Holy Land Pilgrimage

The Desire for Jerusalem and the Need for Dialogue

March 6, 2020

The Old City of Jerusalem is about one square Kilometer with a conspicuous wall around it. Because of the prominence given to this city by the scripture writers as a holy city and a place where the divine presence resides, the city has been besieged about 23 times in the course of its history. This city is about 0.35 square miles, yet history tells us it has been attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times and destroyed about twice.

Due to the fact that the three Abrahamic religions, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all value the City of Jerusalem, there are disagreements among them sometimes, hence the need for dialogue and the division of the city into four quarters: The Armenian quarter, the Christian quarter, the Jewish quarter and the Muslim quarter. Interreligious dialogue then becomes an imperative given our present experience if we must remain faithful to values of love, justice, and peace.

The situation here in Jerusalem invites us to consider two things. First, our various situations around the world since it is difficult to have a metropolitan city that is exclusively inhabited by people of just one religion. It invites us to be disciples of Christ who promote dialogue among our neighbors who practice other religions. By crossing the Sea of Galilee to the other side, namely the Gentile area, Jesus invites us to cross to the other side of our neighbors in order to meet them and understand them better, overcome our prejudices against them, and show them love in the ways in which we relate with them. Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran reminds us that dialogue does not take place in the Vatican, dialogue takes place at the grassroots church where believers meet with their neighbors in their offices, farms, public transport or market places. Speaking with a Jewish woman here in Jerusalem, she expressed her appreciation for the positive statements about Jews and Judaism, found in the document promulgated by the Second Vatican Council entitled Nostra Aetate and the positive experiences she has had with Christians over the years here in the Holy Land.

The second invitation the situation in Jerusalem invites us to think about is the love for the Heavenly Jerusalem, not just the physical one located in Israel with tall walls. Our desire for the heavenly Jerusalem should be superior to the love for the physical Jerusalem. During this Lenten season, let us strive to enter the Heavenly Jerusalem, where we shall experience the beatific vision and be with the Lord without the fear of death.

Tony Famave

Diocese of San Jose

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