By Fr. David Steffy, L.C., Chargé of the Holy See
February 2nd, 2024 - Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center
Dear Friends of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center,
Greetings from the Holy Land, united in our prayers and intentions for peace.
Most of you are keeping abreast of the situation in the Holy Land. As I write this, we are at day 117 since the beginning of the war between Hamas and Israel. The war is pretty contained within the boarders of Gaza and at the boarder of Lebanon and Syria, so the rest of the population is going to work and school and engaging in their day to day activities. At the same time, there is a lot of uncertainty about how the war will develop and fear that a broader conflict will erupt on the boarder with Lebanon. The reality we all grapple with is how is it possible to live normally under the fog of war where distrust, and even hate of one’s fellow neighbor continues to fester. Added to this, most of us are experiencing strong emotional reactions to the consequences of war that can easily lead to discouragement or becoming more strongly polarized by conflicting ideologies.
Yet amidst all of the suffering and heartbreak, I find inspiration in the lessons of the season of Lent which is less than two weeks away. I also find solace in the efforts of many diverse groups in the Holy Land that are trying to create a spirit dialogue among peoples by focusing on on the needs and wants that we all have in common. For many, the starting point for this dialog is to highlight the need to respect for the dignity of each human person.
On February 1, I have been asked to speak about this theme in a symposium here at Notre Dame sponsored by the Elijah Inter-Faith Institute that promotes inter-religious unity through prayer and dialog. Reflecting on that topic, in the light of the up coming season of Lent, it seems that a true appreciation of the person and the recognition of the innate dignity of each person depend on our openness to forgive those who hurt us and a belief that people can grow, change and be redeemed.
We all struggle to forgive others, especially those who have inflicted great harm and pain, and often without remorse. A strong obstacle to forgiveness is the erroneous conception that if we forgive others, we are condoning or justifying their behavior. Evil or hurtful behavior can never be condoned. At the same time, forgiveness is a pathway to empower the innate good of the other by perpetuating a love that seeks the redemption and healing of the wounds of the other. Evil, as an absence of good, can be overcome by the goodness and goodwill of men and women. Promoting that goodness and goodwill is something we are all called to do and it often starts with the healing power of forgiveness. So, as we pray to God to bring peace to his Holy Land and the whole world, we not only pray for all those who suffer but also for those who are perpetuating that suffering so that His mercy may move all hearts towards true reconciliation and peace. That is the power of Christ’s words of forgiveness from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing (Lk 23:34).”
On a more practical note, here at the Notre Dame Center, we continue to provide hospitality as a means to build communion and foster personal encounter. On that note, we had a very hope-filled Advent lunch with our employees just before Christmas. Almost a hundred of the staff came together for the first time since the beginning of October to share the spirit of Christmas and catch up with each other. Without pilgrims, we have had to reduce the number of staff but are doing our best to help all of them during this difficult time. We are distributing the funds that many of you have so generously donated to help the family of many of our staff who are in most need. We hope to bring back the full staff as soon as possible.
Staff of Notre Dame Center gathered after their Advent lunch together
Thank you again for staying close to us here at Notre Dame through your prayers and outreach. May our Lord continue to bless you and strengthen you in your faith and confidence in his love.
Mary Queen of Peace, pray for us
Sincerely in Christ,
Father David Steffy, L.C.