Coming from the land and city where the miracle in John 5 took place, gives me a special responsibility to share my reflection on the Zimbabwe theme “Rise! Take Your Mat and Walk” and what prayerful action really means. How will we walk?
The site of the Bethesda pool still exists today as proof of the belief of people who were healed or hoped to be healed when and if the angel stirred the water. The site is part of the buildings where the church of St. Anne, traditionally the home of the Virgin Mary’s parents, stands. To reach the building, you still have to pass through the Sheep Gate, also known as the gate of the twelve tribes and that of St. Stephen, who was stoned in Jerusalem. This is one of the seven gates that lead into the Old City, the Via Dolorosa, the 14 Stations of the Cross and the Noble Sanctuary, the Dome of the Rock, holy to Muslims. After all Jerusalem is where the three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam meet.
Since 1967, this gate is guarded by heavily armed Israeli soldiers who allow or deny entry to both local and pilgrims depending on circumstances or the soldiers’ whims. In Jerusalem where crowds of sick people, blind, lame and paralyzed gathered around the pool awaiting to be healed, people today push and shove trying to flock in to visit holy sites and to praise God.
As women followed Jesus on the same path to the cross, mothers, wives, sisters and daughters walk without losing hope. We, the World Day of Prayer Palestine Committee wrote about this in the 1994 service “Go, See and Act” and invited our sisters around the world to walk with us in prayerful action. Like the lame man afflicted for 38 years, the Palestinian people have been waiting for almost a century for an angel to remove the yoke of oppression imposed upon them, and women are still striving for their equal rights.
In answer to the question posed by Jesus: “Do you want to be well again?” We cry out: “Of course! But how can we when there is injustice, oppression, hatred and killing in your land? The land of Jesus has not known the peace he announced nor lived the message of love and equality among brothers and sisters! Please, Jesus, heal us and walk with us so that humanity can be restored.”
When Jesus tells us: “Get up, pick up your sleeping mat and walk around” we respond: "Even if individually we do try to stand up and bring harmony within our own circles, the work of your peacemakers is not yielding fruits. We need the massive efforts of good people who believe in human beings, who do the will of God and are supported by global moral values and international law."
So, I offer this prayer:
With your help, O Lord, shake off the injustice, remove the occupation, liberate us, as you announced in the synagogue in Nazareth, so that we can walk as your children created in your divine image. We feel that under the oppressive system, we are not allowed to carry our sleeping mat, to walk freely and to have a state of our own.
Dear God, who created us in your divine image and gave us our dignity, help us to resist, nonviolently, against all forms of humiliation and dehumanization imposed upon us. Help us to respect others and to follow the commandment of do not kill, morals which have disappeared in the hearts of leaders in your country and the world.
Heal us, O lord, teach us humility and grant us the gift of reconciliation, so that we can all walk together with love.
We, women of the World Day of Prayer have our differences, but we all care for God’s beautiful creation and want to preserve it. Let us learn from each other, and spread love among all, for we women can be more powerful with compassion.
- Nora Carmi, WDPIC Regional Rep. of the Middle East