At the beginning of the parish pilgrimage to the Holy Land on 22nd November I shared with the group as we celebrated Mass on the Mount of Beatitudes in Galilee, this quote: “Tourists pass through places, but pilgrims let places pass through them, allowing their hearts to change.”
We ended our pilgrimage with three nights in Jerusalem. For us there was a great contrast between the relative tranquillity of the lake of Gennesaret, in Galilee and the noise and bustle of this City, sacred to the Jewish, Muslim and Christian Faiths.
This weekend, the first Sunday of Advent, the responsorial Psalm 121 echoes our feelings as pilgrims as we stayed in Jerusalem.
“Let us go to God’s house.
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
It is there that the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord.”
Today in the first reading from Isaiah we read “All the nations will stream to it, peoples without number will come to it; and they will say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths’ ”
We made several visits to the Holy Sepulchre Church within which is the chapel of Golgotha and the tomb of Our Lord. Some of us went very early in the morning to hear some beautiful singing in the chapel of St Helena. She was said to have discovered the true Cross. We all joined thousands of pilgrims who queued to enter the chapel tomb and pray. Right near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is all that remains of the Temple that was destroyed in AD70. It is known as the Western Wall or the Wailing Wall, sacred to the Jews. We joined many hundreds of Jews who prayed there and touched the stones. I prayed for peace between nations and the different faiths.
I also left my piece of paper with my written prayer, in a crevice between the stone. Over the Western Wall is the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site is sacred to the Muslims. How apt it is to hear again that final sentence of the first reading for this Sunday. “He (Lord) will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war. O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
As we enter Advent let us welcome the light, walk in the light of the Lord and let that light transform us.