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Home arrow Blog arrow July 2007 arrow July 15, 2007: Do You Want to be Healed?

July 15, 2007: Do You Want to be Healed?

July 15, 2007: Do You Want to be Healed?

The end always brings you back around...


On the first day of my fifth trip to Jerusalem in July 2007, I ended up where I was on the first day of my first trip to Jerusalem in June 2005.

After checking into my room at the American Colony; I headed down Nablus Road to the Old City once again…

The stairway down through the Damascus Gate was packed with street vendors hawking cheap goods from China. It was shoulder to shoulder people until I arrived at the Via Delorosa; legendary route that Jesus walked while carrying a wooden cross. Only a few tourists were about, but I saw many more Israeli soldiers than the last time I was here in November 2006.

The shop owners were just as hungry to get me into their stores as they were before, but I told them all, "I am not buying anything today! I am on my way to the Pool of Bethsaida."

After many wrong turns and back tracking, I spied a Franciscan brother and inquired, "Do you speak English?"

He replied with a Cheshire grin-but no guile, "For you? Sure!"

"How do I find my way to the Pool of Bethsaida?"

"You have arrived! Go in there!" He laughed as he pointed to the left of where we were standing.

It was different than the last and first time I had wandered into the ancient "healing site" for renovations are in progress but once more a most surreal sense overwhelmed me again. For nearly an hour, I was the only human being who stood, sat and meditated at a place where I had been 'twice' before and where Jesus asked,

"Do you want to be healed?"

In May of 2005, just prior to my first journey to Israel Palestine I phoned Mother Agapia Stephanopolous, a Russian Orthodox nun and the administrator of the Orthodox School of Bethany in Jerusalem, to schedule an appointment for Spiritual Direction and to discuss our mutual feelings about The Wall.

Mother Agapia is the sister of ABC News commentator, George Stephanopolous, and she had recently and passionately informed Congress about the fact that, “Israel is destroying the local Christian community.”


On April 18, 2005, Robert Novak’s article “Walling off Christianity” reported on the nun’s letter to Congress and how East Jerusalem had been cut off from the rest of the West Bank. Mother Agapia predicted, “It is only a matter of time before Christians and Muslims will be unable to survive culturally and economically.”


Mother Agapia spoke bluntly about the nine yards high wall of Israeli concrete that have “shattered” the Christian communities.

She told Novak, “I witness the strangulation of East Jerusalem, and the deprivation of her non-Jewish residents’ religious rights every day. Even the United States seems to have been taken in by Israeli spin.”


On my very first afternoon in Jerusalem, on June 12, 2005, the nun met me at the Ambassador Hotel in East Jerusalem and I told her that I hadn’t been taken in by the spin, but what could I possibly do?

I also told Mother Agapia of the surreal experience I had that very morning while wandering around in the Old City.

I had landed in Tel Aviv with ten other members of the Olive Trees Foundation for Peace just a few hours before dawn on that Sunday morn. We all checked into our rooms at the Ambassador; they all crashed, but I was wide awake.


As soon as the sun rose I began to explore, and after attending mass at St.George Cathedral I wandered around the Old City, which was eerily empty. I stumbled upon the site of the Pool of Bethsaida and experienced déjà vu, which was more real than imaginary.


Between 2000 and 2001, I was a first year student in the Episcopal Diocese of Orlando’s Formation Program for Spiritual Directors. I knew going into the program I would never be hanging out a shingle as a Spiritual Director that I was there for other reasons. I was drawn to the program because of the curriculum; to deepen my prayer life and study the lives of the saints. During the first year all the students attended three weekend retreats.

On the second night of the second retreat, we had a guided meditation on the story of Jesus at the Pool of Bethsaida.

I remember it as clearly now as I experienced it then.

There were seven of us in the class and we were instructed to close our eyes, listen to the story and allow our imagination to lead us to respond to the character that called to us.

Our leader prefaced the story from John 5:1-6, by telling the legend of the angel from heaven who would descend and agitate the waters of the Pool of Bethsaida.

Only the first leper, blind, or invalid who made it into the water would receive a healing. One day while Jesus was there, he walked by a man who had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years.

Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be healed?” The man answered he had no friends to help him get into the water first.

Jesus asked him again, “Do you want to be healed?”

Our leader then went silent, and in my imagination I was immediately upon the back of that agitating angel.

I hadn’t thought of that experience until four years later when I found myself at the site of the Pool of Bethsaida.

What triggered the memory of that guided meditation was the recollection of a dream I had had a few weeks after that day we call 9/11.

In my dream I had stood at the edge of a dried up pool where crumbling stone columns were overgrown with vines and weeds and scores of doves and pigeons nested and flew. To my right was a large shade tree, but to my left I saw a few square squat dwellings with large satellite dishes attached to them. I remembered thinking the moment I woke up from that dream what a strange place it was, but then I quickly forgot all about it.

That is, until the afternoon of June 12, 2005, four years later, when I found myself standing at the edge of a dried up pool where crumbling stone columns were overgrown with vines and weeds and scores of doves and pigeons nested and flew. To my right was a large shade tree, but to my left I saw a few square squat dwellings with large satellite dishes attached to them. What a strange place I thought, how could it be that I had seen this scene in a dream a few weeks after that day we call 9/11?


On the afternoon of my very first day in Jerusalem, I told Mother Agapia about my dream and what I had seen at the Pool of Bethsaida.

She shrugged and smiled, then told me about the Jerusalem Interfaith Peace Conference with satellite link to the world that was happening the Sunday after the Thursday I was scheduled to return to the USA.

I knew immediately that I needed to attend and after saying goodbye to Mother Agapia, I phoned my husband to get his OK.



On June 26, 2006, I attended the world wide satellite linked Interfaith Peace Conference at Jerusalem’s Notre Dame Cathedral.

Dan Rather moderated from Washington DC and the Holy Land interfaith panel were all moderates attempting to reclaim the battlefield of ideas from extremists on both sides.


Reverend Theodore Hessburgh, President Emeritus University of Notre Dame began the evening with a pledge and a summons:

“The Peace of the world begins in Jerusalem.”

Dr. Tsvia Walden, Board of Director of the Peres Center and Geneva Initiative stated, “There is a need for a third party in the negotiations that could enable both sides to trust each other. There are more people in this region interested in making concessions, they all want peace so desperately.”


The Coordinator of World Bank emergency services to the PA, Rania Kharma informed the world, “We all need to be the bridges to our leaders that justice, equality, and human rights will bring peace. Give people justice and they will reward you with peace.”


Sheik Imad Falouiji warned, “Religions must go back to their origins. God commands us to love each other and live together. This Holy Land was given to all people. This land is on fire. There is an occupation that must be removed. The language of peace cannot succeed without justice for all.”


The Rt. Rev. Bishop Riah Abu Assal affirmed, “Peace is an act. Blessed are the peacemakers not the peace talkers. Peace is possible in the Holy Land. The root cause for the lack of peace since 1967 is the occupation. For peace to make progress in the Middle East we need to deal with the root cause...Religion was not meant to bring death. All those involved in searching for peace should commit themselves to work for justice and truth.”


Throughout the entire evening, I kept remembering what President Bush promised in his Second Inaugural Address:


“In the long run, there is no justice without FREEDOM.There can be no human rights without LIBERTY. All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for liberty, we stand with you.”


 

   
 
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"HOPE has two children.The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it."-St. Augustine

 "He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust." - Aquinas

BEYOND NUCLEAR: Mordechai Vanunu's Freedom of Speech Trial

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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa


“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has ceased...to obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946



The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright



“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
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