“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May those who love you be secure. May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.’ For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’ For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.” (Psalm 122: 6-9)
The world is in the middle of yet another attack on the people of Israel…it has happened over and over through the years: from the Egyptians to the Romans to Hitler to Hamas now. My heart breaks for them…especially now that I have just travelled there only three months ago, had dinner with a Christian family in Bethlehem within the West Bank, walked the steps of Jesus through the Holy Land…and did not feel threatened but free to come and go. And now there are tour groups either stuck over there or worse, being threatened and even attacked. There but for the grace of God go I.
So what do we do at a time like this other than pray? I suggest a few things…
It does not escape me that my heart burned with the desire to visit the Holy Land for years…and while we could think of multiple reasons not to go (including a few setbacks…our first planned trip in 2021 being derailed by Covid among them), that we finally went on a pilgrimage trip…just in time. I believe I’d represent most of the pilgrims by saying we were transformed by the trip…there were some joyful and difficult moments but all moved us spiritually. Yet we had to take action and go. Sometimes we have to say “Yes” to God…to that still small voice, that burning on our hearts, and then take action, having faith in the outcome. Sometimes, though, I say ‘yes’ too quickly without discerning if that stirring is God’s will or mine. Sometimes it’s best to say “no” or “not yet.” But the more I pray about a decision, the better the chance I will hear the answer.
I remain grateful, especially now, to have gone to Israel in a time of relative peace before war erupted one day before my wedding anniversary, Oct. 8. We celebrated and renewed our wedding vows with a beautiful celebration in Cana, in fact. I am reminded that a heart full of gratitude does not have room for anything else. I remain grateful not only for the trip but new friends I’ve made as well as tried and true friends in my life, family members including our blended family of five adult kids, three grandchildren (and one on the way!), my mom, our siblings, aunts, uncles, siblings…the list goes on. As I stop and pray for each one, I can still feel happy despite the terrors of the world.
I choose not to live in fear because I know I have been saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Still, I believe I need to be on guard against the enemy who comes in a variety of ways here and now…through terrorists, through technology, through my own thoughts if I let them stray. I believe we have to remember St. Paul’s words: “Whatever is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” And not to be complacent or self-centered but to focus on what we can do to serve God and others now. So we are ready when the end times come.
If I learned one thing while on my trip to Israel (although I learned many things), it was to be kind and loving to ALL people…Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, etc. We may all have different faiths but we are all children of God. Rich, poor, black, brown, white…Jesus loves us all. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to stand up for our faith when we’re attacked. But I believe it means being kind, having that “agape” love Jesus had for all, even his enemies. If we all had that for each other there would be peace. It starts with me.
Dear Lord, help us to remain in You during these difficult world trials and tribulations, help us to do what we can to serve You and others, restore global peace if it be Your will and meanwhile, restore peace and joy in our hearts and souls. Amen.