Over the last weeks, the conflict between Israel and Palestine has ratcheted up dramatically following the October 7th terror attack by Hamas. As I write this, the world is waiting to see how the latest movements by Israel in Gaza unfold. Even as a full siege of Gaza is in effect – cutting off electricity, food and fuel – rockets continue to fly between Gaza and Tel Aviv. At the time of this writing (Sunday night), Israel is preparing for a major incursion aimed at destroying Hamas.
I don’t have any more insight into the solution to the problems of the Holy Land than anyone else, but during my graduate studies in seminary, I was blessed to spend two and half months there. My class of students was in Bethlehem during Christmas of 2006, two weeks of the new year (2007) in Galilee, and our last month Jerusalem. To be in the land where Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose again was an extraordinary blessing.
It was at times also heartbreaking, as the realities of division and strife were evident even in the holiest of places. Posters calling for jihad adorned an alley just a short walk from the birthplace of Christ. Rundown Palestinian marketplaces with netting to catch garbage – and human waste – throw down from Israeli apartments at people below not far from the location of Christ’s crucifixion and death. Jewish security officers stopping customers to scan for weapons & explosives at Burger King because a bomb had killed several at a fast food place a month prior to our visit. Islamic rioting at the base of the Mount of the Temple because of planned renovations. Machine gun fire in the distance – at any given hour or day of the week – that became an alarmingly normal part of the sounds of the region.
Here in a country where we enjoy relative peace from such terrible conflict and unable to materially assist, our best response is hope and prayer. We hope in Christ and His power to intercede in the hearts of men, knowing that even on the cross He touched that of the good thief so as to elicit his confession of faith and be saved. We pray, knowing that the our intercessions are joined with the cloud of witnesses in heaven who ceaselessly petition before our Heavenly Father. May God touch the hearts of each of us, that we may find true peace here and throughout the world.
As always, know of my prayers for you. May the Lord bless us all this week, with grace, joy, and peace.
yours in Christ,
October 17 – Today is the memorial of Saint Ignatius of Antioch. Patriarch of Antioch, he is one of Apostolic Fathers and among the early Christian martyrs killed in Rome. His writings are considered to be foundational texts in understanding early Christian theology. A portion of one of those letters is part of the Office of Readings for his memorial and can be read at iBreviary – I think you’ll appreciate why it is treasured by the Church.
October 18 – Today’s feast of Saint Luke is one that Catholics everywhere celebrate, but we do so with special joy, ourselves named after one of the evangelists and neighbor to a parish consecrated to his patronage. His Gospel is often depicted with an ox or calf – imagery taken from the book of Daniel and applied to Luke due to the nature of his Gospel. As we celebrate Saint Luke, may we likewise proclaim Christ to the world. Read more about the imagery of Saint Luke at Aleteia.
October 19 – Today’s memorial celebrates Saints John de Brébeuf, Isaac Jogues and their companions – the first martyrs on the North American to be recognized by the Church. Coming from France to proclaim the Gospel to Native Americans in Quebec (properly known as the Huron-Wendat Nation). Though these saints were ultimately martyred – sometimes under terrible torture – their witness led to the baptism of thousands and contributed to great growth of the Christian faith in North America. Read more about them at the Vatican News website.
October 20 – The memorial of Saint Paul of the Cross offers us a timely example of witness to the importance of Christ’s suffering as integral to knowing (and encountering) the love of the Father. During his lifetime, Saint Paul witnessed a growth in the idea that Jesus was simply a good moral teacher (sound familiar?). Holding a great devotion to the passion of Jesus, he committed his life to preaching this devotion to others – going so far as to found the Congregation of the Passion or Passionists. Read more at EWTN.