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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I like to end my retreat journey with a prayer.  

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” 
(Gospel of July 19, 2015)

Father, I have walked in the steps of your Son.  I have seen the flowers of the field. I have heard the birds of the air: he said that both of them tell of your love. I have been warmed by the sun that shone on him, cooled by the breezes that refreshed him.  I have been to the sea where he calmed the storm; to the waters where your Spirit came upon him.  I have had sorrow at Calvary... But rejoiced at the empty tomb for the same power by which he was raised and is at work in me.

Bless all Palestinians and Israelis who have welcomed me to their homeland.  Protect and strengthen our Christian sisters and brothers who live here. Let your justice and peace prevail throughout this land.  And bring us all to the heavenly Jerusalem to sing our Alleluias forever. 

Amen. Shalom. Salaam. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Today I drove to the Golan Heights with a view into Syria and also looking towards Mount Hermon.
It's really nice to get into the upper part of Israel. It seems like you get away from all civilization, driving through the Druse villages. You go by the crusader fortress of Nimrod. Then on to Herod Phillip's capital Caesarea Philippi.  This is also the source of the Jordan River.

Greeks and Romans saw the nature of the area and declared it to be the Kingdom of Pan. But Jesus saw the source of the life-giving Jordan bursting from the massive rock and it reminded him of the the rock upon which He would build his church. Once again, water.   So many buildings and walls here are still built on rock. And that Rock would be responsible for the keys of another kingdom.

There are still niches and temples surviving to all gods at this site.
But Pan is the god of the forests and shepherds.  He is also the messenger between the living and the dead. So Jesus took his disciples there, once again on a mountain to question them.   Who do you say that I am? Of course Peter answered, "you are the Messiah, the son of the living God".  Great answer. But after Jesus revealed to them the future that he would have to suffer and die but rise again, Peter screwed up again. Said, "Well see to it that this will never happen to you." And Jesus said, "Get out of my sight. "You are a Satan"  Wow, the rock really crumbled.

Once again, Peter reacted in the wrong way.  
Must have been a long, long walk back home.  It's always difficult to be rock.  You can't always be hard. There has to be some softness. The Church is at its best when there is is some softness.  Pope Francis is showing us that.  With the gentleness of St. Francis who is the original Custos of this land, he is able to knock off some of our rough edgess and be better to serve the Lord and build up the Church.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Being a disciple of Jesus must have been depressing and discouraging at times. There seems to be hostility from some religious groups, Jesus accused all the time of being a Sabbath breaker, etc.   Jesus was trying to take away from the Rabbis their role of interpreting scripture.  They occupied the chair of Moses and they also wore the mantle of Elijah.   Was Jesus the Messiah or not?  The disciples had to get away to sort things out.  

 On Mount Tabor, they were able to finally understand Jesus.  
The place was so peaceful and so moving that they felt a deep reassurance when they had seen the vision of Jesus speaking to Moses and Elijah.  They saw Jesus as the Messiah.  They wanted to build temples to the three of them, Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

 With renewed confidence they could shed their doubts, anguish and fear and just listen to him.  Perhaps not understanding everything but at least they began to listen with renewed energy.

Tabor is also a challenge to us.  We get so busy and have so many voices telling us their own values, priorities, and plans.  We need to find a time to be alone with God.
 It could be just a short time each day.  It's quality of time, not quantity.  As Psalm 46 says "Be still and know that I am God",
Two important sites in Nazareth are the Synagogue and the Precipice. The synagogue is where Jesus took the scroll and read from Isaiah.
 That he is the fulfillment of what he read.
 He couldn't leave well enough alone.  He had to give examples where Gentiles received help from God but not the Jewish people.  That made them really angry.  Because their country was being controlled by Gentiles. The Romans were cruel to them and saying that God helps Gentiles before Jews was utter blasphemy to them. They took Jesus to the highest mountain to throw him over.  That was the punishment for a religious sin.  
But Jesus walked away from them and went to Capernaum where he would be more widely be accepted.  There he started his formal ministry. From the Precipice you can see Mt. Tabor.  I wonder if Jesus thought at that time, I'll come back and let you see what you let go.  Sometime we dismiss so many people and ideas because they don't meet up with what we think is the best in our minds.  Let's let the Holy Spirit control our lives for a change.
Another wonderful place is Nazareth Village.  It is a re-creation of a first century village.
 It is located in the middle of Nazareth and has a hospital above and houses all around.  The site was accidentally saved from construction and now is a great place to understand the life at that time and also the scripture references. You go through an introduction area and then outside.  The first place is the winnowing floor.  Remember separating wheat from chaff?  

Then to the shepherd pen with the gate.  

Then to a reproduction of a tomb. Remember the prophecy that the messiah would before but rich in the end.  Jesus was buried by a rich man.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Up the hill from the Annunciation Church is the Church of St. Joseph.

This is the site of the Holy Family's home.  Apparently Mary didn't have to move very far from home.  St. Joseph we know was a carpenter. But in those days that could mean someone in construction, stone work, or building furniture, etc.  that why Jesus used so many references of stones - such as the cornerstone, a house set on a good foundation, etc.  Even old city walls are built on outcroppings of stone.

Underneath the church are remnants of a workshop.  And also a Jewish ritual bath. Also in this level there is an altar that says, "this is where St. Joseph died".  
In the basement of the Rosary Sisters, there is a grave where by tradition says a "Righteous Man" is buried.  In the scriptures, Joseph is referred to as that "Righteous Man" for taking Mary as his wife and being the foster father of Jesus.  Let's give thanks to all those foster parents who have stepped up and being a great parent to their children and let's remember all kids who are in foster care.  May their parents also be righteous. 

Outside is a new shrine to St. Joseph.  Hopefully the video will work.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nazareth is an interesting town.  It is made up of all Arabs who are Israeli citizens.  The Annunciation happened here to an unmarried Jewish girl.  It's said that she had a premonition of the event at a well in the town.  It's now called Mary's Well.  It's in a Greek Orthodox Church. The church of St. Gabriel.  It was really running today, usually it's just a trickle. Once again it's all about the water.

The Church of the Annunciation was built in the 1970's. It's the largest Catholic church in the Middle East.  In the Lower Church is the grotto of the meeting of Mary and the Archangel Gabriel.  Again Mary was surprised by the angel.  She was in a quiet room before her ritual bath to make her ritually clean again.  Water again.   The inscription says "that the Word was made flesh HERE. The house was a cave home with a wooden front.  The cave was to keep the home cool and warmer in the winter. Since Jesus' conception by the Holy Spirit was in the cave, it has been preserved.

The tile floors give the impression of steps and going down to the grotto, but it's just an optical illusion.  The floor is level.
 I always wondered why if Mary was born in Jerusalem, why did this event happen in Nazareth?  Apparently Nazareth was a new settlement and they needed families to settle there.  Because of the crowded conditions in Jerusalem, Anna and Joachim decided to move their family to Nazareth.  The name Nazareth gets its name from the new shoots that come from an Olive Tree..  Once called again an obscure reference to the new shoots that come from Jesse's stump.

As you go through the busy town of Nazareth, you see all kinds of boys and girls playing.  And in our towns we see boys and girls playing.
As at my baptisms, I often wonder what is in store for the future of these children.  But this also applies to young adults, middle-aged and retirees. If they say yes to God, great things can happen.