Good Friday Collection: Return of pilgrims is a ray of hope
By Fr John Luke Gregory, ofm
Custody of the Holy Land
In recent months, a ray of hope has once again begun to shine in the Holy Land, despite the inevitable and growing shadows caused by some through the hardness of their hearts, by attacks and conflicts, yet despite this fact, there are stoic efforts being made by many to pursue the paths of dialogue and forgiveness. This ray of hope is evident in the return of pilgrims, in surprising and ever growing numbers. The Sanctuaries are crowded and the streets populated. We hear joyful and faith-filled songs and the variety of languages of all the peoples of the earth resounding everywhere.
Christian pilgrims come here to spend some quality time in the "Geography of Salvation". In Bethlehem they contemplate, in the Child Jesus, the Sun rising on the horizon of humanity and in Jerusalem they are joined together in the love of the Crucified and Risen Christ. When they leave and return to their daily life, they take with them the only true hope: the certainty that Jesus has conquered death, has freed us from sin and made us children of God.
Those who come as seekers of light and hope, almost unintentionally bring with them their own gift of light and hope for the Christians who live, believe and care for the Holy Places of our Salvation here in this very Holy Land. The serene and peaceful faces of the pilgrims, without realizing it, relax the faces and souls of those they meet, too often subjected to incomprehensible daily tensions. My dear brothers and sisters be sure and certain: This is the power of Love received and given!
Here, on Calvary, Love and Mercy manifested itself in its fullest and most eloquent form, and from here, thanks to the evangelizing work of the Apostles and the Church, it spread throughout the world and transformed the lives of peoples, of generations of men and women, it has generated prodigies of holiness, it has set in motion the development and promotion of true human dignity.
Since the first centuries of the Church, Christians all over the world have felt the need to go back to this source to drink, to rediscover the freshness of their origins and almost to touch the Word of life, made flesh in Nazareth in the womb of the ever blessed Virgin Mother of God.
However, my dear people, in order that this flow of love and mercy does not dwindle or cease, rather that it increases and finds new vigor, the Holy Places must be cared for; the Christians, who live here with growing difficulties, must be helped to mature their faith and to continue to be proud that they are living in the Land of Jesus. Pilgrims must find a dignified welcome and the serenity of being able to hear the Word of God, here where it resounded for the first time, and celebrate the Divine Mysteries in the beauty of the Church's Liturgy.
For eight centuries, the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land, at the behest of the Roman Pontiffs, in synergy with the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, numerous Religious Congregations, male and female, and other Christian Institutions, have met all the needs (known or hidden), investing enormous energies of faith, of time, of pastoral and apostolic passion, of cultural and archaeological research, of social and pedagogical service.
All of this has always been supported by the prayers, affection and generosity of Christians from all over the world.
Down the centuries the Popes have never lacked in their closeness and their attention in encouraging the solidarity of all the Dioceses of the world with the Mother Church of Jerusalem in a concrete and tangible expression, and to this end, they instituted the "Good Friday Collection for the Holy Places", traditionally taken in all the parishes of the world on Good Friday.
After the difficult years of the Covid 19 pandemic, which saw a significant drop in offerings and donations, together with the painful physical absence of the faithful from the liturgies of Holy Week, this year the possibility of actively participating in the Collection is being offered again to all Catholic Christians on Good Friday.
Contributing to the life of the Church in the Holy Land is an act of great wisdom, as well as being a generous act in itself: it is the wisdom of one who knows that contact with our origins must be kept alive and that the memory of our roots cannot and must not be lost.
This is why it seems appropriate to quote the exhortation of the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francis Patton:
Therefore we ask the Lord, who walked here in this very Holy Land, met humanity in need of salvation and gave Himself out of love, to shower you with His abundant blessings, and in a particular way upon all those who are able and willing to concretely contribute, with their generosity, to the Good Friday Collection and to the life of the Church in the Holy Land.
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