Monday, July 1, 2013

Jerusalem. Jerusalem.

Arriving on a Sunday mid-afternoon to Jerusalem seemed like an abrupt shock from being in Amman. After unpacking, I made my way to Ben Yehuda to people-gaze. As I sat there, I realized, "I don't know who I am anymore?" To which country do I belong? What types of people do I support? About the only sure thing I know is that I am a Christian. When I see a cross, I feel like I am safe at home. It is odd what traveling does to a person's sense of belonging.

I watched many types of people walk by - mostly Jews, many Arabs. Then there were many ethnic backgrounds - Africans, Indians, Filipina and Indonesian, Europeans, and Americans. Everyone seemed to feel at home - except for maybe me. I wonder where I belong.

The western modern city feels natural because it is a place of relationships and leisure. Elderly couples walking together, a group of old men discussing newspaper stories, western girls joyfully shopping, solitary men smoking cigarettes. People, if they are not in relationship with each other, are in relationship with the city in which they live. They seemed to love being with one another and taking some leisurely time in a place that is comfortable to them.

I miss this sort of thing in Amman. It happens, but it is a much smaller scale and I can't relate to many people because they primarily speak a language that I do not. Jerusalem feels easy because those relationships are clearly visible.

This visit teaches me that we cannot be people of small interests. We have to dialogue with the larger world and build inter-relationships. Societies are stronger when blood lines mix and inter-marriage occurs. We are healthier when we blend our cultures and customs together. We build understanding, tolerance, and enrichment.

For years, the Catholic church fed into this by developing Catholic ghettoes (as they were called) and setting private, parochial schools based in geographic parishes. We were strong, we thought, when Catholics married Catholics; Italians married Italians, and Irish married the Irish. We have learned since those times that reaching out and being in dialogue with other cultures is important for ones' survival and flourishing. It forces us to reflect more deeply on our faith and to develop a better understanding of our tenets.

A church that stands over and against culture will never thrive; a church that dialogues with and embraces culture will develop more naturally and in a healthy way. The same goes for nations. We have to help nations mix and exchange their customs with others. Everyone carries with them their national history. The old way of preventing war was to marry families together. We must do the same today. We must marry our nations together.

For the moment though, I just need to breathe deeply because I am tired. My body and mind needs to stretch and relax. I realize I am a stranger to many, but I find my home as a Christian.

6 comments:

  1. Wow. What a powerful post !! Awesome and one that I agree with.

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    1. Thanks. It is a bit unsettling, but I think life should be that way so we can deconstruct our views to make room for new ones.

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  2. John, you have left me speechless, but with much to consider. Your words ring so true!

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    1. Silence is sometimes the best way to express the sacred.

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  3. This is indeed a powerful message. Until we truly intermingle and embrace people of different cultures, we will not have peace. God's kingdom will come to earth through each individual reaching out to others and demonstrating the love that Christ has for each of us.

    I am so aware of this during Mass because our parish is very multicultural but our bond is that Christ lives within each of us. The presence of Christ is very real in the assembly of the people.

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    1. Spoken wisely, Lynda. We have a long way to go.

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