Home Again!

When he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him,
and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:20

Every morning while we toured Israel, I checked our itinerary before we set out for the day. This helped me to retrieve what I knew about each site. In addition to historical and geographical tidbits regarding these places, events related to Jesus of Nazareth came to mind. As a result, I arrived at each destination with a heart open to the gifts of the new day.

I clearly recall the day we were headed toward the Mount of the Beatitudes, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee and Magdala. A sense of homecoming quickly enveloped me as I considered scripture passages related to these places. The events I recalled made me feel as though I was returning to revive ancient memories. Oddly, I felt expectantly anxious to get to the heart of what had occurred at each one.

Though I’ll supply details later, today, it is enough to say that I was never disappointed. I may not have stood on the precise patch of ground where Jesus spoke the beatitudes or multiplied loaves and fishes. I may not have stepped in Mary Magdalene’s footprints. I may not have sailed Jesus’ course on the Sea of Galilee. Still, I felt that I walked where I was meant to walk in order to rekindle important relationships from long ago. I wouldn’t have felt more at home if I had been the prodigal son whose father kissed him and embraced him to welcome him home after a far too long absence.

Loving God, thank you for being present to me and for welcoming me into every moment.
With you, the time is always right.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

An Oasis of Peace

“This is how you are to pray.”
Matthew 6:9

While in Israel, our guide lead us to several unexpected peaceful oases. One of these was the ancient city of Akko (Acre). Though the city dates back to biblical times, it is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it houses classic Crusader ruins both under and above ground. We walked through Crusader halls and streets which date from the 12th and 13th Centuries. The city which stands today is reminiscent of a typical fortified Ottoman town of the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Striking as these historical relics are, I found myself more taken by a tiny church resting in their shadows. The Church of St. Francis has been served for more than two decades by an Italian Franciscan priest. He ministers to a small band of parishioners who worship freely and peacefully in the midst of their larger Muslim community. Though the priest’s eyes glistened a bit when he shared the long years he’s been away from his homeland, his enthusiasm indicated that there is no place he would rather be. During this visit, I learned that Francis of Assisi visited Akko during Muslim rule. While there, Francis walked into a Muslim camp. Francis’ peaceful nature so moved their leader that the man allowed Francis to see all of the holy places from which Christians were banned at the time.

The priest who’d so warmly welcomed us gifted me with a holy card of St. Francis as I left. When I glanced at to see this tiny treasure, I found St. Francis’ prayer for peace on the back. What better message was there to take from this holy place where Muslims and Christians worshiped in peace in the heart of their Jewish country?

Loving God, make us all instruments of your peace.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved