We gathered behind the wooden cross two weeks ago, four of us carrying it and the remaining pilgrims lining up behind, ready to walk the Via Dolorosa – the Way of Sorrows – the way Jesus may have walked through Jerusalem to his crucifixion.
Suddenly, a hail of small explosions peppered the air. We looked around uneasily. Soldiers gathered in the streets, closing off the road behind us. Due to clashes between Palestinian protestors and Israeli forces, the Temple Mount was closed to all men under 50 (young men had taken to throwing rocks from the Mount at police, who responded with tear gas – the explosions we were hearing).
The explosions continued. Our guide gathered us together and started us quickly up the narrow cobblestones.
It was eerie. The stalls that line the streets were closed and the normally crowded streets were nearly empty. “Hail Mary, full of grace….” We stopped at the next Station to pray, and another group took up the cross. I thought of all the prayer intentions I brought with me to the Holy Land – all the burdens I and others bore as we walked the path to Golgotha. The disturbance (fading behind us as we made our way) reminded me that worse than that surrounded Jesus in his day. He carried all of it with him; bore it himself to be nailed to the cross.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,
how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings but you were unwilling!”
(Luke 13:34, from today’s gospel reading)
Jesus wept then for Jerusalem as he must today: as tensions escalate, Israel closed the Temple Mount – an act Palestinian President Abbas called a “declaration of war.” Let us pray it does not come to that. Let us pray for peace.
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The following prayer for peace for the people of Syria and its neighbors is posted on the website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:
Almighty eternal God, source of all compassion,
the promise of your mercy and saving help fills our hearts with hope.
Hear the cries of the people of Syria;
bring healing to those suffering from the violence,
and comfort to those mourning the dead.
Empower and encourage Syria’s neighbors
in their care and welcome for refugees.
Convert the hearts of those who have taken up arms,
and strengthen the resolve of those committed to peace.
O God of hope and Father of mercy,
your Holy Spirit inspires us to look beyond ourselves and our own needs.
Inspire leaders to choose peace over violence
and to seek reconciliation with enemies.
Inspire the Church around the world with compassion for the people of Syria,
and fill us with hope for a future of peace built on justice for all.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Light of the World,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
For the people of Syria and Israel, that God may strengthen the resolve of leaders to end
the fighting and choose a future of peace.
We pray to the Lord…