Christ is Risen brothers and sisters! Israel’s C-19 laws relaxed just in time for Palm Sunday, enabling the little minority of Christians residing in the Holy Land to experience a Holy Week to remember. COVID has locked out foreign pilgrims and most others who have sought visas to enter the country. A remnant of religious and locals and a handful of foreign students and volunteers remain. So thankful to finally gather again, they seemed to all have come out to pray in the footsteps of Christ this year. On Palm Sunday, I had the privilege of presiding Mass for an array of nationalities at the Benedictine Monastery and garden overlooking the Old City on the Mount of Olives. Here is a video of the public procession that followed.
From Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday, through the celebrations in Jerusalem, I was able to accompany some young people, six American Navy cadets who are studying Arabic in Haifa, two Arab Christian college students from Galilee, and a young Israeli Jew who is dating Catholic friend of our Denver house. I also worked and prayed back at the Holy Site of Emmaus. Easter Monday is the annual feast day of Emmaus. For 120 years, pilgrims have walked twenty miles from the Cenacle in Jerusalem to Emmaus. Then, the group joins the bishop and other faithful for Mass in our ruins of a 4th-century basilica. In previous years, I have lead half of the hike. As we are short-handed this year, I lead the meditations and hike for the full length. Sixty people from twenty-five different countries came along. Here is a short highlight video!
Pray for our presence and mission in the Holy Land. What a gift to keep the flame of prayer and Christian life alive on the Holy Sites, and what a gift to shine the joy of the Gospel for the non-Christians, 98% of Israel’s inhabitants! I returned to Colorado the day after the Emmaus walk for our debriefing days with our young missionaries who concluded their three months in Lebanon on Easter. Each of them spoke of deep spiritual growth, a wonder at the quality of Lebanese hospitality, community, and ancient Catholic heritage. The nine young people were so grateful to assist our brothers and sisters in their spiritual outreach and disaster relief. Lebanon’s economy and politics continue their tailspin. Pray for them and please help us recruit and raise support for our mission trips there this summer and next summer. May the Lord transform your hearts this Easter Season! Please consider joining us in Denver for our Pentecost Vigil on Saturday evening, May 22, and on August 14 for our Assumption Procession and Vigil!
Pilgrims celebrate Easter Monday Mass with the bishop at Emmaus.