate loving relationships have for growth and new life.
Canon Paul outside the Church of St John the Baptist
The household of Mark: The Gospel of Mark was written for a small community, possibly in Rome, which gathered for the Sunday Eucharist in a house of the time. The task of those who were members of the household was to make present and visible the power of the resurrection. They did this by listening to the word of God and putting into action.
The household had members who were scribes' and who criticized the pastoral action of the group. More often than not these scribes were a negative force becoming obstacles to the good work of the group. An example is the time when scribes said that Jesus did his work of healing by the power of the devil. In any community there will be those who are ready to condemn good actions as bad. That is why all Christians must be repentant and always open to working together and collaboration. The Spirit will always move us towards listening, harmony, patience the appreciation of difference and the gifts of others.
Dome of the Rock
(For earlier entries: see Week 1 June 3rd-9th)