As I write this, we pilgrims, eight of us from Assumption, are headed home. It has been a good trip, with a few surprises and some uncertain moments. I prayed for the parish in many places along the way. I took special care to mention you at those places commemorating important events in Jesus’ life: his agony, death, and resurrection in Jerusalem; his birth and flight into Egypt in Bethlehem; his preaching in the Galilee; and the Annunciation in Nazareth. All along the way, we have been trying to recognize the Kingdom that Jesus preached. At times it was easier to recognize the anti-Kingdom, just as I’m sure it was during Jesus’ own day. On our second full day in Jerusalem some people who came to worship at Al-Aqsa, on the Esplanade of the Mosques, killed two Israeli border police, prompting a lockdown of the Old City, where we were. We experienced firsthand something of what it means to have soldiers patrolling the city and a strict control of comings and goings.
In Bethlehem, though, many of us experienced a sign of the Kingdom. Sami Awad, the founder and director of Holy Land Trust, spoke to us of his work of getting Israelis and Palestinians to know each other’s story and each other—to experience reconciliation and understanding. In a land where so many people want the “other” ones out, he works for a healing of wounds and a coming together in peace. In the gospel passage for this Sunday, once again Jesus mentions that God will do the separating of the good from the bad at the end of time; it is not our job right now. Instead, we live together, those who think like us and those who think differently, those we think are good and those we think are bad. As difficult as it may be, I am convinced that a peaceful coexistence and cooperation with those who are not “like us” is a necessary part of experiencing God’s Kingdom.
On another note, this coming Saturday, August 5, Bishop Fabbro will ordain Kevin Mannara to the priesthood in Rochester, NY. The following day he will preside at his first Mass, on the Solemnity of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. Jesus gave a special gift to Peter, James, and John, when they saw him in all his glory. That gift, however, is impetus to recognize God’s presence in all people, indeed in all creation. I invite you to pray that Kevin may have this gift always, and that in his priesthood he will help people recognize God’s Kingdom wherever his ministry takes him.