Wednesday 22 March 2023

Be my witnesses to the ends of the earth

Today was a packing day and a last opportunity to explore the holy city of Jerusalem after check out of the hotel at 10.30am before our flight out of Tel Aviv at 11.45pm.

We had Mass at the Austrian hospice. 

On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples
a banquet of rich food.
On this mountain he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples,
and the shroud enwrapping all nations, he will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord God will wipe away the tears from every cheek;
he will take away his people’s shame everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.
That day, it will be said: See, this is our God 
in whom we hoped for salvation;
the Lord is the one in whom we hoped.
We exult and we rejoice that he has saved us.

- Isaiah 25:6-9

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.

He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord's own house shall I dwell for ever and ever. 

- Psalm 23

I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. In return my God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can. Glory to God, our Father, for ever and ever. Amen.
- Philippians 4:12-14,19-20

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables. 'The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son's wedding.  He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come.  Next he sent some more servants.  "Tell those who have been invited" he said "that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready.  Come to the wedding."  But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them.  The king was furious.  He dispatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town.  Then he said to his servants, "The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding."  So these servants went out onto the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests.  When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, "How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?"  And the man was silent.  Then the king said to the attendants, "Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth,"  For many are called, but few are chosen.'
- Matthew 22:1-10

Today we had our last Mass together as a pilgrim group. Together we have been on pilgrimage within a bigger pilgrimage, that pilgrimage that leads to our eternal dwelling place of heaven.

In the second reading St Paul wrote about his pilgrim journey as an apostle. I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength. All the same, it was good of you to share with me in my hardships. As a pilgrim group we have eaten together, we have prayed together, we have laughed and cried together. We have been deeply moved by what we have seen and experienced. We have felt the presence of the One who gives us strength. In this hikoi together we have changed from being just individual pilgrims to becoming whānau . 

At the beginning of the pilgrimage I suggested that at the end of our pilgrimage that our relationship with God, neighbour, self and the creation should be better or deeper.

And that is what the hikoi or pilgrimage of life is about. At the end of his earthly life Jesus stretched out his hands on the cross to embrace all humanity with a love that was universal and was a reflection and response to the Father's love for all that he had created. Jesus knew the pain of giving himself, losing himself and in doing so he shows us how precious our lives are. And he shows us that in hoping for salvation we must hope and work for that for all people, no one must be excluded. And that means emptying ourselves of anything that categorises people as being lesser, or causes division, not wanting to own or control at the expense of others. We can  never lose sight of anyone, but rather we are called, God spoke through the prophet Micah, to live justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with God.  There can only be pure love, for we are created in the image and likeness of God, God who St John says is love. Love therefore is the basic vocation of the human family... it is the basic vocation of us all as God calls the good and bad alike and removes the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations, he will destroy Death for ever. For the Lord God will wipe away the tears from every cheek; he will take away his people’s shame everywhere on earth.

It is my hope and prayer that this pilgrimage and this blog may have been of some help to in living out this call.

After lunch at the Austrian hospice our Harvest guide Colleen and I ventured into the old city... I took her to St Mark's Syrian Orthodox church and what they believe is the "Upper Room" but is now below the church given Jerusalem's successive being destroyed and rebuilt.

The Upper Room

One of the features of the hikoi was the conversations we had as a group or in groups other moments on the pilgrimage was the Espresso Club that met every morning at 6.30am for coffee... Thanks for the great kōrero Mike and Trevor... 

And no pilgrimage would be complete without our guides, Pilgrim Mother Colleen and Pilgrim Leader Dimitrius. Thank you so much to both of you... you have been absolutely awesome...

At 5.00pm we left our hotel for the airport at Tel Aviv. In our final prayer on the bus we reflected on Jesus' Ascension

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. It is he had said what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.

Now having met together, they asked him, Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel? He replied, It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.

As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there. 

We reflected that tonight we would ascend, not like Jesus, but with the help of Emirates. Like the disciples we too had been with Jesus. Like the disciples we too have been filled with the Holy Spirit.

Like the disciples we too are called to be witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Each Sunday we profess I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

Already the Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic because our unity is in Christ, Christ the holy one, who is truly catholic in his embracing universal love and who in his Spirit is active in the Church throughout the world

But it is not enough to believe this. We have to live this. 

This means we are called to work for unity, that we indeed may become one as Christ is one with each of us. 

This means we have to grow in holiness which is not the same as piety, but rather is the perfection of love, a love that is transformative

This means we have to be catholic, embracing the diversity of people in our world because God does not build walls.

This means we have to believe what the apostles saw and experienced, and in faith, share this Good News for the world.

This is the mission Jesus gave to his Church and we are the Church so it is our mission. 

As we descend into Auckland in some 24 hours time think of the disciples coming down the Mount of Olives after the Ascension and think of their call as our call for we are to be witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.

Go now you are sent forth,
To live what you proclaim;
To show the world you follow Christ
In fact, not just in name.

Go now, you are sent forth
To walk the troubled earth.
To share your faith with all you meet
And prove your real worth.

Go now, you are sent forth
As God's ambassador;
By serving Christ in those we meet
We love him more and more.

Go now, you are sent forth
And Christ goes with you, too.
Today you help his kingdom come
In everything you do.

- Leo Watt, 1969

I have been asked how people can access earlier posts on their phones... Down the bottom of the screen click on "View Web Version" and you can see all the posts on the right hand side. I established this blog for whenever I am travelling on personal or group pilgrimages.

Tuesday 21 March 2023

We saw and believed

This morning we had an early start with a 4.00am on the bus for a short journey to begin the Way of the Cross, the walk of Jesus, to Calvary stopping at the 14 stations along the way with the 12th being at Calvary, then the anointing stone, and then the tomb.

Given the experiences we heard from the two mothers last night, each of Jesus' stations were connected to the plight of parents who had lost children here and who live in fear, and then to our own lives.

As we started in the Muslim quarter the mosque starting calling for morning prayer and we passed many people going to the mosque for prayers

We adore You, O Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross, You have redeemed the world.

The hill of Calvary, which was just outside the city walls in Jesus' time and the tomb are now with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, sepulchre meaning a small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried.

Twelfth Station - Jesus Dies on the cross... Veneration at Calvary

The 13th Station - Jesus is taken down from the cross - the anointing stone where his body is prepared for burial in the tomb

The 14th station - Jesus is placed in the tomb

To put things in context, trom Wikipedia... Following the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 during the First Jewish–Roman War, Jerusalem had been reduced to ruins. In AD 130, the Roman emperor Hadrian began the building of a Roman colony, the new city of Aelia Capitolina, on the site. Circa AD 135, he ordered that a cave containing a rock-cut tomb be filled in to create a flat foundation for a temple dedicated to Jupiter or Venus. The temple remained until the early 4th century.

After allegedly seeing a vision of a cross in the sky in 312, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great began to favour Christianity, signed the Edict of Milan legalising the religion, and sent his mother, Helena, to Jerusalem to look for Christ's tomb. With the help of the Bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius, and Bishop of Jerusalem, Macarius, three crosses were found near a tomb; one which allegedly cured people of death was presumed to be the True Cross Jesus was crucified on, leading the Romans to believe that they had found Calvary. Constantine ordered in about 326 that the temple to Jupiter/Venus be replaced by a church. After the temple was torn down and its ruins removed, the soil was removed from the cave, revealing a rock-cut tomb that Helena and Macarius identified as the burial site of Jesus. A shrine was built, enclosing the rock tomb walls within its own.

This cross section of the church gives some context of what is inside. By Yupi666 at Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, 

Our group then had Mass at 6.00am in the shrine/tomb. For the Liturgy of the Word the Mass is celebrated in the shrine, then the priest goes into the tomb and celebrates the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Each of the group was able to come into the tomb to receive Holy Communion and venerate where the Lord was placed in the tomb.

Peter addressed Cornelius and his household: 'You must have heard about the recent happenings in Judaea; about Jesus of Nazareth and how he began in Galilee, after John had been preaching baptism. God had anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, Jesus went about doing good and curing all who had fallen into the power of the devil. Now I, and those with me, can witness to everything he did throughout the countryside of Judaea and in Jerusalem itself: and also to the fact that they killed him by hanging him on a tree, yet three days afterwards God raised him to life and allowed him to be seen, not by the whole people but only by certain witnesses God had chosen beforehand. Now we are those witnesses - we have eaten and drunk with him after his resurrection from the dead - and he has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and to tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone, alive or dead. It is to him that all the prophets bear this witness: that all who believe in Jesus will have their sins forgiven through his name.'
- Acts 10:34,37-43

On the first day of the week Mary of Magdala came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb" she said "and we don't know where they have put him."

So Peter set out with the other disciples to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground and also the cloths that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed.
John 20:2-8

John came in here, into the empty tomb... he saw and believed. Now we took are in the empty tomb? Do you believe? This reading is where we are - Like Peter and John we haven't seen the risen Lord 

But for Peter and John that moment was to come later. But the question remains for us... Do you believe, that in this tomb Jesus Christ shattered death and rose from the dead? 

Each of us have certainly encountered the risen Lord in our pilgrimage, in different places and different ways, but here we come to the high point of our salvation and we are left with the empty tomb. As we stand in this place we are asked to reconfirm our faith and be confident in the hope that our loved ones have died in Christ will rise with him to eternal life.

Looking into the tomb and the shelf where the Lord's body was placed

Remember your servants, our loved ones, 
whom you have called from this world to yourself.
Grant that they who were united with your Son
in a death like his, may also be one with him in his Resurrection,
when from the earth he will raise up in the flesh those who have died,
and transform our lowly body after the pattern of his own glorious body.
To our departed brothers and sisters, too, and to all who were pleasing to you
at their passing from this life, give kind admittance to your kingdom.
There we hope to enjoy for ever the fullness of your glory,
when you will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
For seeing you, our God, as you are, we shall be like you for all the ages
and praise you without end, through Christ our Lord,
through whom you bestow on the world all that is good. 

Note to self... Remember to put the zucchetto back on to hide the bald patch

After Mass a group of us returned to Bethlehem in Palestine, taking the Palestinian bus to the checkpoint and then walking along the Separation Wall to Manger Square. Even though the whole group did not come I have decided to put these photos here because our time in Bethlehem was short and we didn't get to see the ugly and evil blot that is the Separation Wall.

The stories go on and on... Many were whitewashed before Donald Trump's visit

From Wikipedia... In December 2003, Resolution ES-10/14 was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in an emergency special session. 90 states voted for, 8 against, 74 abstained. The resolution included a request to the International Court of Justice to urgently render an advisory opinion on the following question.

"What are the legal consequences arising from the construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, as described in the report of the Secretary-General, considering the rules and principles of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions?"

The court concluded that the barrier violated international law. On 20 July 2004, the UN General Assembly accepted Resolution ES-10/15 condemning the barrier with 150 countries voting for the resolution and 10 abstaining. 6 countries voted against: Israel, the US, Australia, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau. The US and Israel rejected both the verdict and the resolution. All 25 members of the European Union voted in favour of the resolution after it was amended to include calls for Israelis and Palestinians to meet their obligations under the "roadmap" peace plan.

The kind of wall I like, an ancient one with free passage on Star St

Tea and coffee with the legendary Sami... a must when visiting Bethlehem

A toy seller say toy guns - so sad

Church of the Nativity

On the return through the checkpoint we experienced the resignation of the people as they waited to pass. 

When I first saw this icon of Mary there was a door painted below looking into the olive tree groves beyond. Many of these were owned by Palestinians from Bethlehem and who were not given passes to pay through the wall to tend their land. Because they did not work their land it was forfeited to the Israeli state. The door and much of the wall was white washed before Donald Trump's 2017 visit to Israel

Prayer to Our Lady Who Brings Down Walls

Most Holy Mother of God,
We pray to you as mother of the Church, mother of all who suffer.
We beg you, through your ardent intercession, to bring down this wall, the walls of our hearts, and all the walls that generate hatred, violence, fear, and indifference between people and between nations.
You who crushed the ancient Serpent by your Fiat, gather and unite us under your virginal cloak, protect us from all evil and open forever in our lives the gate of Hope.
Bring to birth in us and in our world the civilization of Love that sprang forth from the Cross and Resurrection of your divine Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever. Amen.

I saw the wall
I believe with prayer and international pressure
it can come down 
Remember Berlin