We spent the entire day on the Mount of Olives, which is one of the tall, fairly steep mountains surrounding the Old City (the heart of Jerusalem, as I see it). We started out near the top, at Pater Noster, the place where Jesus taught his disciples how to pray (see Lk. 11: 1-4) and reflected on the Lord’s Prayer (read this reflection here).
Our next top was Dominus Flevit, the church commemorating the place where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem (click here for video). Standing there, we looked over the city and practiced Lectio Divina over the Scripture which describes Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ (Mt. 23:37-39; see parallel Lk. 19: 41-44)
The word that speaks to me here is yearned. Jesus desired so much for the people to be close to his heart. He desired to shelter them, protect them, care for them, lead them, and love them. But they did not let him, and so he wept, knowing the destruction that would come to them.
How often we reject Jesus’ love: when we refuse to soften our stony hearts (see Ez. 36:26), broaden our minds, break our bad habits, humble our hearts, and repent of our sins. Inside Dominus Flevit, a Franciscan brother posed a question to us for consideration: What can I do so that Jesus will not weep? I must carry my cross. This means to grapple with the very things mentioned above: bad habits, frequent temptations, and vices. If we carry these crosses, we will lose our life, as Jesus did.
And yet, we will live (see Mt. 16:25).
After this profound meditation, we spent several hours of silent prayer in the Garden of Gethsemani. This was the place where Jesus famously spent his last hours as a free man, his Agony (see Lk. 22: 39-46). We ate a simple lunch that the Lord himself would have eaten: water, pita bread, cheese, olives, and an apple.
This may have been one of the highlights of the pilgrimage for all of us; it certainly was special for me. God works all the time, but it’s easier for us to hear Him when we get back to basics. Simplicity and silence are friends that open us up to God’s graces. Through my Gethsemani experience, I’ve come to understand and appreciate why Jesus often withdrew by himself to pray. He knew that our human condition is prone to distraction.
If the Son of God needed to get away from the rest of the world to hear the voice of His Father, how much more do I need to make that time.