Before I get to what I really want to share, I’ll just go through quickly what we did today. If you allow me. No choice, actually.
We left Israel and went into the Palestinian Authority to visit Bethlehem (just like Jericho, it is outside Israel). We visited the Milk Grotto, where Mary breastfed Jesus and some of her milk dripped onto the cave floor and turned everything white. Now people get particles for healing and if they want to conceive.
We didn’t have the Mass in the Nativity Church because it is owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. So we just visited the site after Mass at St. Catherine’s. The place where Jesus was born is under the Church. You have to bend to reach the Nativity Star inside a small nook. He was born in a limestone cave, and not a manger.
Awed. Jesus was born there. It is just a bit harder to imagine and get into the moment with a whole Church built over the site, and with hundreds of pilgrims before and behind you. But nonetheless, I am awed. I wonder why the “Vatican” is based in Rome and not here in Bethlehem? Wouldn’t that be awesome if the seat of our faith is based in the town where Jesus was born?
Then we left Bethlehem and made our way back to Israel and straight to the top of the Mount of Olives. There aren’t that many olives, but there are a lot of graves. The Mount of Olives face the closed Eastern Gate of Jerusalem. The Jews believe that the Savior will come and open the gates of Jerusalem, and the dead will rise. So those who got buried facing that gate believe that they will be one of the first to enter the new Jerusalem when that happens.
We walked down the Mount of Olives, using the same path Jesus used on Palm Sunday. Then we stopped at the Dominus Felvit. Or the place where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. Further down is the Garden of Gethsemene. And in the Church there, there is the rock where Jesus cried tears of blood. The agony in the garden.
I reflected a lot on the agony in the garden. Jesus must have really been in agony to have shed tears of blood. And I thought to myself, have I ever been in so much agony? THAT MUCH to shed tears of blood? Yes, I have been through a lot in life, but I cannot say that I ever went through something like that. And it is because of two things. One, I am a simple person. I don’t like complicating things. So maybe things don’t affect me as much as the other person. And two, it is because I know that Jesus went through everything already for me. And everything will be OK in the end. The rock where Jesus shed His blood is still there. And it is telling me that Jesus is my rock. He went through agony for me. And He is still there. His suffering, death and ultimate victory is already ahead of me. And He is in control.
Can you think of any other radical person such as Jesus? He spoke out, and spoke the truth. I believe He knew what would happen to Him. He knew He would rise on the third day (why would He preach it if He didn’t believe it?). But He also knew what kind of betrayal, suffering and pain He would have to go through before that. And that caused Him agonizing feelings. I mean, who wouldn’t be in agony if you knew you’d be whipped, cut, spit on, nailed, broken…. I can’t even imagine.
But, thank you. Thank you for doing that for me. Thank you for being radical. For me. It encourages me to be radical, like you, for you. My agony will never equal yours, but it gives me courage to get through anything the world throws at me. I will speak the truth, and live in the light. Just like You. For You. Thank you.