On our dream for new Jerusalem(s)

I HAD many prayerful, powerful and learning experiences from my recent retreat in the Holy Land. One of them was at the Church of Dominus Flevit, while we were celebrating Mass at this traditional site where the Lord Jesus lamented for Jerusalem.  In the Gospel of Matthew we find that as Jesus was walking toward the city, he gazed at it with sadness and uttered: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets…How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37)

Even in his time, Jesus’ innermost desire was to gather all people as one, to make them listen to his words and to accept him as their Lord and Savior.  As we all know, this still hasn’t happened.  The city continues to undergo unrest and tensions with both Israelis and Palestinians claiming it as their land. It’s a home to three major religious groups: Jews, Christians, and Moslems, who live side by side but not claiming to be one.

When shall peace come to Jerusalem? This is a question that every religious group and members of the international community ask. For sure there are remarkable signs of economic progress with the continuous influx of pilgrims and tourists visiting the city and with the development of trade, new buildings, homes, roads, and means of transportation. But ask a tourist or a pilgrim, and he or she would tell you about the feeling of tension as one travels around and outside the city.

Actually, what happens in Jerusalem is not unique. In many cities and countries around the world one also discovers tensions and conflicts happening among their people and leaders. Be it Bangladesh, Manila, Bejing, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Honduras, Washington D.C., London, North Korea, or Dubai, one encounters corruption, human rights violation, poverty, dictatorship, division, racism, and inequality that beset societies and the rest of the world.

Jesus’ lament for Jerusalem is also his lament for the situation of other nations and the whole world. He desires that the citizens around the globe live in peace, harmony, and progress.

What can each of us do to realize the dream of a united world, and safe cities and neighborhoods? Is it really impossible to achieve and should just wait for the Second Coming of our Lord, when Jesus’ righteousness will reign and will destroy all evil forces from inside and outside ourselves?

In his homily at the Dominus Flevit Church, Fr. Leslie J.  Hoppe, our biblical scholar and guide in the retreat and pilgrimage, encouraged us to keep on believing in the value of our respective vocations and missions, however insignificant at times we may feel they are. We have to overcome the temptation is to stop doing anything that benefits the betterment of society and the lives of others, particularly the oppressed and the poor. We cannot merely be preoccupied with our pursuits of happiness pleasures and forget the needs of others. God calls us all for the higher purpose of restoring and renewing the “Jerusalems” of our communities and world.

However ordinary and seemingly small our roles are in bringing peace and hope to others, we must see them as part of a dream of a New Jerusalem for all!

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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.

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