Monday, 16 February 2009

Day 2 in Jerusalem

The day started at the top of the Mount of Olives with the commemoration of the Ascension of the Lord and prayers at the place where Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, the church of the 'Eleiona' or of the 'Pater Noster'.

We walked down the road of Palm Sunday and stopped for Mass at the Church of Dominus Flevit. After Mass we sung Jerusalem the Golden as we faced the Holy City. We continued down to Gethsemani to the Basilica of All Nations, the place of the betrayal and to the tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

After lunch at the Armenian Quarter we visited the Upper Room and the Basilica of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At 5.40pm we were met by of "President of the Most Holy Sepulchre of Our Lord Jesus Christ". We presented to him a contribution towards the work of the Custodia in Gaza and he gave us an official certificate as pilgrims to the Holy Land.

After Supper, Fr. Kelly LC, superior of the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame Centre in Jerusalem, took us round the permanent exhibition about the Shroud of Turin. All pilgrims found this very moving and a fitting conclusion to another great day.

Today's homily:

It is significant that the place where Jesus ascended to the father is also the place from which we start our walk to Jerusalem. As we journey from the place from which he was ascended and glorified we realise that our memory enables us to focus on our destination: Jerusalem above. There with Christ and in the Holy Spirit we can glorify the Father. That is why Jesus suffered, died and rose, to open for us the gates of Jerusalem above. How true that as the doors above are open, those of the Jerusalem below are blocked, what we close because of sin is open by the grace of Christ.
Our journey today is united to the one Christ points to. As we renew the memory of our aim and goal in life, the journey to Jerusalem above, we walk towards the Jerusalem below. Just a few steps from our first place we arrive to a place of prayer, the place where Jesus gave us his own prayer, the sevenfold model of all our prayers. This shows us that it is essential to conduct our journey of life in the company of God through prayer. The first words of the Lord’s Prayer reveal a very important truth. We pray to God as our Father not my Father. Our relationship with God happens only in the context of Christian fellowship. It is together that we share the life of God, there is no individual life with God but only as one being part of a community, a family under one father. In fact God is the father and the family is his daughter the Church. The Church is the bride and Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, is also the groom. What mystic union we are called to - how utterly wonderful!
The walk we are doing is also the walk of Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is the day when Jesus is acclaimed as King, the one to whom we freely give our life, but also the one that we so often misunderstand or try to tame. From this spot Jesus looks at Jerusalem and weeps. He is still weeping over us as we keep on misunderstanding and ignoring him, as we try to negotiate with him. He weeps over sin, he weeps bitterly because of sin, but he does not give up on us. He was free to make a u turn from here, but here he decided to keep on walking towards Jerusalem. Even when we cause him so much grief he is with us. Even when we experience grief and pressure and pain, he keeps walking with us – always, while we allow him he is with us, come what may. And when we weep because of those who hurt us, we need to keep on walking with them until they allow us to do so. As we continue towards Jerusalem we come to Gethsemane, the place of prayer, the place of betrayal, the place where Jesus struggles but accepts the will of God. That Thursday night it was dark, cold, lonely and very difficult, but even there Jesus says Yes to God – a yes that triggered and made possible Easter. We can say that Easter started at the bottom of this hill. And it is at the bottom of this hill that Mary entered into paradise body and soul following her son. Her Yes was fulfilled on the Mount of Olives, just like Jesus her son.
Our destination is paradise. We are to live this walk of the Mount of Olives: a life journey as a community, looking upwards with feet firmly to the ground, looking after each other just as Jesus looks after us, praying and accepting the will of God.
What a high calling we have, Jesus walks with us to make it possible, to lead us to Jerusalem the Golden.

Holy Land Day 2

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