“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Mark 8:34
Brothers and Sisters...
Christ is risen! Let us rejoice. Let us achieve, with the grace of God, our own resurrection, spiritual and social.
As we gaze on the Cross of Christ, we need to ask ourselves some penetrating questions if we would claim to be true disciples. In the first instance we must ask if we are ready to repudiate self-interest as the chief motive of our lives, so that we can readily accept the burdens of life which others lay on us.
As leaders of the Christian Churches we would affirm, unequivocally, that we deplore all acts of terrorism, regardless of their originators, be they Israelis or Palestinians. We cannot believe that it is God’s will for anyone to endanger the lives and homes of innocent people, by whatever method. If we would be cross-bearers as Jesus told us, then we must be ready to act even if our action is misinterpreted or misunderstood. Only in this way can we prove the sincerity of our discipleship.
The lack of jobs, the lack of security, the dark future and the peace seeming so distant are all part of the painful situation we are called to endure. Yet as Christians we must go back to the sources of our Christian identity in order to keep hoping and to give hope to others. As St Paul said to the Christians of Corinth, so today we believe he says to us: “When I came to you, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed. The only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and about Him as the crucified Christ.” (1 Cor 2: 1-2)
Our source too is the Cross of Jesus and His Resurrection. We know that we are in this world as an integral part of our society, not as spectators, ready to share in all its pains, yet with something to offer which is not from this world. We believe the prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper was for Christians of all generations to come: “Father, I am not asking you to remove them from the world, but to protect them from the Evil…Consecrate them in truth.” (Jn 17: 15-17)
In order to be saved from the evil in our world, in order to find the truth, we need to heed the words of Jesus in the Beatitudes: “Blessed the poor in spirit, blessed the merciful, blessed the pure in heart, blessed the peacemakers…” (Mt 5, 1-12). If we will live by His words we can create a better world, a way of healing and reconciliation in our land. This is our role as Christians to which we believe God is calling us today.
So we call upon all the peoples of this land, Palestinian and Israeli, to believe that we are able to live together in Peace, and we call upon the leaders to leave the paths of war so that with trust and talks they may follow the paths of peace.
We call upon the Churches of the world to be aware of their responsibility and their obligations towards this land of their Christian roots and towards all its inhabitants, Palestinians and Israelis. The role of the World Churches towards all the inhabitants of the Holy Land is to bring reconciliation on the basis of justice, peace and equality among peoples. They can do that first by being aware of their obligation to the land with all its inhabitants, second by their presence through pilgrimages, though times are difficult, but even because they are difficult, and third through all kinds of activities in the social and political domains, in order to bring reconciliation. Doing this in favour of all the inhabitants of the Land will be the best help and support given to the Christians in it.
Brother and sisters, and beloved sons and daughters, here in the Church of Jerusalem, we live during this coming Holy Week the Passion, the death and the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a time of spiritual renewal, a time for renewing our hope. Let us bear all our present sufferings with courage, and make of them a source of redemption for ourselves and for our land. Let us be active agents for a true and just peace that will make all of us true sharers in the mystery and love of God in this land. Let us be always strong with the words of Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you. A peace which the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.” (Jn 14:23)
Christ is risen. Let us rejoice. May you be conscious of Jesus and the power of His Resurrection in your hearts and homes this Eastertide so bringing hope and joy to all our land and to the world.
The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
11 April 2004