I write these words from Bethlehem. I am aware of the privilege I am experiencing in being in this land, where God himself chose to take flesh, or as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says in this weekend’s second reading, “for a little while was made lower than the Angels…”. Today we went to the Church of the Nativity and saw where tradition says it all started. God became one of us, a little baby born in extremely humble circumstances. Perhaps even more powerful, though, is a bit further in the reading; Hebrews says that God is bringing many sons and daughters to glory, and that Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters! If we, as human beings and as Christians, could ever realize the impact of that, we would have a very different world.
So far on the pilgrimage we have encountered many examples where people are not being treated as sons and daughters of God. Today we learned about the refugee situation of Palestinians, and then visited a refugee camp in Bethlehem. A couple of days ago we were welcomed by Bedouins to the remnants of their village that has been destroyed—bulldozed—133 times so far. (Israel has decided to replace their farms and village with a forest.) In Jerusalem we visited holy sites like Gethsemane and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and also learned about systemic descrimination, about legalized racism, home demolitions, and military occupation.
We have also met some people who are modeling what it means to be children of God, and sisters and brothers of one another. Moira and Varda both lost family members in the conflicts, yet they speak to groups to show how important it is to hear one another’s stories, and to realize that they all suffer the same pain and bleed the same colour of blood. Amos works with the Bedouins in the Negev, trying to bring dignity and justice. Sami, of Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, works for reconciliation and healing at a deep level and has helped both Palestinian and Israeli extremists to heal and to form bonds of friendship with each other.
I am convinced that if we could ever come to truly feel our relatedness, our connectedness, our kinship as chlidren of God, that situations like what Jesus describes in our Gospel passage would be healed. We would instinctively treat each other with deep respect; no spouse would be thrown out (which is what divorce was in Jesus’ day); no child would be ignored or shunned. We would know how much all lives matter and we would work for each others’ dignity and progress.
Know that each of you are in my prayer in this special land.