By Fr. Jonathan Filkins
The Picayune Item
With all of the stories in the Bible, it is very easy to lose the focus of the very real places, which are catalogued there. Given the regular succession of “passion plays,” re-enactments and folklore telling’s, our vision of the reality of today’s Holy Land and the message of Christ may be a bit skewed.
Jerusalem is not some dusty wayside, bereft of common amenities. In fact, it is replete with five-star hotels, freeways, and bustling multi-cultural communities. The Olµd City itself has undergone many revisions, with this conqueror and that, with little that Jesus, or any other person of the time, would find familiar.
During a recent trip to Jerusalem, some pilgrims began the steep journey down the slope of the Mount of Olives towards the Kidron Valley and the Church of Dominus Flevit. The Church marks the traditional location where Jesus wept at his second and final visit to Jerusalem and where the “mob” greeted him with palms and accolades, before calling for His death a week later.
One of the pilgrims, standing at the gate of the church, exuberantly remarked, “Isn’t this wonderful. We are walking in the footsteps of Jesus!” Well, no, not really. These pilgrims were not walking in the footsteps of Jesus, no more than they were walking in the myriad millions of other footsteps who have trod there. This pilgrim’s journey was theirs alone and their footsteps echoed in their alone-ness. Today’s so-called path is covered by a very steep, narrow street, replete with cars and asphalt. In Jesus day it was, at best, a meandering earthen path with numerous switchback turns.
We try, repeatedly, to put God into a defined “box,” where we can understand Him and “see” Him more easily and, there is the constant element of our deficient humanness in the effort. It is quite natural to speak of being in the same location as another; most particularly the Son of God. Yet, He is not there. He is gone from us, with the sublime promise to return for us at a time of His choosing.
Of course, exploring the streets of Jerusalem is a moving experience, but reality dictates we should understand the events, politics and opinions, which have occurred over the two millennia since Jesus earthly ministry. They, seemingly, obscure the understanding of our relationship with Him. No amount of wishing or wanting will change the promise.
We cannot get closer to God by just being in Jerusalem, no more than we can get closer to Him in just being in Picayune. As Christians, we have no required pilgrimages to a far-off land. We believe He is with us at all times and everywhere. Yet, we can get closer to God and Jesus Christ, no matter where we are, for He is walking with us. He is present at this very moment in each of our lives. It is the choice of the path we take. It is the choice of our pilgrimage with Him
The path of Christ calls to us. Do we listen to the distractions of this world and are drawn away? In Holy Scripture and prayer, we are given instructions on where and how we follow His call to us. In our words and deeds, let us walk in the footsteps of Christ, each day, and know full well the real path to Him.