When people travel to the Holy Land they give a lot of attention to the sites associated with the saving work of our Lord. There is no doubt that it is a very powerful moment to be in the places where Christ lived, died and rose from the dead. However lots of pilgrims coming to the Holy Land overlook another aspect of this country. It is not a museum. It is not a big reliquary containing treasures touched by Jesus, Mary and the Apostles. It is also home to people who in Israel live their Christian faith even if it is a difficult mission. The beauty of spending a bit more time in this country is that I don’t need to rush in order to “tick off” important places but I can keep coming to these places at my own pace. I am also so thrilled that I am given this opportunity to join local parishes as they celebrate their Sunday Masses. This Sunday I went to the Parish Church of Saint Saviour. Franciscan Friars look after the community. After a few weeks in Jerusalem when I had seen many pilgrims and tourists paying their visits to the shrines here, kissing and touching the holy stones I walked into a “normal” catholic community. I saw people greeting each other, hugging and kissing each other as they were getting ready for the Mass. I couldn’t help thinking that what they have preserved here is what Jesus started 2000 years ago when he called the first disciples and they established the first Christian communities. Jerusalem was home city for the first followers of Christ. For me it was a moment of stepping into living Catholic Church build on the faith of generations of men and women who have treasured their faith in the country where they are minority. The Mass was in Arabic so I couldn’t understand words but I had no problem to follow what was being prayed. Before the Mass I looked at the readings so I missed nothing but I gained another memory what it means to be part of this great Catholic Family. If there is a catholic church somewhere there is home. I found interesting that little girls from the early grades of Primary school took up collection. They were very cute but not very thorough. They missed a few sections of the church that’s why I think that our Australian system works better. We aren’t omitted when collection is taken.
Fr Daniel OMI
An Oblate Priest