Day 11, May 11, 2017
Our day began at 5:30 when we walked together into old Jerusalem to follow the Way of the Cross. Remember, yesterday, we walked the route of Palm Sunday and left off at the dungeon where Jesus was arrested, imprisoned, and scourged. The first station is the place where Jesus was then brought before the Roman governor and accused of rebelling against the government. From there we made our way through each station taking turns carrying the cross (Pic 1). This picture is Julius carrying the cross. When I took my turn, I felt the weight of the cross and the burdens of the world on my shoulder. The last five stations are all within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. (Pic 2) Once inside, we knelt and touched the rock of Calvary where Jesus hung on the cross (Pic 3).
After breakfast, we headed to Emmaus about 18 kilometers from Jerusalem. It was on the road to Emmaus that some of the disciples ran into Jesus. Cleopas, who was with them, invited Jesus to dine at his home. Sometimes the places where we honor the memory of Jesus are approximate estimates of where the event may have happened. But when the site is located under or near a Byzantine church from the period three to four hundred years after the time of Christ, the likelihood of this being the actual location is far greater. So it is with this site depicted by this icon of Jesus dining there (Pic 4). We celebrated Mass here with Julius presiding (Pic 5). `Neither of us will ever again here this Gospel reading and feel the same way about it. According to the Gospel reading, once those who saw Jesus in Emmaus had experienced the risen Christ, they felt some urgency to go back to Jerusalem and share the good news. That is how I’m feeling as I prepare to return home: wanting to share this experience with everyone back home.
Nearby the remains of this church were first-century tombs. The Jewish custom at that time was to carve out a few niches to bury the bodies (Pic 6) and then roll a stone over the outer opening (Pic 7). After a couple of years when the body has decayed, the bones are removed and placed in a box for burial. Then the tombs are reused.
As we bid farewell to our pilgrim community and prepared to leave St. Georges, Julius led me to read the sign at the entrance to one of the chapel’s inside the cathedral here:
“Pray not for Arab or Jew, for Palestinian or Israeli. Pray rather for ourselves that we might not divide them in our prayers but keep them both together in our hearts.” (Based on a prayer of a Palestinian Christian)”
How fitting to leave with this prayer as we bring an end to our Journey through the Holy Land. Know that our cause to bring renewed life to the Catholic Church and our remembrance of all our loved ones have been carried with us throughout each step along the way.