The season of Lent reminds us of Jesus’ time in the wilderness and of the temptations that were set before Him; it also prepares us for the great salvific events of Holy Week. During a recent visit to the Diocese of Jerusalem, I journeyed through the wilderness on a trip to Jericho.
It is hard to describe the characteristics of the wilderness which is different from the Australian desert. It is rugged and arid but far less predictable with animals and vegetation and even Bedouin tribesmen appearing most unexpectedly. However, on arrival into Jericho I realised that it was not so much the experience of the wilderness
but the sense of fear and uncertainty which pervades much of the land that had taken hold of me. My trip involved passing through at least three check points, armed with security guards, as we moved in and out of the occupied territory of the West Bank. It made me reflect that this was probably how many of the people who lived in the time of Jesus also found their life under foreign rule.
They say when you go to the Holy Land, after a week you want to write a book, after a month it becomes an article and after a year you simply say it’s complicated. The tensions and problems which beset the Middle East, especially Israel and the Palestinian territories are immensely complicated and assigning right or wrong to one side or the other does little to really improve the situation. What appears to be most needed is an environment where peace may be built and it reminds us that at the heart of our faith lies the Prince of Peace. Christians are small in number in the Holy Land but they still need to play an important role in trying to break down the fear and the barriers that have been constructed over many years. You will note that in this edition of Partners we advise of a change to the Marks of Mission to include peace and reconciliation. A trip to Jerusalem and the journey through the wilderness to get there remind us of how essential this aspect of our witness still remains.
I wish you a Holy Lent.
The Revd John Deane