Touching and letting yourself be touched by the mercy of Jesus, letting yourself be questioned on the word of God, by stories and events… this was the experience of the Franciscan March in the Holy Land, in its thirteenth edition. From 20 to 27 August, many young people who came from different parts of the Holy Land (Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nazareth, Haifa, the Upper Galilee) accompanied by a group of friars and sisters, experienced the adventure of this year’s Franciscan March, entitled “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
The route and the activities of the March
About one hundred young people met in Sakhnin to set off on the adventure of the march, armed with their faith and determined to renew their personal relationship with Jesus. From Sakhnin to Deir Hanna, Al-Maghar and Eilabun, they were all going to walk towards Mount Tabor to testify the glory of the son of God in their life together with Peter, James and John.
Walking from the early morning, meeting the parishioners in the parishes which hosted the march, taking part in the lectures and the group works, sharing their reflections during the evenings of entertainment, praying in the hours of adoration and of spiritual vigil, which culminated in the ritual of washing the feet: these were the activities which kept all the youngsters busy during the week, until the sacrament of reconciliation with God and with themselves, i.e. the sacrament of confession.
The importance of listening to the words of Jesus
The whole march was focused on the words of Jesus to the good thief on the cross; “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” Words have the instantaneous power to make someone happy or unhappy, they can be bullets or caresses, stones or embraces. The words of Jesus are words perfumed with love and words that heal; modern science is still looking for a medicine that is as effective as these words.
His words free us from insecurity, from underestimating our resources, foster the love and mercy of God the Father: His words convey warmth, they shake the soul, they give it wings and make it fly away from even the muddiest ground. They are doubly positive even when they are dressed with the mercy and hope of eternal life.
This experience of the march was not just any experience, but rather a time of grace, filled with the joy of fraternity. A time enriched by the words of God the Father through the mission of the friars and the sisters, through the meeting with the Custody’s Vicar fr. Ibrahim Faltas and with the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, His Beatitude Pierbattista Pizzaballa, who celebrated the closing mass on the last day.
This is our Christian vocation and our Franciscan mission: to be called to witness the love of God among men, and this commits us to giving the maximum of ourselves and in the best of ways, following in the steps of our father and brother, Francis of Assisi.
Fra George Haddad