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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

 I like to do another reflection upon the Holy Sepulchre. A visit to this Basilica, one of the holiest places in the world, can be very disappointing. It is a bizarre church, and doesn't even look like a normal or usual church. There are at least five religious groups competing for God's ear. It's like show and tell illustrating the tragedy of the  divisions in the church, the Body of Christ. There are the Greek Orthodox , the Armenian Christians, the Roman Catholics, the Ethiopians. the Syrians and the Egyptian Copts.  They all want to have a say in how the church operates.  A few years ago, the only fight or violence that I saw in all of Israel took place in the Holy Sepulcher.  The Armenians and the Greek Orthodox  processions got into a fight over who would have their service at the tomb of Christ at the same time    The police from outside had to be called in to break up the fistfight. But today I even saw at Franciscan shake hands with a Greek orthodox priest.  Years ago that would never have happened

When Christians do not get along it shows that we are contrary to God's will and results in narrowmindedness, nationalism, and self interest.   But it shows that the Lord Jesus did not shy from embracing our seared, broken, and scarred humanity. In this place he rose from the dead to "free those who through the fear of death have been subject to slavery all their life ...  He had to become like us in every way that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest, in order to expiate the sins of the people " (Hebrews 2: 15, 17).  In this weird and bizarre setting, the power of reason life is offered to all. Here Jesus challenges us, his disciples, to live in such a way that their lives are the best proof that he is risen!  
 If you look at the picture, on the ledge under the middle window is a ladder made of cedar wood possibly from Lebanon. The first mention of the ladder was in 1757. It has remained at the same spot since that time. (it was moved twice during that time but move back). The ladder is referred to as the Immovable Ladder. due to an understanding that no cleric of the Christian Orders in the church may move, rearrange, or  alter any property without the consent of the other orders.  On the Pontifical Orders of Pope Paul the sixth in 1964, the ladder was to remain in place until such a time when the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church reach a state of ecumenism. Guess what? The ladder  is still there!   But perhaps the handshake that I saw yesterday might be a start.  Let's hope so. 

    I did one of my favorite prayer times to do in Israel. That is doing Vespers with the Franciscans at 5 o'clock in the evening. The picture shows the group in front of Christ's tomb during the vesper service. Each carries a candle and prayer book during the walk.  And the procession winds totally around the Holy Sepulcher church.   Stopping at all the chapels and the stations as you walk through the church. Each stop has its own psalm and prayers. It all concluded with Benediction. Below is a picture of the Resurrection Chapel or Mary's Chapel.  It's dedicated to her because Christ had to have appear to her even if it is not recorded in the Scriptures. There is a large bronze sculptor of this event in the Chapel

   When we finished Vespers, I went to the tomb because there was hardly anybody there. Two young ladies from Milan, Italy stood behind me.  One asked what is this thing? I explained that this was the tomb of Christ. It was amazing that they knew nothing about this wonderful site.  They asked questions about the other places in the Church I tried to explain and offered to show them what each site was. But they said they didn't have time. They had to get back to their hotel. What a shame.  But aren't we the same in our lives.  Just too busy to listen and learn about Christ. You see people running all around Jerusalem. Everyone is in a hurry.  I'm glad that I have enough time to spend at each place I visit.  Perhaps I will hear a new voice explaining something to me.  Hopefully I won't be in too much of rush and miss it.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The evening view from my apartment.  See Mount Zion in the distance.  The tall church in the center is next to the Holy Sepulcher.
I have arrived in Jerusalem. This morning, I woke up early and am reflecting on what happened on my flight yesterday.   The Evansville to Chicago part was the easiest of all. Waiting in the gate area, I met Andrew Harsh arriving home. That was nice. Boarding in Evansville was the easiest. O'Hare airport has become very complicated. From concourse to concourse you need to take a bus shuttle now and as you, know everyone is always in a hurry. There was a very gracious woman trying to calm everyone down.  She had a very difficult job. Our flight from Chicago to New York was delayed. Basically because the one checking the boarding passes couldn't see. I presume the scanner was broken at this gate. Finally, someone had to come off the plane and read the numbers to him so he could enter them. So people were very edgy. And on board the plane, again all the shoving and pushing, trying to find overhead bins to put the carry ons that were all too big. Left Chicago an hour and a half late because of all this.  Arrived in Newark and went to my gate. The flight was full going to Israel. You have to do to the security check for carry-ons over again. Security is very tight. On board, people were not cooperating once again. The flight attendant even had to make an announcement that they would reopen the doors and escort people out if they would not be seated. Even with that it took a while for everybody to sit down. The flight was very smooth and peaceful once in the air.  Popped a few sleeping pills and slept after the mealalmost all the way until breakfast. Customs at the airport was easy this time and came to my apartment even earlier than I thought I would. 

So now I've become a pilgrim in the Holy Land. I have joined Abraham, the mother Jesus, St. Paul, St. Francis of Assisi and lately Pope Francis. A Pilgrim is different from a tourist. It is summed up in St. Paul's verse from Hebrews. "Since you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, sink your roots deep within him, build your faith upon him, and overflow with Thanksgiving."  

So I give thanks to be here again.  To begin the day, I'm going to the Holy Sepulcher for early morning mass and then get some items that I need for the journey of three weeks. After mass, stop at a bakery, I saw last night, go to the Central Bus Station for a transit pass and then stop at some storeks for food, etc and then set out to get my bearings for the time in Jerusalem.  

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Friday - June 26
Tried to get ready to pack but had a busy few days. Finished up paper work in the office for the upcoming weeks on Friday morning. Then in the afternoon, I had three prayer services at two different funeral homes. Then had a wedding rehearsal at Corpus Christi Parish at 5:00pm and another at Resurrection at 6:30pm. Cleaned up church and went to the 6:30pm wedding rehearsal’s dinner. Came back and put together the 2 wedding plans for Saturday.

Saturday - June 27
Celebrated the Funeral mass for Carol Griesbacher, had the cemetery committal, cleaned up Church and had dinner with the family. Put together the mass items for the regular 5:00 Mass. Then went to my first wedding of the day, celebrated the wedding mass of Hope Seibert and Alex VanCleeve. Had a picture taken with them and headed back to Resurrection to put final preparations together for the 6:30 wedding. Went to church to put out all the items for the 5:00 Mass. Heard confessions and celebrated Mass with the Resurrection Community. Celebrated Kayley Will and Truett Simmons wedding. Had my picture taken and headed off to the first reception and then off to the second reception.

Sunday - June 28
Today I’ll have the Sunday masses at Resurrection and I have to do my final packing to make my flight at 3:30pm. Hope all connections are on time. The flight to Tel Aviv is 11 hours. Will post again when I’m in Jerusalem.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Holy Land is often called the "Fifth Gospel," the Gospel that explains the other four. There you are able to meet Jesus in a new way. But you needn’t travel there to do that. Jesus comes to all of us, in so many ways, including in prayer. Because of this, any ground that we walk on is holy ground, and wherever we are is a holy land.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

As I start putting items together to take with me to the Holy Land, I think that I have to start packing some spiritual items also. A spiritual preparation is just as important as the physical items that you take along. This is because a retreat / pilgrimage, differs from any other journey you might do.

A retreat to the Holy Land means to come with the desire to meet Christ anew – the living and risen Christ of our Faith. The search can take many forms, as many as the ways by which people encounter Christ in the Gospels. Some of those who approached him were blind, imploring him to restore their sight, others were possessed by demons wishing to be freed from their unclean spirits; others were just curious and approached his disciples saying "we want to see Jesus".

There is certainly no doubt that the closer one gets to Jesus, and the more one experiences Christ’s presence you might hear the words, "Do you love me? " May I be the fertile soil where Jesus can sow once again the seeds of his love, his Gospel and his grace again.