Today we celebrate the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time. From the beginning of and throughout his ministry, Jesus revealed who he was. Next weekend’s first reading describes God’s relationship with Israel in spousal terms, so it is not surprising that Jesus’ first sign took place at a wedding feast. All that he did was essentially about God’s unending love for us. Every aspect of life, including marriage, can speak to us of this deep, pervading, unifying love. How is that expressed in our own particular lives?
Next weekend we will celebrate the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. Israel was sustained through- out countless struggles by God’s word revealed in the law. We Christians do not identify ourselves by the same criterion, but by a larger sense of law disclosed by Jesus, the living revelation of God. His ministry proclaimed a new law rooted in love that is lived out on behalf of others. A liberating law, it requires a searing focus and discipline by us as individuals and as a community. Providentially, the same Spirit that animated Jesus animates us.
Last Sunday evening, January 13: Our parish hosted the “official” Archdiocesan observance of the Prayer for Christian Unity. Because of the snow and ice I’m sure that the attendance would have been better. However, those who attended were impressed with the preaching of Bishop Robert Farr, the music provided by the combined choirs present, the “ritual” of the purple cloth, and the reception that followed in our Church Hall. Thanks to all from St. Monica that helped, especially Heather Martin-Cooper (who served on the planning committee), our choir, Diann Bomkamp, who chaired the reception, and Gert Booher and her “welcoming committee,” who assisted in so many ways. The people who were here were very impressed with all that went on. As I mentioned last weekend the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began last Friday, January 18, and continues through this Friday, January 25. There are daily scripture study texts available for you at the Rectory. Please just call Patty or Joan and they will get a set to you. Again, this year’s theme is: “Justice, Only Justice You Shall Pursue,” taken from the Book of Deuteronomy.
The Pilgrimage to the Holy Land which will include over twenty parishioners from Saint Monica, began Friday when we departed Lambert Field for Newark’s Liberty International Airport. We then took a United Airlines flight to Tel Aviv. After arrival on Saturday morning we went to Joppa (or Jaffa, as the Israelis call it), the place from where Jonah set sail running away from the Lord and the site of the vision of Saint Peter and “unclean” animals, then today we will be going north, near the Syrian Border, to Caesarea Philippi, where Peter made his profession of faith. Mass will be celebrated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, near the site of the passage in John, chapter 21. We will also visit Capernaum, and visit the ruins of a synagogue, as well as Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. (A great place to pray!) Tomorrow we will be going to Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle and blessed the newly married couple. Later tomorrow we will go to Nazareth for Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation. Then we will head “south,” to have a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and stop by a kibbutz that houses a boat that is about 2000 years old, dating from the time of our Lord. Finally, and this is a very busy day, we will “climb,” by bus, Mount Tabor, where the Transfiguration took place. Tuesday we will have Mass on the Mount of the Beatitudes and then take a tour through the Galilean countryside through Jericho to the Jordan River. At the Jordan River our group will have the opportunity to renew their baptismal promises. Next we will travel to Qumran, the site of the finding of the “Dead Sea Scrolls.” Following that we will go to the Dead Sea, and some of our more sturdy folks, will actually take a dip in those mineral waters. Some of the rest of us will just sit and watch at the “lowest bar” in the world, the Kalia Beach Bar, which is 418 meters (about 1377 fee) below sea level! After the stop there we will journey through Bethany, the town of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, finally reaching Jerusalem in the early evening.
On Wednesday we will visit the Chapel of the Ascension and the Church of the Pater Noster on the Mount of Olives. Walking down the path on the Mount of Olives we will celebrate Mass at the “Dominus Flevit” Church. (“The Lord Wept” over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41-44.) Following that Mass we will travel to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus had his “agony in the garden.” The bus will then take us to the “Western Wall” of the Second Temple, “the wailing wall,” where prayers will be left in the crevices. I will put a prayer there for all the people of our parish. Following lunch we will travel to Ein Karem, the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, and have the opportunity to visit both the Church of the Visitation and the Church of Saint John the Baptist. Thursday will also be a memorable day (all of them will be!), as we journey to the Palestinian Authority’s area, and visit Bethlehem. That day will begin with Holy Mass in a Grotto of the Shepherds’ Field. Following Mass and a visit to the field itself we will then go to the Church of the Nativity and have the opportunity to visit the “traditional” place where Jesus was born. Also to be visited is the Church of Saint Catherine, where the Latin Rite Midnight Christmas Mass is celebrated each December 25th. Saint Jerome’s grotto, where he lived and worked in translating the Bible into Latin, is also on the agenda. Our last stop in Bethlehem will be at Bethlehem University, a joint venture of the Vatican and the Christian Brothers. It is the only Christian University in Palestine. We will return to Jerusalem for dinner and then, once more, go to the Garden of Gethsemane, to the Church of All Nations, built just next to it, for a Holy Hour of prayer with the Lord where He had His last agony. On Friday we will have an early morning Mass IN the Holy Sepulchre. Following that we will return for breakfast and then take the bus across town to visit the Church of Saint Anne, built very near to the pools of Bethesda, with its five porticos, spoken of in Saint John’s Gospel (chapter 5, verses 2-9). We will visit the Church of the Flagellation, built near the spot where tradition says Jesus was scourged at the pillar. Following the visit to the Church we will then walk the traditional “Way of the Cross,” visiting all fourteen stations, six of which are inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We will see Golgatha, the anointing stone, and, once again, the Holy Sepulchre itself. Hopefully that afternoon all of our group will meet with the Apostolic Administrator of Jerusalem, the Most Rev. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, OFM. (You may “check out” the website of the Latin Patriarch at www.lpj.org. It has plenty of information about him and about the Holy Land.) We will have our “farewell banquet” that evening. Finally, on Saturday, January 26th, we will visit the Old City of Jerusalem and go to Caiaphas’s house and the site of St. Peter’s triple denial of Our Lord on that Holy Thursday night. Mass will be celebrated in the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu (Crowing Cock). After Mass we will visit the “Upper Room” and the Benedictine Church of the Dormition (Assumption). The rest of the day is “free” until we leave late Saturday night from Tel Aviv airport. Our flight is scheduled for 11:10 P.M. Saturday night (3:10 P.M. Saturday afternoon here), with arrival in Newark’s Liberty International Airport scheduled for 4:30 A.M. EST on Sunday morning! Finally we are scheduled to arrive at Lambert Field at 12:34 P.M.! (I hope I make it through the 5:00 P.M. Mass all right!)
I know that seems like a lot in a short time … and it is. Please pray for ALL of us that we make it safely and prayerfully! Know that ALL of you will be remembered in prayer at all of our stops!
Faithfully yours in Christ, the Son of the Living God,
Fr Joe Weber