Two of the most poignant moments of my pilgrimage to Israel in 2018 were:
- standing to pray at the Western Wall of Lamentations in Jerusalem beside a Jewish man whose young son (4-5 years old) approached his father, put his hand on the wall, rocked back and forth, and prayed just like dad.
- a Palestinian boy (8 years old) approaching me to sell a candy bar in a public square in Bethlehem in Occupied Palestinian territory. No words were exchanged, just his eyes catching mine. We were on the other side of the humongous Israeli-built wall that excluded him and his family from the advantages of Israeli citizenship. I bought the candy.
One wall was a sacred place of prayer, the other a separation between neighbours. I wonder how fathers explain these differences to their sons?
There was so much prayer being raised across the Holy Land, by pilgrims in Christian sites and churches, Muslims at the Dome of the Rock and in mosques, Jews in synagogues and at the Wailing Wall. Children learn from the adults around them in their formative years. Are they being taught that all prayer is helpful no matter the difference of ritual or language that names the Creator? That human needs expressed from human hearts are reaching the one heart of God, Yahweh, Allah? I love the expression as it relates to God and diverse faiths: One River, many wells. I was humbled by the presence of the Holy at all the sacred sites in Israel.
My father was a five year veteran who could not handle the noise of family parties. Even at the table, when all ten of us were there, he asked for silence while eating. In his later years at the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the ending of WW II he began telling the stories of his artillery division and regiment, the ear damaging noise of the guns and the many horrible experiences he lived. I began to understand his need for silence, and his stories brought us closer.
I have my father’s bible, well-marked and used. He read it every day. Although it is precious, the greater gift is the faith he shared through his work ethic, prayers and example. I inherited my Christian faith from him but made it mine when I confessed as a youth that I too would follow Jesus in my words and actions. I confirmed his faith and made it mine.
As a seeker after truth I do not pretend to possess it, I am ever reaching for it and discovering so many names for the mystery of God along the journey.
A living faith in God is a powerful thing: it liberates, converts the spirit and mind to right living and seeks to make the world better. It ignites revolutions that resist evil wherever it is found, even in the religiousness of piety and orthodoxy.
As the Spirit engulfed the disciples at Pentecost and gave them the courage to witness their faith in the Risen Christ, I too pray for Spirit to free me from fears holding me back from giving witness to my faith, in words, actions, prayers and a generous love.
I hope that children raised in different faiths share the heart of their beliefs with others so that all God believers can seek justice together in the world for every human being. I pray that all fathers will share their faith so there will be yet another generation of sons and daughters loving and serving God.
Blessings on all fathers!
Faith of our fathers, living still
in spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy,
whene’er we hear that glorious word:
faith of our fathers, holy faith,
we will be true to you till death.
(Frederick Faber, 1849, VU 580)