|Meeting a parishioner in Gaza (© Mazur/catholicnews.org.u)|
I write this post from Jerusalem, where I am representing the CCCB at the annual meeting of what is called the Holy Land Coordination. For the last 12 years, at the request of the Holy See, Bishops representing the episcopal conferences of North America and Europe have been coming here with the aim of demonstrating solidarity and communion with the Christians of the Holy Land. It is an opportunity to meet the local Bishops and their people and to learn about the very complex reality of life in this part of the world.
Most of the sessions take place in Jerusalem, but I have also already visited a parish in the Gaza Strip and tomorrow we travel to Haifa. A statement from the participants will be issued at the end of the visit, so I can make that available for you next week.
Since I arrived two days prior to the start of meetings in order to get over the jet lag, I had an opportunity to visit some of the holy sites here in the city. What struck me from the outset is how far below the present surface are artifacts that date to the time of Jesus. Centuries of conflict, destruction, rubble and rebuilding mean that articles scholars say pertain to the time of our Lord are often meters below the surface. You have to dig, and dig deeply, to get to the reality of things around here.
Much like the journey of our soul, come to think of it. We tend to bury our true identity under multiple levels of pretence, illusion, guilt and so on, leaving ourselves with the need for some “excavation” to discover the truth of ourselves. This is what the Holy Spirit does for us.
We just celebrated the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism, at which the Father’s voice from heaven identified Jesus as His well-beloved Son. Immediately prior, John the Baptist had said that Jesus would be baptizing with the Holy Spirit (cf. Mark 1: 8). When we receive this same Spirit through the sacraments of the Church, we are given the gift of vital union with Christ such that, in him, we become the well beloved sons and daughters of the Father. Our deepest reality is fashioned and brought to light.
Here in the Holy Land, when the reality beneath the surface is discovered, great efforts are made to preserve what has been found. There is nothing more precious than our identity in Christ. Let us ask the Lord to reveal it anew to us by the gift of the Spirit. By that same gift, may He help us to preserve our identity by living lives that accord with it – lives of virtue, holiness and joy.