We started our day today with an early morning trip to the Holy Sepulcher in order to celebrate Mass on Mt. Calvary. Remember the Scripture says that the tomb was “close at hand” from Calvary and indeed this is true. Maybe 50 yards from the tomb you are able to go up some stairs and literally climb to the top of Mt. Calvary. The original rock is still visible and there is even a special place where you can touch it. There are three altars on top of Mt. Calvary, one for the Latin rite Catholics, one for the Greek churches, and one smaller altar dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows.
As Catholics, we know that at each Mass, the sacrifice that Christ offered on Calvary is made sacramentally present before us and before God the Father in the Eucharist. This is what we mean when we say the Mass is a sacrifice. The same sacrifice that Jesus offered once for all in history is miraculously made present for us. Jesus is continually offering himself to the Father on our behalf. I always think about this when the priest raises the Eucharist and offers it to God at the end of the Eucharistic prayer. Actually being on Calvary to celebrate the Eucharist was an incredible experience. This is the very location where the sacrifice that we offer at Holy Mass was first offered and completed. The blood of Christ that was shed for us sacramentally at Mass was first shed in this very place on that first Good Friday. This is a powerful place of prayer.
After we returned from Mass we prepared for a unique all-day adventure. We split into two groups today to visit various projects that Catholic Relief Services is doing to help the poor in Palestine. One group went to a town near Bethlehem, and I went with a group back to a small farming community near Hebron. We got a good overview from the staff of CRS about what they do and how they are helping families here. We got to see firsthand the results of their “food for work” program where people work for several days each month in exchange for food. CRS had helped to fund the building of over 100 homes in this small community that had previously been living in makeshift huts. It was kind of neat to see farmers out plowing their fields in what would look to be a very barren ground. Yet, with the help of CRS they are able to grow crops and support themselves. The town council was very happy to meet with us and a number of families welcomed us into their homes. One woman even insisted on baking special bread for us while we were there. What an amazing little town. These are good people that live here. It was also very helpful to see where some of the money you put in those Lenten “rice bowls” each year goes. May God bless the work of Catholic Relief Services and the people of the village of Bani Nayim.