It is a pleasure to offer these few brief “Reflections on an Easter Journey – Today”.
These reflections will try to describe what life is like today in the land where Jesus travelled to give His life that we might live. The Holy Land is a rapidly changing area, and now has only 1.2% of its population is Christian. Emigration is constant and the pressures on Christians is severe.
As in this country there is currently significant restrictions on movement of people in Palestine. The Coronavirus has had the impact of virtually shutting off much of Palestinian land. On 6 March the Palestinian Authority declared a “lockdown” of mobility and social meeting in the area. This has kept the number of cases with Coronavirus low, currently around 100, and few deaths. The impact on the economy has been devastating since much is dependent on tourism. That has simply collapsed.
As so often happens there are unknown consequences of crises. In The Holy Land there is a resurgence of the spiritual life of Christians. There is an awareness that humanity is not saved by material wealth and celebrities, but by faith and good works. So not all is disaster and gloom.
Jesus went to Jerusalem not only to die – but that He would rise for us and be Our Saviour. Keep that in mind through the darker days that cover us. Journey to Easter with that hope.
Beginning The Journey
We shall begin this journey after the miracle of “The Raising of Lazarus” (John 11: 1-45) and what took place after that. Indeed it was this miracle which seems to have been a factor in provoking the Pharisees to begin the actions that would lead to the Crucifixion. John says, “Since that day on, they (the Pharisees) made the decision to kill him. Jesus did not walk in public among the Jews anymore. He went away to a region near the desert, to a city called Ephraim, and it was there that he and his disciples dwelt” (John 11: 53–54).
So this journey takes us to Ephraim, today known as Taybeh. This town is 12 miles or so from Jerusalem with a population of around 2,500 people and is now best known for the production of Taybeh Beer! It remains a quiet town with a relatively high proportion of Christians (around 30%; the rest being Moslem). It was the last all-Christian town in Palestine. There is still an active Christian community here, with a vibrant Catholic parish and school. Today there is also a Nursing Home, Beit Afram, run by the Catholic Church. This is an important service for the elderly and the frail people of that area and an example of the importance of the Catholic Church in The Holy Land.
As with all towns in The Holy Land it is on top of a hill – away from the dangerous valleys that can flood in winter, and for the cool breezes in the hot summers. So Jesus would have stayed in and around this rocky area, preparing Himself for His travel to Jerusalem.
So Jesus left his friends – Lazarus, Martha and Mary – and went to the solitude in the hill country around Taybeh. There He and His disciples fortified themselves spiritually through quiet prayer knowing what he would face when He went to Jerusalem.
As we isolate ourselves these days, we might think that there are some people afraid because of ailing health and an uncertain future. We keep especially in our prayers – our families; the elderly; neighbours; those living alone; and those with illness; and those who are afraid.
Yes, Jesus was afraid of facing the end of His life, and we might think of others in that situation.
Can we this week offer some practical help? You can be at home and comfort others. Our faith is expressed not just in words but in good works.
This week can we stay at home and lift the phone to, say two people who may be alone or suffering?
Can we email someone whom we have neglected?
Can we simply offer a prayer…?
Be with Jesus on His final journey… and so to Jerusalem …