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John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them follow him and said to them, “What are you looking for?...Come and see.”
Today is our final day in Israel. It has been a beautiful experience. As I write this meditation from the lobby of our Hotel, “The Seasons”, I journey with my mind to all the towns, cities, churches and sanctuaries I visited in these ten glorious days! What my impressions are is totally dependent on what I was looking for.
What did I expect from my trip to the Holy Land? Absolutely nothing. I wanted to be surprised. I had no expectations, no hopes or aspirations. I guess I just wanted to go and come back. What did I find?
In the ancient city of Jerusalem I found an appreciation for eternity and fraternity. Nothing has changed in this incredibly timeless and torn up city. Jerusalem has been destroyed and rebuilt seventeen times. And still, it is the center of business, exchange, religion, division, confusion and unity. It is as if time has no place or significance in Jerusalem. The ruins of the ancient Jewish Kingdom lie below the ruins of the Byzantine Empire; which lie below the ruins of the Arab Conquests; which lie below the ruins of the Crusaders; which lie below the Arab victories that today stand side by side Christian churches and sanctuaries in a Jewish homeland! Here, time means nothing; survival (perseverance) means everything!
In the ancient towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth I found humility in humanity with childlike beauty. I love the Catholic Church and her outstanding works of faith, hope and love. It is utterly amazing what our brothers and sisters in the faith are doing for God and for neighbor. In almost all of our schools here, the overwhelming majority of students are non-Christians. In fact, in most of our schools, the percentage of Muslim students reaches well over 90%! This speaks volumes to Muslims regarding Christians and Crusaders. Our schools are the only schools that willingly accept all faiths, all children, and with unconditional love. A Jewish child would never go to a Muslim school and a Muslim child would never go to a Jewish school. But when it comes to the Catholic school, the walls keep tumbling down!
In Galilee I came to appreciate the beauty of silence and water. This is where our Lord rested; this is where he regrouped. In this region, the Lord was able to refresh his body and soul. Galilee is where our Lord called his disciples, prepared his disciples and began his journeys towards Jerusalem. Galilee is the place he called home. The sanctuaries that are located in Galilee feature large gardens, open and lush spaces, quiet corners and an abundance of fresh water. What did I come to see? The Church is an oasis in a huge desert where conflict is apparent and always eminent. These sanctuaries are what the world would look like if we would only follow the Lord and His Commandment to love.
Today we traveled to the city of Caesarea, the great city of Herod the Great! It was built by Herod to please his patrons – the Romans. It did. But at the same time, it infuriated the Jews. This is the birthplace of the Zealots. This is the birthplace of the great Rebellion. When Herod’s sons could no longer control the city, Rome sent a strong man, a governor, to take control of the situation. They sent Pontius Pilate. Every year, Pontius Pilate would leave Caesarea and travel to Jerusalem for the Jewish Passover. It is there that he met Jesus. It is there that Jesus was arrested, tortured and put to death. It was from Caesarea that the Romans began their destructive march towards Jerusalem, sacking the city in 70 AD. What did I find? I found that nothing is by coincidence; everything is by Providence. Men will not appease men through strong hand tactics or the promises of wealth and technology; but by respecting their dignity.
The Apostles followed Jesus because they found their home in Him; they found eternity and fraternity; they saw the walls come tumbling down; they saw an oasis in the desert of their lives; they experienced respect and dignity. They found everything that satisfies a thirsting and hungry heart.