Christians in the Holy Land

09-01-2019From Fr. John's DeskFr. John Barbella

This Monday is Labor Day – a day to honor all those who work for a living. As Catholics we believe that work is part of God’s plan for us. St. Paul – in one of his letters – tells us to "earn the food we eat by working quietly." He also admonishes those "who do not keep busy – but act like busybodies." He even goes so far as to say that "those who do not work should not eat."

In this St. Paul is certainly not putting down those who cannot work due to age, disability, or circumstance. Neither is he, who constantly commands us to practice charity, discouraging us from helping those who truly are in need. But St. Paul is reminding us that work has a place in God’s plan – and we do well to reflect prayerfully on the good we can do by working according to His will.

St. Joseph is our model in this. The different kinds of work he did are on example to each and every of us. He worked as a carpenter to provide a home for Jesus and Mary – reminding us that working to support a family is pleasing in God’s sight. He worked at being a faithful husband and loving foster father to Jesus – a vitally important kind of work that is all too often overlooked. Finally, St. Joseph worked at his own faith (remember how he and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple, and things like that?) On this Labor Day, let’s look to the example of St. Joseph and follow it as best as we can.

Today we welcome our friends from the Holy Land. Every year they visit us with an enormous collection of beautiful olive wood religious articles made by Christians in the Holy Land. The sale of these articles is an important means of support for the Christian community in the land where Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose from the dead.

If you follow the news, you are well aware that out Christian brothers and sisters in that part of the world do not have an easy time these days. Consider the following numbers. Around 1950, nearly 80% of the people living in and around Bethlehem were Christian. Today, that number is 12%. In that same period, the number of Christians living throughout the Holy Land has gone from 18% to 2% of the population!

This drop is due largely to emigration – Christians migrated that part of the world because of the problems they face living there. Those problems come from many places. While we are often aware of things like Church burnings and the kidnapping and killing of Christian in that part of the world, there other problems as well.

Jeffery Abboud is a member of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher – a group of Catholics who are committed to helping the Christians in the Holy Land. In a recent interview he explained how freedom of movement – something we take for granted – is a big problem for some Christians living in areas occupied by Israel due to the many security checkpoints. Passage through these checkpoints is very slow – even for children going to school. It can take children hours to get to school – making what is a normal part of life for us a chore in that part of the world. The ongoing hostility between Israel and its neighbors has caused things like land seizures and the collateral damage that comes from living in a war zone.

Reading these things reminds me – and I hope reminds you – of the blessings we enjoy in America. While we certainly have our problems – and should do our best to address them – we enjoy a degree of security and freedom unknown to Christians living in the Holy Land. With that in mind, let’s be sure to keep them in our prayers and if you can – buy some of their beautiful handworks.

Remember to say a Hail Mary for me today and to pray for vocations to the priesthood. Let’s also pray for peace and for all in need.

Have a great week!

Fr. John

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