What if Christians were one?

17 04 2021

There is a saying that fiction has to be believable but real life may not. Hence, I was barely was able to get through watching the movie “What if (2010)” endorsed by Pureflix as good Christian film, because of the myriads of unbelievable elements it contains. The story is about a business man, Ben Walker (Kevin Sorbo) who, at the peak of his career gets whacked by an Angel into a “future” life he would miss if fails to be faithful to God’s call to become a preacher. The problem is that this life, the life of penny pushing pastor of a small town parish is nothing to compare with the power job he presently has but in the end he ditches it for preacher’s life and left me wondering if this isn’t a mockery Christianity.

Are the makers of this movie really saying that you can’t be a successful business man as well as a good Christian? Are the two really incompatible?  If that is so, then no should be surprised when Christianity is scorned in intellectual and artistic circles. But even more seriously, it would negate the very words of Jesus, “Go you therefore and make disciples of all (Mathew 28: 19), which would be impossible if only pastors could be good Christians. How about when Jesus talked about trading with the talents God gave us when he told the story of the man who about to engage in travel called his servants and entrusted them with talents with the expectation that they would trade and make profit (Luke 19:13) It would be impossible if all the talent that needs trading was that of a pastor. Furthermore, it would also negate the life of the early Christians many of whom where business people like Priscilla and Aquila(Acts 18:2-3), or Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43)  and  many high ranking members of the Roman society who later converted to Christianity.  

Consequently, I would argue that the producers of this film misunderstand the basic tenets of biblical Christianity and that their misunderstanding has its roots in the crises of Christian division and disunity that became definitive in the 15th century with the protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther who broke with the Catholic Church (the only church exiting in the world since the time of Apostles) and founded the Lutheran church with separate doctrines and teachings. As a consequence, today, there is probablly perhaps up to 50 thousand different Christian sects all with conflicting interpretation of scriptures a great obstacle to understanding what Christians really believe. And this incoherence introduces a profound dysfunction such that Christians end up producing movies that are contradictory to scriptural teachings.

In the movie, for instance, an angel who happens to be a mechanic and who delights in whacking people over the head to get them do what he wants kidnaps Walker and forces him to become a pastor, with wife and kids he does not want all in the name of a God who is love? How in the world would atheists watching this film ever take God or Christian faith seriously. How I long for Christian films like Hollywood’s greats like the “Ten Commandment (1956)” by Cecil Be De Mills with masterful dialogue and great stories. In contrast, “What if”, though styled like “It’s a wonderful life (1946)”, is simply artistic dwarf.

 As the movie progressed, Walker easily ditches his successful life and accepts his new life as a pastor and his pastor’s wife (Kristy Swanson) all smiles she wakes up to find him reading the bible, a transformed man. The problem is that real life does not work that way, it takes much more than that to get someone to change his life. Usually, such transformation is a slow and painful process. Besides it can be argued that there is really no reason for Walker change. His life as a successful business man was fascinating, even altruistic and progressive, and there was no real mission or great commission he had in abandoning it to become a pastor, and besides according to St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, every noble human work can be a path to holiness

In the final scene, Pastor Walker goes to the hospital to save the soul of a dying man, telling him to repent. Usually this is the ultimate price, or golden globe of spiritual life for every pastor, but the moment was marred when the dying man looks up and seeing a man with a bible and thinking him to be a catholic priest says to him, “I did not ask for priest.” Walker replies “I am not a priest— same league different teams”. Walker meant that as a protestant pastor he was playing the same leagues as a catholic priest but in a different team. Pastor and the priest both profess the same Christianity yet have opposing views, different doctrine and different teachings.

When the dying man, a little embarrassed, says to Walker, “How are we going to do this”: what if I repent, how are you going to forgive me if you are not a priest? Only the Catholic church claims the power to forgive sins in the name of Jesus based on the power that Christ handed down to his apostle in John 20:23, ” Who so ever sins you forgive they are forgiven and who sin you retain they are retained”. The Catholic Church teaches that this power is transferred down through apostolic succession to the Pope and bishops in communion with him and the bishops delegate this power to the priests.

Walker says to him “I believe that God knows your heart and he can forgive you.”  I think this is a pitiful assurance to give to dying man in place of powerful sacrament of reconciliation as instituted by Jesus Christ and contained in the deposit of faith uncontaminated and unchanged for 2000 years in the Catholic church . Christian disunity is the reason that Christian teams are consistently losing out to the worldly teams in the all the game of life, politics, movies, science and arts, as Jesus predicted and leaves one wondering:  What if Christians were one?





When would modern day Hollywood ever portray the Catholic priesthood right again?

10 04 2021

In Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “I Confess (1953)”, a priest, Fr. Michael Logan would rather face death than violate the sanctity of confessional when falsely accused of murder. In such movies, one learned something of the dedication and firmness of the conviction of those who are called to the catholic priesthood. In today’s Hollywood however, all a priest has to do is open his mouth and you realize he knows nothing about the priesthood, the church or the Christian altogether and his words are filled with shallow and pathetic clichés. Today, Hollywood script writers feel no need or obligation to truthfulness and accuracy regarding the priesthood and bend over backwards to present priest as fools, clumsy and dimwitted.  Thus when I watched Bishop Baron sterling review of a movie “Calvary (2014), about a priest who threatened with death went on to offer his life as an offer of love and forgiveness, I wanted to watch the movie “Calvary” to see if Hollywood has finally got it right.

The story is set in Ireland, a priest, Fr James Lavelle (Bleedon Gleeson), is accosted in confessional by a very bitter man who threatens to kill him in 7 days time, because he was abused by a priest, and thus wanted revenge. The angry man would not give his name but told the priest that he will give him seven days to put his affairs in order at the end of which he would meet him at the beach for the kill. The next seven days tried the nerves of the priest who had to resist the temptation fleeing and brace up to meet the killer on the appointed date.

Yet, in spite of Bishop Barron’s excellent review, and in spite of great cinematography, I was left once again with a hint of disappointment by the scripts portrayal of Fr James character. He comes across as a frustrated man. Granted that post sex abuse scandal Ireland is a difficult place for a priest, and his cynical parishioners often mocked him, nevertheless, he lacks deep knowledge of theology and ability to refute errors so beloved in St. Thomas Aquinas and he is often tongue tied when he comes up against the postmodernist arguments of his cynical parishioners.

In the movies opening scenes, Fr. James worries about a very promiscuous woman parishioner who was often beaten by her lovers, in one instance she comes to church with bruises on her face, he tries to get her to say who did it but she wouldn’t tell, so he asks her husband who is a butcher but he says it wasn’t him but a black man who is her latest boyfriend. So he confronts the black man and tells him not to do it again, but the man gets angry and throws a cigarette butt at him practically telling to shove off and mind his own business. It can be argued that as a priest, Fr. James overstepped his boundaries there and should not have taken the path of confrontation, of playing the neighborhood policeman but rather should have restricted himself to praying and administering the sacraments of penance to this woman, hoping that she will of her own accord change her ways.

That is what Jesus would do isn’t it? Take for example the case of Mary Magdalene. Jesus did not go chasing down all the men with Mary Magdalene and having a word with them. Rather he spoke to Magdalena, and his words brought her peace and encouragement and she finally decided to change her ways. Similarly, Christ spoke in dept with his flock and was not afraid of telling them difficult truths even if they wished to kill him. It is not difficult to see that there were many of Fr. James’ parishioners who needed to hear healing but Fr. James seemed strangely incapable of providing that healing perhaps out fear of rejection. This perhaps denotes a lack of faith typical of the modern clerics as well as too much reliance on human logic.

In another scene, Fr. James goes to visit a serial killer in prison, yet again he failed to initiate the type of conversation that could lead to repentance and in the ended up screaming accusations at the sinner. He should have helped this killer ask God’s mercy or does he not believe in the power of prayers himself? Then there is the issue of the drinking. Towards the end of the movies, when his time was almost near, and knowing that time is running out, Fr. James  took to drinking, this is of course is very bad for a priest, whisky and prayers aren’t the best of friends; it is either one or the other. Compare this with what Jesus did during his last hour, Christ rejected the cup of sour wine offered to him on the cross, but even more, he prayed for those who where crucifying him. This is what I would have expected Fr. James to do if he wished to portray the image of true priest rather than a caricature.

I believe a priest can triumph even in an environment of great cynicism through prayers, fasting and penance bringing about the conversion of hearts because the Holy Spirit is the one that acts. That is how Cure of Ars was able to covert his whole parish in post- French revolution France. He had long conversations in spiritual directions with his parishioner helping them examine their souls and resume a relationship with God.

Finally, the theme of Calvary is forgiveness, a much underrated virtue in modern society, as father James told his daughter, Fiona.  Christianity brought forgiveness to the world and it is the first thing the world chunks out when it throws Christianity out the window and thus its cities are full of people locked in a vicious circle, men like Jack Brennan (Chris O’Dowdy)  threatening to kill Fr. James,  because he cannot forgive, and has grown old in angst because of an evil that happened years past, when he was a child and which he has allowed to consumes his  present, such that he is ready to kill, not just the guilty party, but anyone. As unspeakable as the clerical abuse scandal in Ireland and elsewhere was, it is still staggering that in a society where sex is promoted as a commodity for recreation, its abuse by a minority of unfortunate clerics calls for the killing of the name of every good priest to satiate the thirst of unforgiving hearts, yet to err is human and to forgive is divine. Thus Fiona’s visiting him in prison after he had killed her father embodies for him the superiority of Christian forgiveness and hope. 

By Chinwuba Iyizoba





US Elections! Has the US become a banana republic?

13 12 2020

Those who think that the US election is about Trump are missing the big picture because they are successfully being manipulated by the mainstream media. No, rather, the elections are about life of the unborn, the future of religious freedom, the family and more. According to Dan Zeidler, a prominent pro life advocate, the Democratic Party not only promotes the expansion of legal abortion, but proves a significant obstacle to any attempt to provide any type of legal protection to children born alive after attempted abortion. He claims that a million or more children are killed each year in the US alone through abortion. This is what the Democrats are pushing relentlessly. If you wish to understand the mainstream media, negative and unrelenting attacks on Trump, then you must look at the mainstream media negative reporting and unrelenting attack on the life of unborn children, on marriage, on religious freedom, freedom of the press, and freedom of parents to educate their children.

We all saw a few years ago when the Little Sisters of the poor, a group little women, who have given their lives to serve the needy and abandoned in society dragged into court because of their religious beliefs. The so called Biden/Obama-care had as a major clause, an insidious attack on Catholic institutions, businesses and hospitals and that clause is that all employers must provide coverage for contraception and abortion for employee or face huge fines and if they default, their business would be foreclosed by the government. It was a veiled attempt, similar to those Christian persecution of the 2nd Century,  similar to the persecution in atheist communist Russia, to force Christian, especially Catholics to choose between their faith, the violate their conscience and do what is against their faith and morals such as sterilization, abortion and contraception.

Law suits and legal challenges forced the democratic government of Obama/Biden to offer the nuns a compromise, a form they could sign so someone else could provide the abortion. The nuns said no, because that would be facilitating something that is against their faith. The case was in Supreme Court when Trump came and rescinded the government’s decision and told them to back down. If you imagine that Biden/Obama could do this to nun, little nuns who take care of sick old people, what do you think he would do to Christian businesses, Churches, priest, convents, and monasteries all over America, owners of small businesses who are practicing Christians?

It is would not be significantly different from the age old threat of renounce your faith or die heard in the Roman amphitheaters back in the early days of Christianity. With Biden’s presidency, the attacks would probably continue if not intensify until all freedom are eroded, freedom of parents to educate their children, freedom of speech, freedom of priest to preach the Christian faith in churches…and many more. Trump is simply the last Frontline before the capitulation of the entire human society. The smokescreen attack on Trump, but in truth they are after you, and your freedom. Some say that Trump is a racist and that why they hate him. Let’s be honest, Trump has never been characterized as racist until he became president. He was best friends with many black celebrities. In the hay days when our beloved Michael Jackson was under attack by the so called left media all because he was a successful black man, Trump was his friend and gave him the best wing at his Trump Tower to live with his wife Lisa Presley. The race card played by the today’s Democratic Party is simply a ploy to get black votes they need to beat Trump, but they have even proven that they don’t need anyone’s votes because the world is witnessing what people thought was possible only in Africa, election rigging.

They rigged the elections to give Joe Biden 80million votes, the greatest number of votes in US history, surpassing even celebrities like Barrack Obama.  As videos evidence emerge that the recent US election was anything but free and fair, people are wondering how the US fell so low. The simple answer is the Democrats who have lost all form of decency and self respect and are willing to do anything to hold on to power. Trump’s four years in office has brought out the Democrats in their true color as nothing else has in the past. They have shown they can lie, libel and cheat. The invented a Russian hoax that cost the American public 30million USD and when the Robert Mueller report came out there was nothing credible in it. Next they tried to impeach the president for an honest phone call and that failed. They tried to block Justice Kavanaugh, the President’s Supreme Court pick, inventing lies and accusation that did not work. At last the pandemic gave them a good cover to try to steal the election with the mail in ballots, and here we are a month after the elections and no one know who the president would be and no end in sight.

Some say that they support Biden to become president because he is a good catholic. But that is an oxymoron, he is a catholic, no doubt, but a good catholic, I would argue no. A good catholic is someone willing to defend, teach and follow the most essential teaching of Christ and the church. “Thou shall not kill the innocent.”  A good Christian defends the life of others ready to even lay down their own life “Greater love than this no man has that he lays down his life for others” (John 15:13) .Many saints have shed their blood for less important teaching, but not Biden, this year he was part of the senate democrats who defeated the Republican led born alive infant protection bills that would ban most late-term abortions and threaten prison for doctors who don’t try saving the life of infants born alive during abortions.  Recently, Democratic governor of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s defended infanticide and argued that in the case a healthy baby is delivered during an attempted abortion, that baby would be kept alive and comfortable, while the doctor and its mother decide if the baby should be killed.

He does not support abortion, so he claims, but he is willing to obstruct any legal means to protect the unborn. He is like someone who does not support murder but obstructs anyone attempting to stop murder. If that is not hypocrisy, I don’t know what is. This is moral relativism; no he is arguably not a ‘good’ catholic, and perhaps not even a Christian.  The blood of millions of children, innocents poured out each year is something that someone will recon with on judgment day and I would not wish to be that person. Anyway, like in the novel “Lord of the Ring,” Strider finding himself out numbered went soliciting the help of the dead to defeat the army of Mordor. We too have to solicit the angels of the millions children killed in abortion, begging them to fight for us to defeat the dark forces of irreligion liberalism threatening the world.





Francis and Homosexuals: What is the Pope saying?

25 10 2020
Pope Francis blessing a woman

Many are troubled by recent utterances of Pope Francis about homosexuals deserving a family as he call for their freedom and choices to be protected by law. There is no doubt that for many, this may be disconcerting, perhaps even alarming since we all know that this act is explicitly condemned in the  bible and the teaching authority of the Church right from the beginning. Thus, many may be asking, what does it mean and what is the Pope saying here. Well for those looking for answers on what the Pope is saying, they need look no further than his newest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti. In the first few pages, he makes it clear that he is calling all Christians back to the fundamental primacy of charity as the distinguishing mark of the Christian.  In all things, and especially to those most in need, the poor and the wounded of this world, Christians must show charity.

He narrates in Fratelli Tutti, the story of the Good Samaritan who of all the people that came alongside the man dispossessed by robbers was the only one who had it in his heart to help him. The Samaritan realized that this man needs a friend and a family and decided to be one to him. What is a family but people who accept and a company one another in their wounds, take care of one another, spend time with one another.  Time is one of the most challenging things to give to others, the Pope continues, and for sure, the Samaritan must have had other plans that day, and had to give them up, making drastic changes in order to accommodate the wounded man, pour wine and bandages on his wounds, he had to make a u-turn and find an Inn.

The Samaritan became a neighbour to the wounded Judean. By approaching and making himself present, he crossed all cultural and historical barriers. Jesus concludes the parable by saying: “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37). In other words, he challenges us to put aside all differences and, in the face of suffering, to draw near to others with no questions asked (pg. 21).

Fratelli Tutti

In Fratelli Tutti Pope Francis carefully draws our attention to those who Jesus said rejected the wounded man, those who on sighting him crossed to the other side. They were religious people! The very people with an obligation to help, to live charity, and they failed miserably in this regard.

It shows that belief in God and the worship of God are not enough to ensure that we are actually living in a way pleasing to God. A believer may be untrue to everything that his faith demands of him, and yet think he is close to God and better than others. The guarantee of an authentic openness to God, on the other hand, is a way of practising the faith that helps open our hearts to our brothers and sisters (pg. 19).

Fratelli Tutti

The Holy Spirit is calling Christians to return to the roots of Christ charity, which came, not for the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. Christ condemns sin, but never the sinner; ask that we do not judge.

Perhaps in their hearts, those Levites, priests that passed to the other side were judgmental like those disciples who asked Jesus whose sin it was that made blind the man born blind. Jesus gives the answer, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, rather it is so that God’s power may be made manifest” (John 9:2). Those born blind to the true nature of sexuality, can be likened to the man born blind. Many homosexual are so not by their own choosing, and yes each is born with his melancholy basic temperaments, ill temper, and sanguine. But born that way has never means living that way. We all have the obligation to struggle against self defeating urges, and the adulterous, must cease using his passion, and the glutton desist from gluttony.

Consequently, charity demands a moderation of language. Homosexuality is an issue so many people are so passionate about today unlike in the 19th century when homosexuality was relatively hidden and obscure and considered by a wide section of people as wrong and improper. Things are totally different today, and it’s accepted by most advanced societies, and even celebrated in the media, thus charity demands that the sensitivity of so many people be taken into accounts when issuing statements at the risk of antagonizing, and hence closing hearts permanently to the saving word of God. It must be kept in mind that meeting someone midway may be the beginning of leading him out of it as long as you bear the light and know the way. And thanks to the unchanging teaching of Christ and his Church, every Christian bears the light and knows the way.

Those who fear that concessions are slippery slope to changing the church’s teaching on homosexuality often cite the gradual caving of civil laws in different countries in West as evidence of how concession to civil union ends with full endorsement of homosexual acts and even acceptance of homosexual marriage as the equivalent of marriage between man and woman. Those who entertain this fear need to make an important distinction between Church and civil society. The church is a supernatural society whose laws come outside of her and revealed by God and thus no one can change those laws. Civil societies have laws coming from within men prone to change. Thus the Church has nothing to fear in getting as near as she can to the sinner to save them because she is well anchored on solid rock.

By Chinwuba Iyizoba





The sex agenda: Hollywood attack on Judeo-Christian sexual ethics

17 08 2020

Research shows watching onscreen sex and pornography is more addictive and harmful than tobacco, yet Hollywood keeps escalating use of onscreen sex and pornography in blockbusters. Why? This article would argue that the permissive attitude of Hollywood and other social media to onscreen sex, nudity and pornography, is a deliberate attempt to supplant Judeo-Christian sexual ethics with moral relativism, in addition, this paper would argue that the promotion of the theology of the body of St. John Paul II as the best measure to counter this agenda.

According to George Gerbner’s Cutivation theory, people often imitate what they watch. To avoid imitative smoking by their teenage viewers, big studios prohibit cigarettes smoking in PG-13 rated movies. Paul (2013) citing studies conducted by Annenberg Public Policy Center and the University of Pennsylvania claims that Hollywood successfully cut onscreen smoking down from roughly 68 percent in 1985 to 21.4 percent in 2010 and onscreen Alcohol use from 89.6 percent in 1985 to 67.3 percent. Unfortunately, onscreen sex and pornography remained at 80 percent high all through the period (Paul, 2013).  

Why is Hollywood determined to ignore science when it comes to onscreen sex and pornography? Research confirms that onscreen sex and pornography harm teenagers. Brown & Newcomer, (1991) found that teenagers who watch intense sexual contents begin having sex earlier than that those who do not. While Eyal & Finnerty, (2009) confirm that among public health professionals,  escalating sexual content in movies and   social media as a growing concern driving the surge in teenage risky sexual behaviors. In addition, research by Institute of Medicine (1997) confirms that one in four sexually active teen in US have STD, and of the 19 million STD infections diagnosed annually, half of them are teenagers and young adults between ages 15-24. 

Pornography fuels human trafficking. Peters, Lederer and Kelly (2012) cites instances where women are kidnapped, coerced and forced to perform sex  acts while being filmed and uploaded to porn sites for real time views. Cybersex camps springing up in Philippines with kidnapped and indigent girls are enslaved for commercial sex, live streamed to paying customers in the US.

The authors’ allege that pornography is the leading cause of objectification of women and violence against women.”A study by FBI researchers of 36 serial killers revealed that 29 were attracted to pornography and incorporated it into their sexual activity, which included serial rape-murder (Peters, Lederer and Kelly, 2012 p. 13).”

Furthermore, they assert that pornography is breaking down in marriages, men addicted to onscreen sex and pornography wishing to replicate their fantasies, finding their wives on willing, seeks out prostitutes, leading to family problems. In addition, law of diminishing returns demands that addicts often require more deviant form hardcore pornography to get the same level of arousal, leading to greater and greater perversion (Peters, Lederer and Kelly, 2012). They also claim that pornography fuels trafficking of women to produce pornography and consumption of pornography escalates deviants sexual appetite in men who seek out trafficked prostitutes to live out their fantasy, thus pornography drives prostitutions and prostitution fuels sex trafficking.

One common theory that tries to explain the use of sex in movies is that it makes movies profitable, in other words, sex sells movies. However, studies by Cerridwen & Simonton (2009) disprove this theory, showing that there is little correlation between a movies box office performance and sexual content. Egan(2000) however disagrees, arguing that pornography is indeed a multi-billion dollar industry, tied with many American corporate names. The author claims that DirecTV, a General Motors subsidiary buys nearly $200 million a year in pay-per-view sex films. Egan confirms that international brands like AT&T Corporation are neck deep in selling hard-core sex channels to millions of hotel room in Marriott International and Hilton. Mahlburg (2020) discovered that each year, 42 billion users visit the largest pornographic site in the world called Pornhub, where research has revealed every type of criminally deviant porn can be found even with minors. While Asher of Vivid Entertainment Group argues that obsessed people are sources of income, and hotels make up to 90 percent profit from streaming in-room porn.

Nevertheless, it can be argued that profit alone fails to explain the proliferation of onscreen sex.  After all, Hollywood and other social media willingly loose out from $8.4 billion dollar bounty that the US tobacco companies spent in 2018 in advertisement and promotion because of their anti-tobacco stands.

Thus, Charles (2014) asserts that the primary objective of Hollywood’s proliferation of onscreen sex is to subvert the Judeo Christian morals of their viewers. Alberto and Eliana (2009) details other research supports the use of onscreen sex to undermine Judeo-Christian sexual ethic. The authors cites the Brazilian military government’s agenda of legalizing divorce, in the 70’s, using television series inundated with sex to little by little deform the consciences of millions of viewer, this successfully resulted in a spike divorce rates among women across Brazil municipal areas.

Furthermore, Charles (2014) cites Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany saying, “We’ve always heard that Hollywood is about making money, but I think it’s really about an immoral or amoral agenda to promote lifestyles, relativism, compromise, and shades of gray with no black and white. There is a force in that community. Michael continues, “more important than making $100 million is to plant seeds in the minds of young people that will take them away from Judeo-Christian ethics.”

Gordon Pennington, successful marketing consultant in Hollywood adds, “Whoever controls the image of culture controls culture.”

In addition, according to West (2014), they are willing to risk everything, even lawsuits from the #metoo movement of female actors forced to perform sexual content, as conditions of employment. Back in 1953, In an era when an NC-17 rating for X-rated films well known to lead to box office failure, West argues, Hugh Hefner was willing to lose money to destroy by founding playboy magazine, and the adult movie industry to spite Judeo- Christianity. Lucky, the invention of the video cassette recorder (VCR) ended up making him a lot of money, because “The first thing that a lot of people did when they got their VCR was rent or purchase an adult movie (Porn in the USA , 2003).”

Furthermore, other evidence of anti-Judeo-Christian bias emerges with a cursory look at Hollywood’s blockbusters over a thirty-year period. Greydanus (2020) claims that Hollywood consistently links Christianity with murderous violence, like the rosary-clutching villain in the Legend of Tarzan and murderous villain called “the Butcher” who wears T-shirt with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Wanted (2008). Again, you have Tom Hanks’, Irish Catholic hit man packing a rosary and automatic weapons in the Road to Perdition (2002). Going further, recall the butchery and cold-blooded murder in Gangs of New York (2002) and The Godfather (1973) all carried out by religious people.

Even more scandalously are depictions of ordained ministers, priest, bishops, and popes as bloodthirsty murderers (Greydanus, 2020).  The Albino monk assassin in The Da Vinci Code a block buster released in 2006 as another poignant evident, and V for Vendetta (2006): a depraved bishop who is complicit in Mengele-like human experiments and who indulges a sexual penchant for very young girls or the Catholic-themed killings in Seven (1995) and The Glimmer Man (1996) (Greydanus, 2020).

It can be argued that onscreen sex and pornography in particular strikes at the heart Christian sexual ethic. Houck (2009) asserts that Christian moral code exalts decency, modesty, and purity of heart as a basic perquisite to see God. “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). However, on screen sex and pornography excites lustful thoughts and attacks cleanliness and purity of heart. Seghers (2018) argues that for a Christian, sex is holy and linked generation of new life.

According to West (2015), in John Paul II teaches in the theology of the body that Christ spilt blood on the cross gave Christian life to believers within the Church, in the sexual act, a husband’s spills his blood within his wife, and gives new life, a new human person. Furthermore, Christians consider the human body as the dwelling place of God, not to be degraded as a sexual object for commercial consumption. West (2015), expounding on the Theology of the body of John Paul II said that if Heaven is the dwelling place of God, then a woman’s womb is heaven on earth since God took flesh on womb of a woman, Mary. Thus, the author continues, it is by God’s design that in the sexual art, man enters the heaven of a woman’s womb and spill out his life the way Christ spilt his blood for the Church (West, 2015). “Coming together in the profound partnership of marriage, man and woman live for the other in mutual love and deference. This union is expressed concretely in the couple’s bodily sexual bodily gift of themselves to one another in sexual intercourse. Here they speak a profound language of total self-gift and unconditional fidelity (Grabowski (n.d).”

Onscreen sex and pornography breaks the fidelity between marriage and sex, introducing  complexity, selfishness, lust, into a perfect act mutual and exclusive self-giving between married spouses.

In summary, with pervasive onscreen sex and pornography, Hollywood is not showing too much sex, rather they are showing too little, and they do not go far enough. Sex is much more than physical bodies, it has eternal dimension. They treat sex pornography as a consumer product because of the huge profit coming in from it, but also with a primary agenda of   subverting the Judeo Christian ethics. Yet the remedy to this destructive distorted view of sex lies in the proper understanding of the Theology of the body of John Paul II

References

 Alberto,C., & Eliana, L. (2009).Television and divorce:Evidence from Brazilian Novelas( Working Paper No. 651). Retrieved from Inter-American Development Bank Research Department website:https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/51502/1/591278979.pdf

Charles, C. (2014). Hollywood’s Immoral Agenda Entertainment Industry Accelerates Attack on Biblical Values. Retreived from https://decisionmagazine.com/hollywoods-immoral-agenda/

Cerridwen, A.,& Simonton, D.K.(2009).Sex Doesn’t Sell—Nor Impress! Content, Box Office, Critics, and Awards in Mainstream Cinema.  American Psychological Association, 3(4),200-210. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/aca-3-4-200.pdf

Egan,T.(2000,Oct.23). Wall Street Meets Pornography. The Newyorktimes .Retreived from https://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/23/us/erotica-special-report-technology-sent-wall-street-into-market-for-pornography.html

Eyal, K., and K. Finnerty. (2009). “The portrayal of sexual intercourse on television: How, who, and with what consequence?” Mass Communication & Society 12: 143-169. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/sex-on-tv-4-report-introduction.pdf

Greydanus, S. D. (2020). Let’s face it: Hollywood’s got a “religion problem”.Retrieved from http://decentfilms.com/articles/hollywood-religion-problem

Grabowski, S. J(n.d) The Theology Of The Body AccordingTo Pope John Paul II. Retreived from https://www.foryourmarriage.org/the-theology-of-the-body-according-to-pope-john-paul-ii/

Mahlburg, K. (2020, June 26).Tell Pornhub and Planned Parenthood that Black Lives Matter. Retrieved from https://mercatornet.com/tell-pornhub-and-planned-parenthood-that-black-lives-matter/64162/?preview_id=64162

Paul, B. (2013).Study: PG-13 Films Combine as Much Violence, Sex and Alcohol as R-Rated Titles. Retrieved from https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/study-pg-13-films-combine-663899

Peters, R.W, Lederer, L.J and Kelly,S.(2012).The Slave and the Porn Star: Sexual Trafficking and Pornography. The protection project: Journal of human right and civil society

Retrieved from https://www.rescuefreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/slave-and-the-porn-star.pdf

Porn in the USA, part 2.  (2003, Nov 21). [Video/DVD] New York: BBC Studios Americas, Inc., Columbia Broadcasting System. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/1822822291?accountid=188730

Seghers,J.(2018). Theology of the Body: An Overview. Retrieved from https://www.totustuus.com/essays

West, C. (2015, Oct 24). DCC Lecture Series [Video/DVD] – God, Sex and the Meaning of Life. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHUsnDwB8Ww&t=33s





Hilarious Debate: Cardinal Pell vs Richard Dawkins

26 12 2019

Debate between Cardinal George Pell and Richard Dawkins turned comic when someone asked Dawkins to explain how something can come from nothing.

The audience roared in laughter at his rambling attempts and a visibly angry Dawkins asked, “What is so funny?”  

“It is funny when you try to explain nothing” retorted the half amused Cardinal

 The debate is masterpiece for learning how to debate on difficult topics and against those who deny first principles and those who claim that two contradictory propositions can be true and false at the same time in the same manner.

A master on the art of convincing, Pell’s humor and wit create a light hearted ambiance that helped the audience connect. This debate will benefit students of literature. Watch the video below  or read the transcript her https://scrapsfromtheloft.com/2019/03/01/debate-richard-dawkins-cardinal-george-pell-transcript/





Gay Jesus funny? Netflix is stone cold crazy!

20 12 2019

Movie streaming giant, Netflix, has lost its coconuts by streaming a third rate movie that portrays Jesus as gay.

 The movie, “The First Temptation of Christ,” offends more than 2.18 billion Christians around the world, by depicting Jesus as a homosexual and Mary as a weed smoking trollop?

 According to Citizen.org, the film presents Christ as having relationships with a homosexual while the disciples are alcoholics and unruly. The Virgin Mary is presented as an adulterous woman who has sex with God the Father. Until recently, the anti-Christian works by the small Brazilian producers of the movie were published on their YouTube channel. But this year, Netflix has decided to buy their production and distribution rights in a clear agreement to the group’s blasphemous works.

Why would Netflix want to promote a film that they know offends so many of their customers? A movie based on lies and falsification of historical facts about the life of Jesus Christ? Jesus lived and died in the 6BC-33AD, there are historical records people who lived with him and no such record exist that he is a homosexual, but quite on the contrary, homosexuality is a sin against Christian norms. Not even the Pharisee who hated Jesus so much as to kill him charged him with such. So why would anyone, 2000 yrs latter wish to offend billions believers with such an obvious lie?  But it’s only a movies, they say, nothing serious, a satire, no one should get upset. Really?

Christians have lost lives and properties defending their faith, thousand have died at the guillotine; tens of thousands were thrown to the lions for not denying their lord and savior Jesus Christ. Netflix and Porta must be stone cold crazy.     And their past streaming of hundreds of genuine Christian movies doesn’t make them less culpable for pandering this false narrative, much like a man is not less culpable when he commits murder because he saved hundreds of lives.

They wouldn’t do that to Muslims though

Netflix’s recent outrage has sparked the age-old debate on how Christian can get people to respect what they believe. Muslims have successfully won a fearful respect for their sacred through violence and bloodshed. Christians on the other hand are bound by cast iron rules of non-violence, exploited by vicious men bereft of decency to trample on their feelings with impunity.  CitizenGo, a Christian advocacy group has received two million signatures condemning the movie– significant, but hardly enough. Christians must stop and contemplate Jesus holy anger, when he sees people misusing the things of his Father. What a lesson for us never to be indifferent or cowardly when others fail to treat the things of God with due respect.

Of course violence has been tried by emperors and kings in centuries gone by and it utterly betrayed the Christian faith in spite of the good intentions of the people who deployed it.

Yet a man has the right and duty to defend the honor of his mother even if it means coming to blows. Those who go about heaping scorn on the values people cherish best beware that every man has his limits and sooner or later patience wears thin and they must have themselves to blame for what happens.

If being civilized means behaving reasonably and politely, avoiding hurting other people’s feelings, then Netflix actions are barbaric  

Two sides of the same coin

A woman writing in the punch newspaper, in words couched with thinly veiled disdain for the Christian said that the uptick in false narrative about Christianity is tit for tat for century old false narratives pandered by Christian to destroy ancient pagan religions.

But that’s a muddle up understanding of history of pagan religions. Most pagan practices actually rely on of satanic powers to achieve their purpose, and not a few practice sacrifices of blood of animal or even humans. Their code of ethics is nothing but primal instincts that often strays into outright errors, even evil.  Truth does not molest falsehood when it corrects it, knowledge cannot tolerate ignorance. The Christian faith does not denigrate pagan religion, but perfects and purify them from error to lead men to truth. The Christian faith by purifying pagan rituals from twins, virgin sacrifices and cannibalism brought about civilization.

Women the world over are enjoying the fruits of the untiring of works of Christian missionaries in educate young girls and give them opportunities denied them in traditional pagan societies.

Voodoo Afro-Brazilians pagan religions are replete with fetishes and unhygienic cavorting with dead bodies that sanitary laws demand censuring such practitioners. Still it must be pointed out that Christian ethics demands that errors of paganism must be corrected with charity. To do otherwise would go against Christ’s teaching. Truth is sacrosanct, and promoting a deliberate falsification of historically verifiable facts about Jesus’ life and teaching even as a joke is being mischievous.  When art misrepresents history, it is not illuminating but confusing.

Breaking a norm of decency is not freedom and progress, but that is a caricature of true freedom. A motorist, who thinks he is freer when he breaks traffic laws, is most likely to eventually kill himself and others.  Those applauding the wholesale ditching of good manners may find out that they have ditched civilization itself.

The Christian faith never needed to resort to violence because she never needed violence. Rather, she has been a counterforce against the violence in every man, urging the imitation Jesus Christ who, like lamb that was led to the slaughter, opened not his mouth, who though being God, became man, and went lower still accepted death on the cross, in other to redeemed man.

Those who do violence in the name of the Christ know they are violating the faith they profess. Nowhere in Christ’s teaching is any form of violence toward others encouraged, rather Christ commands love of enemies and doing good to those who hate. The power of the Christ message is the only valid defense of the Christian faith. When Christians put the teachings of Christ into practice, Christians will convert the world, and today’s Christian must convert the world– by truly striving to be saints, for this world’s crisis are crises of saints.

Chinwuba Iyizoba





A powerful proof of forgiveness, boy hugs officer who killed his brother

12 10 2019

A powerful proof of forgiveness, boy hugs officer who killed his brother.

“I forgive you, I love you, ” he said.

Watch this video of true forgiveness.

It was the last thing anyone was expecting.

Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger had just been sentenced to 10 years in prison for fatally shooting a black man, Botham Jean, in his own apartment.
Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean was on the witness stand Wednesday, giving a victim-impact statement, when he turned to the judge and made a most unusual request.
“I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please?” he asked.
What happened next stunned both the courtroom and the nation. Jean stepped off the witness stand and stepped over to Guyger. The two hugged for nearly a minute.
“I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you,” Jean told Guyger. “I think giving your life to Christ is the best thing Botham would want for you.”(source CNN)

Video of Amber Guyger, former cop being sentenced to 10 yrs for killing a man.





In God’s Land: Nazareth and Mount of Transfiguration

21 09 2019

20th September 2019

We had early breakfast, by 6.30am to be precise, and departed for Nazareth by 7.20 am prompt. Nazareth has about 70,000 inhabitants today, but in the time of Jesus, it had just about 100 people. It is a two hour drive from the city of Jerusalem.

We took the shortest way; high way 6, because we needed to get there on time to see Nazareth and celebrate Mass is at 11 am at the Church of Annunciation.

Our mission is to visit Mary’s well; a well that ancient tradition says was frequently used by the Blessed Virgin Mary and the boy, Jesus. We also hope see the workshop of St. Joseph, and the cliff from which the people of Nazareth wanted to push Jesus down in an act that is best described as an attempted murder. After Mass we intend to visit the ancient village of Cana where Jesus turned water into wine at the insistence of his mother and finally we will end our tour with a visit to mount Tabor, the mountain where Jesus transfigured and his clothes became dazzling white, in the presence of his apostles and with apparition of Moses and Elijah. (Mark 9:3)

As you can see it’s a tight schedule for one day thus the early rising.

Nazareth

350m above sea level, Nazareth was where everything started. God took flesh in the womb of a woman, the most pure womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lk 1:26-38). On the way, we saw the Chapel of our Lady of the freight, to commemorate Mary seeing the people of Nazareth trying to cast Jesus into the cliff. (Lk 4:29)

In the time of our Jesus, there were just about 30 families living in Nazareth. Today, Nazareth is the biggest Arab town owned by Israel. Most of the inhabitants are Muslims.

We entered Nazareth using the Via Maris (the way of the see), a high way that begins in Memphis in the delta of the Nile towards the lake of Galilee. We passed through the valley of the “seed of God” also called Jezreel, very fertile plain with abundance of agriculture. From the bus we saw rows and rows of cultivated fields. Agriculture is the highest export of Israel and a huge source of income. We passed through the land of Gideon
Finally we left the plains of Jezreel up to Nazareth.

Story of two Churches and Mary’s well

In Nazareth, there are two Churches of the annunciation. One belongs to the Greek Orthodox, who claims that the first apparition of Arc Angel Gabriel to Mary took place at the well whilst she was fetching water; she took fright and ran to her house. It was at the second apparition that she was finally calm enough to listen to the Angel and thus the orthodox built a Church near the well, and to give tourist something to see, they diverted the spring that fed the original Mary’s well to the Church, so Mary’s well is no longer flowing because this.

Pictures of Mary’s well

Mary’s well
Our guide, Oliver explains why Mary’s well is dry

Sad and unfortunately, this the only spring of fresh water in Nazareth, and they are using it up all for themselves.
We stopped to look the dry well of Mary, before proceeding to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, at least to have a look at the original water of the well.

Pictures of the Visit to the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation

Pictures ate the courtyard of the Greek Orthodox church of the annuciation
Seated inside the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
Roof of the Church

The grievance between the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox goes back many century and many versions of the conflicts bear the bias of who is telling the story. Some say that the bone of contention was that the fourth crusaders sacked Byzantium, stole the true cross, crown of thorns, which led to the mutual excommunications between the two branches.

The synagogue that almost murdered Jesus

Next, we visited the 1st century synagogue where the boy Jesus and his father and mother often went to pray. It was a stone throw from Mary’s house. It was here that they wanted to throw him off the cliff after he had read the scroll. The story is told in Luke

It reads:
“Jesus returned to his hometown Nazareth, from Capernaum, and he went to the synagogue. The synagogue official gave him the scroll to read, they didn’t like his interpretation and they tried to cast him of a cliff.” Luke (4:16-29)

The Jews had a custom they called Bar mitzvah in which every boy who comes of age is given the scroll of the book of the prophet Isaiah to read and afterwards asked to explain or interpret the verse he had read for all in the synagogue. If he passes, he is included as one of the ten that can start a synagogue. Jesus was given the scroll and the people didn’t like how he interpreted it and wanted to kill him.

Church of the Annunciation


When we left the synagogue, we went straight the authentic Church of the Annunciation, which is next to the synagogue. According to an ancient tradition passed on by some Fathers of the Church, some relations of Jesus were still living in Nazareth in the 2nd century had preserved both the room in which the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, and the house of the Holy Family. There are written testimonies of pilgrims who visited the house in Nazareth in the 4th century when it was already a place venerated by Christians, complete with an altar.

Pictures of the Church of the Annunciation

Catholic Church of the Annunciation
Introduction from Saxum
Walls surrounding the Church is covered with beautiful paintings of Mary from all corner of the world
Entrance
Different depictions of Mary inside the Church
Side view of the Church
Sculptor of Mary as a young girl over the entrance

The Catholic Church of Annunciation the biggest, most magnificent church in the Middle East. It was built over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church. Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, the remains of the original childhood home of Mary. Scientific tests on the house in Loreto matches the one here, in Nazareth, likewise the graffito written on the walls and traces of oil found on the wall dating back to the time of Jesus are identical in both places.

On the front door of the Church, there is a depiction of the major events in Jesus’ life.

Pictures of the Front door of the Church

Inscriptions at the door
Designs on the wall
Pilgrims visiting the Church
Magnificent Image of our lady at the Annunciation from Philipines
magnificent depictions at the door ” the life of Mary”
Inside the upper floor
Church of the Annunciations is the biggest church in the middle east

We recited the Salve Regina inscribed on the wall on both sides of the main door. Above the door, there is a bronze sculptor of Mary as a young girl, looking towards Calvary, Jerusalem

Then on the arcades of the Church, there are paintings of Mary from different countries of the world; Germany, Japan, Philippines and so on.
In 1964, when the Church was being built, the Pope Paul VI wondered if it was necessary to have such a big Church, in such a small town, but today Christians of Nazareth are grateful because they didn’t know that they would become a minority

The Church consists of two floors. The ground floor is at the level of the grotto of the 1st century house where Mary lived, and the upper floor of the Church has many stained glass windows and paintings of Mary donated from every country in the world.

The altar piece is a magnificent painting of heaven with all the saints and martyrs walking towards eternal happiness with Mary depicted in an amazing representation as giving birth to the Church.

Pictures of the upper floor

Preparing for Mass at the Upper floor
dome of the Church

On the ground floor is original room that Mary was in when the Angel visited her. Its white stone wall blackened with age and behind a small stair case going to an upper floor

Pictures of ground floor and grotto of Mary’s house

Loswer floor, house of Mary 1st Century
Reaching up to take a shot
Standing in front of Mary’s house
Panoramic view of Mary’s house
Shot at the circle from which Mary’s house can be seen from upper floor

Nazareth means the of spring water. It is amazing how insignificant this little town had been before the birth of Jesus, for instance, the Old Testament never mentioned Nazareth, neither does Josephus, the Jewish historian, who is reputed to record anything important to the Jews. It is marvelous that God has chooses such a lowly place to come down to meet us. This should encourage everyone one who feels left behind, that God chooses the lowly and enfeebled things of this world to confound the rich and the powerful.

We attended Mass at the upper floor of the Church of Annunciation by 11 am

Pictures of the Mass

At exactly 12 noon, the bells of the Church of the Annunciation started ringing out melodies and the scene of the annunciation was reenacted as the Franciscans gave a benediction from inside the house of Nazareth while we stood aside and watched.

Pictures of Noon Benediction

Like we said earlier, this Church is the biggest Church in the Middle East, and it therefore the envy of all. In 2002, Muslims raised money to build a big mosque directly in front of the Church of the annunciation. The intended that mosque would be bigger and over shadow her glory.

The day the foundation, the fundamentalist Muslims were gleefully shouting in unison “Today Nazareth, tomorrow the world!”
But things quickly went out of control, and riots broke out, many Christian shops were burnt and looted causing the Israeli government intervene and cancel the project, forcing the Muslim to stop the constructions and uprooted the foundation already begun.

The city of Nazareth is run by Muslim families, thus sanitation is poor, laws are not enforced, and the town is badly run. In the ottoman where here for 400 yrs and they really didn’t care about the local population, so no hospitals where built. Thanks to foreign countries that mercifully came and built and built hospitals, there might not have been any hospitals in Nazareth today.

There’s a minaret and a mosque on the highest point in Nazareth. How it happened was that 23 yrs ago, a family asked if they could hire this highest point, and the owner said yes, the family lived there for a few months and then gradually built a mosque on top of the peak. The problem is that once a mosque is built, it’s impossible to remove it. That place becomes holy ground. That’s why the foundation of the one that they attempted to build over the Church of annunciation had to be removed. So they built the mosque by stealth.

After spending time in the Church of the annunciation, we walked over to another Church, called the Church of St. Joseph. It is said that the workshop in which Joseph the carpenter and the foster father of Jesus was located here. What we saw were ritual baths and what looked like a place for baptism. The workshop must have been converted into a church during the first century and hence the ritual baths.

Pictures of the Church of St Joseph

Ritual births in the Church of St. Joseph

Cana

We finally left Nazareth about 1 pm to go to Cana. We passed by the ancient Roman town of Sephoris. This town is not mentioned in bible but was very rich and close to Nazareth. Perhaps, some of Joseph’s clients lived there since it was just 3km from Nazareth and perhaps Jesus used to accompany his father there to make deliveries. Sephoris was rich Roman city, and Jesus must have seen luxurious life, huge balcony and opulence, in contrast to his cave like home in Nazareth.

Pictures on the road to Cana

Pilgrims who came to renew there marriage vows

When we entered the city of Cana, we saw that all the shops here advertise “the Wine of Cana,” the Miracle of Jesus in Cana. Archeologically, there is no certainty of the authenticity of this Cana and as it where, many other Canas have cropped up, with competing claims of being the authentic Cana of scriptures. Still, it was good to be here.

Pictures of Church of Cana

Underneath the Church at Cana

As we were at Church of Cana, a group of people came to renew their marriage vows.
Cana is about the superabundance of the grace of sacraments. We bought the wine of Cana, sweet wine

Mt. Tabor


When we left the Church of Cana, our next destination was Mount Tabor.
Tabor is on the outskirts of Cana and before we could leave Cana and get to the outskirts, we encountered lots of traffic because the Muslims were coming from the mosque and school children closing from school.

Pictures of the road to Mt. Tabor

Mt Tabor
Tabor and surrounding district
On the bus up Tabor
Church of Transfiguration at the back ground

We passed by the Bedouin town of Shibli is set at the foot of Mount Tabor. It consists of a single clan, and everyone has the same surname and they intermarry between themselves. This is not only a health hazard but a logistic nightmare for a postman who has to deliver parcels to them.

We had a quick lunch at the base of Mt. Tabor before boarding taxis that took us up to the peak of Mt Tabor. Tabor is 640m above sea level and this is where Jesus transfigured before three of his apostles, Peter James and John. Moses and Elijah appear during the transfiguration. This is also where in the Old Testament, Deborah fought and killed the Canaanites.

Church of Mt. Tabor

Nowhere in the gospel is the Tabor mentioned, yet Jesus chose this mount to display his glory to the apostles to strengthen them for his coming passion and death. The Byzantines have originally built a church at this peak. The crusaders also built a church here. They were all knocked down by the Muslims until the Franciscans came and bought the property and gave the contract to the same architect that built Shepherd fields, and many others churches

Pictures of Inside the Church of Mt. Tabor

Entering the Church of Transfiguration
A group of south African pilgrims having Mass
Painting of Moses on the Roof of the Church
Views from the hieght of Tabor
Church of transfiguration

On the left inside the church, is the Chapel of Moses with Ray of light.
Then the Chapel of Elijah, with his animals.
At the bottom of the Church, a beautiful image of Jesus transfiguration. On the longest day, the light shines in on this image and it shimmering and beautiful. The roof is made of alabaster, because the architecture wanted people to be transfigured.

It is said that every year, a batch of young drug addicts come here from Italy, working and praying to be transformed.

Why did the Lord choose to transfigure himself in a place that was so far from where he lived and required a strenuous physical effort over a long trail?” Blessed Alvaro gives the answer himself, saying “that it was probably so that we could see with our own eyes that to reach God, we also have to put in a human effort that is physical sometimes.”





In God’s Land: Gethsemane, Jesus’ Agony

16 09 2019

“Father, remove this cup from me, but not my will but thine be done.”
When God’s appointed time comes to save mankind from the slavery of sin, we contemplate Jesus Christ in Gethsemane, suffering in agony to the point of sweating blood (cf. Lk 22:44). He spontaneously and unconditionally accepts the sacrifice which the Father is asking of him.
Ancient information located the grotto of Gethsemane, in the Kidron Valley, where Jesus went with his disciple, and where he was arrested. Excavations which took place after a flooding revealed that place was previously an olive press with olive gardens and a cistern. In 4 century AD, a byzantine rock church was built there and later rebuilt in the 6th. Also several tombs were excavated near by witnessing to the ancient tradition of burying the dead near holy places.

The Garden of Olives

The Church of Gethsemane has 16 domes because 16 nations donated to rebuild this church. Gethsemane was an olive oil press. Inside the garden, 8 of the trees here still dates to the time of Jesus. It was a garden or orchard where there was an oil-press (this is the meaning of the name Gethsemane), and it was outside the city walls of Jerusalem, to the east of the city, on the way to Bethany.

Pictures of the Garden of Olives

The Church of Gethsemane

Inside the Church of Gethsemane, the blue-ish purple color of the stained glass windows helps pilgrims pray. The Church faces the golden or beautiful gate where Peter healed the blind man. It has a deer on the roof. The deer is on the dome is the symbol of psalm, like a deer thirsts for water so my soul is thirsts for the living God. In the year 2009, Benedict 16th celebrated Mass in the olive garden across and the President of Israel, Netanyahu, attended

Pictures of Church of Gethsemane

The stone on which our lord sweated blood

Here we are touching the stone on which Jesus sweated blood while he was praying

Mary’s Empty Tomb

Next we went to see the empty tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, where she was assumed body and soul into heaven. When Mary passed away, they laid her in-corrupt body at Mount Zion for nine days. After, they took her to the burial grounds of Gethsemane and buried her. Jews buried their dead facing the temple and thus our Lady’s tomb faced the temple.
Three days later, they found the tomb empty.
According to archeologist, Niccacci, there was an ancient text that was read during the feast of Assumption which described the location of Mary’s tomb as part of the Jewish burial ground or (Necropolis)
In 1959, excavations revealed that the Mary’s empty tomb was on a burial ground, there was a happy coincidence between this literature and archaeological findings. Early Jewish Christians had isolated the tomb from the rest of the tombs and preserved it with veneration. Two churches, one upon another were built by the Byzantines in the 5th century BC.
We celebrated Mass at the Grotto of Gethsemane (Where Jesus was arrested, betrayed by Judas with a kiss)

Pictures of the Empty Tomb of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Inside Mary’s tomb

Mass at Gethsemane

A place of agony, a place of our incapacity to keep close to our lord in prayer! We ask God to teach us to abandon our selves to the will of God. Help us to always do the will of God

Church of the Pater Noster

Next, leaving Gethsemane we went to the Pater noster Church.
It’s the place where our lord thought the disciples the prayer, Pater Nostra. It’s also here that our lord ascended into heaven. It’s also here that our lord wept over Jerusalem.
We had to pay money to enter because it is controlled by Muslims. When Saladin conquered, he converted it to a business, Muslim businessmen pay to hire it and charge money from Christian pilgrims.

Pictures of the Church of the Pater Noster

The Church of Pater Noster today has the arch of the crusader.
Our Lord loved the Mount of Olives because it over looked the city of Jerusalem. It was from the Mount of Olives that Jesus ascended into heaven. It was also here that our lord wept over Jerusalem. The Mount has numerous caves and it is in one of them that Jesus taught his disciples the “Our lord’s prayer” or the “Pater Noster” as it is called in Latin. The Church of the Pater Noster stand on the Mount of Olive, astride one of the caves in which ancient tradition says Jesus taught this prayer per excellence.
It was built under the direction of Constantine’s mother Helena in the early 4th century. The church survived intact until it was destroyed by Persians in 614.
In the year 1875, a young princess, Princess Aurelia Bossi came to the Holy land and saw Muslims selling the remaining stones of the 4th-century church for tombstones, she paid them off and acquired the land, and handed it to the French government. She is buried here as a mark of gratitude for recovering this place from the Muslims.
In the Church, the Pater Noster is written in 173 languages. There’s also a piece of mosaic left over from the basilica built by St. Helena

Yes, it is a cave, winter is cold, and our Lord had no money to pay for hotels, so he and his disciples gathered in caves they didn’t have heating. Here, in this cave, Jesus spoke about the end and about his passion and death. When he finished, one of his disciples asked him, Lord teach us to Pray
Here we held hands and sang the Pater Noster in English, Philippines and Igbo.

We saw the plaque in Samaritan. They were part of the Jews, but were excommunicated because they mingled with Babylon. Today, they (Samaritans) still intermarry between themselves and thus are dying out. There are just only 760 Samaritans remaining in the world (380 in Jerusalem and 380 in Shecem) and many of them are retarded.

Ascension

Next we went to the Chapel of Ascension
There are two foot prints of the Lord which he left as he was lifted up to heaven chiseled into a rock but one has been removed and put in the dome of the Rock. From here our lord Ascended to Heaven

Pictures of our visit to the Chapel of Ascension

Video from Saxum on the Ascension

Church of Dominos Flevit. Where our lord wept over Jerusalem.


Next we climbed further up to the Church of Dominos Flevit, this was where Christ wept, crying:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! – – Matthew 23:37
Jerusalem, a city that Jesus loved so much, that never returned the love of God because they have not learned how to be friends of God. We become God’s friends through prayer. When we persevere in prayer, even if it is repeating over and over, Jesus I love you.
As St. Augustine says, “It must burn in you that which you want to ignite in others.” Jesus was burning with sacrificial love for Jerusalem, wishing to heal her and teach her the way of live but she wouldn’t listen.
Planted in front of the Church was the tree of the crown of thorns

The Church of Dominus Flevit overlooks today the dome of the rock and the Alaska mosque, because the prophesy of Jesus was fulfilled in the year AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed, and the temple burnt down, such that there was no one stone left upon another.

That is the focus of the trouble between the Jews and the Muslims. The Muslims claim that the rock enclosed by the dome is the place where Prophet Mohammed ascended. But yet the Temple Mount was the holy place of the Jews many centuries before the birth of Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam. King Solomon constructed the first temple in the very place that the dome of the rock is today in 900 B.C, but it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Second temple was built by Herod 20 B.C. This destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Mohammed was born in 22 April, 571 AD

To enter the Al-aqsa mosque and the temple mount is free but there was a time it cost ten dollars per visit. They stopped collecting money after the second intifada which started when the then Israeli President, Ariel Sharon entered the Al-aqsa mosque. As we stood looking at Jerusalem and the temple mount from the Church of Dominus Flevit, time for the Muslim prayers arrived and at once powerful microphones started blasting out Islamic prayer call to prayers.

Pictures of Dominus Flevit





In God’s Land: Where Jesus Resurrected

15 09 2019

We continue on the footprints of Christ, today we visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher also called the Church of the Resurrection, located in the Christian quarters of the old Jerusalem.

Church of the Resurrection or Church of the Holy Sepulcher

The church contains the two holiest sites in Christianity: the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, at a place known as Calvary or Golgotha, and Jesus’ empty tomb, where he was buried and resurrected. Archeological excavations revealed that the area was a quarry in the years since seventh century BC and in first BC and leveled into a garden. In this garden two tomb was carved, one a single burial with an arch and the other, multiple burial chamber. The single burial chamber was built by Joseph Arimathea as the tomb of Christ.

The place remained a garden till 135 AD when Emperor Adrian who wanted to exterminate Christianity expanded Jerusalem to encompass Golgotha, and built a shrine to Jupiter directly above tomb of Christ and a shine to Adonis over Calvary, the spot of the crucifixion, in attempt to conceal them from the flock of pilgrims who started going to venerate the site after the death and resurrection of Christ. Adrian’s actions inadvertently helped preserve the site in tact till 325 when Constantine came and built a Byzantine basilica over the tomb.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher has a long history, but today, control of the church itself is shared among several Christian denominations and two Muslim families that open the door of the Sepulcher every morning by 5 am. They knock at the gate of the Church and the orthodox priest opens the window and peeps to be sure that it is the representatives of the two families, he then hands them a ladder so they can climb and open the door with keys. The door is opened by 5.30 am till 9 p.m daily. We arrived by 6 am to say Mass at the Chapel of Crucifixion next to the Chapel of Calvary.

Stone of Anointing


Facing the door of the Church is a Stone of Unction or Anointing, flanked by tall candlesticks and adorned with a row of hanging votive lamps.

This was the stone slab on which Christ’s body was prepared for burial, is a reminder of the devout care lavished on the body of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus after they had taken it down from the Cross. We stopped to kiss the stone and people brought out their holy objects and rosaries to rub on the stone to absorb its sanctity.

Pictures of kissing the stone of Unction

Stone of Anointing

Chapel of Crucifixion


Next, we climbed the narrow steps to Calvary, this site of the crucifixion. There are two chapels almost adjacent to one another. One is the Chapel of Nailing of the Cross and the other is the Chapel of Crucifixion. Enclosed under the alter of the Chapel of Crucifixion is the Rock of Crucifixion on which the Holy Cross of Jesus stood. Pilgrims wait in line to kneel and kiss the stone and rob holy objects on it. We celebrated Mass at the Chapel of Crucifixion.

Kissing the Rock of Crucifixion

Pictures of the Mass at the Chapel of Nailing of the Cross

Adam’s Chapel

Directly below the Chapel of Crucifixion, stand’s the Adam’s Chapel. There is a crack in the rock displayed under glass – it shows how the rock was broken by the earthquake accompanying Jesus’ death. The tradition is that his blood dripped down through that crack to fall upon Adam’s grave, which was believed to have been within the hill of Golgotha (the place of the skull – i.e. Adam’s skull); this is why directly below the altar with the crucifix there is the Chapel of Adam

The Holy Sepulcher (the tomb of Jesus and where he resurrected)

After the Mass, we joined a long queue of pilgrims waiting to enter the tomb of Christ, the Holy Sepulcher itself, the Place of the resurrection. Picture are not allowed inside the tomb so you wont see me kissing the slab on which Christ resurrected

The rock slab from which Christ Resurrected
Coming out after kissing the Holy Sepulcher

Next we went to the Chapel of finding of the true Cross all thanks to St. Helena

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The Chapel of the Finding of the Holy Cross.

According to tradition it was where the Cross of Christ was rediscovered by St. Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine, who journeyed to Jerusalem shortly before she died, in approximately 327 AD. St. Ambrose tells the story in words of great poetic force. “Helena arrived and began to visit the holy places, and the Spirit inspired her to seek out the wood of the Cross. She turned her steps to Calvary, and there she said: ‘Here is the battleground, but where is the victor’s trophy? I seek for the banner of salvation and do not find it. Do I sit on a throne, while the Cross of the Lord is buried in the dust? Am I surrounded by gold, and the triumph of Christ by rubble? […] I see that you have done everything possible, O devil, to bury the sword by which you were brought to naught. But Isaac cleared the wells that had been blocked up by foreign invaders, and would not allow the water to remain hidden. Let the ruins give way, then, so that life may appear; let the sword flash forth by which the real Goliath was beheaded. […] What have you achieved, devil, by hiding the wood, save to be defeated once again? You were defeated by Mary, who bore the conqueror; without losing her virginity she gave birth to him who conquered you by being crucified and subjugated you by dying. Today too you will be defeated, so that a woman will lay bare your tricks. She, the holy Mother of God, bore our Lord in her womb; I shall seek out his Cross. She showed that he had been born; I shall show that he has risen from the dead.’”

The story goes on to tell how three crosses were discovered at the bottom of an ancient water-tank, which was transformed into what is now the Chapel of the Finding of the Cross. The Cross of Christ was recognized by the remains of the titulus, the notice that Pilate had ordered to be placed on the Cross; a fragment of this is preserved in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Rome. Some nails were also found; one of these was wrought into the iron crown of the Holy Roman Emperors, now in Monza, Italy; a second is venerated in the Duomo of Milan, and a third is preserved in Rome.

Other Pictures in the Holy sepulcher





In God’s Land: Capernaum, the town of Jesus

11 09 2019

We visited the Capernaum, the town of Jesus. All four gospels report that Jesus visited Capernaum and often attended the synagogue there: In Matthew 4:23, after Herod killed John the Baptist, Jesus left Nazareth and settled in Capernaum. Mark 1:21-28 describes Jesus teaching and healing in the synagogue at Capernaum

“Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles!

The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned”.. Matthew 4:14–15

Jesus chose Capernaum because it was the largest city, the richest city, a port city, where everyone has to come. Syrians, Jews, Arabs all used to pass through Capernaum during their travels and the Lord wanted these nations to hear his teachings.

Capernaum had a customs-house and a detachment of Roman soldiers headed by a centurion, a particular centurion who Jesus praised: “I tell you nowhere in Israel have I seen such faith.”

 The praise came when the centurion whose servant was sick asked Jesus to heal his servant, and Jesus said, “I will come.” But the centurion, said, “Lord, I have many men under my authority, I say to one go, and he goes and to another, come and he comes. So just say the word and my servant will be healed.”

 Jesus was moved to praise his act of faith, which we repeat every time we go to Mass.

At the beginning of the Arab period, in the seventh century, the Capernaum, a Christian city went into decline. Two hundred years later it was completely deserted; the buildings collapsed, the area became a heap of ruins, and little by little these were buried. The same earth that hid the location of Capernaum preserved it intact until the nineteenth and twentieth century’s, when the Custody of the Holy Land acquired the property and set in motion the first archaeological excavations.

It’s a two hour drive from Jerusalem and Abu Ghosh, where the Saxum visitors’ center is located.

It was in Capernaum that Jesus performed the following:

1. Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54.

2. Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14.

3. Jesus walking on water in John 6:16-24.

4. Miraculous catch of fish.  Peter caught 153 fishes when he obeyed the Lord, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat”

5. The healing of the paralytic let down through the roof

6. Preached the Beatitudes

7. It was also here that Jesus came after his resurrection, and confirmed Peter as the prince of the Apostles. That day, standing by the shores of the sea of Galilee, but they did not recognize him, and when he asked them if they had caught anything, they said no, he told them to throw their nets on the right side, and they did, then John said, “It’s the Lord, and Peter jumped into the sea. When they came to shore, Jesus had prepared breakfast of fish. After breakfast, he asked Peter, do you love me three times and told him to feed my sheep.

8. The cure of the woman with the hemorrhage

9. The cure of the man with the withered hand

10.  The raising to life of Jairus’ daughter

11. The paying of the Temple tax with a coin found in a fish’s mouth

At Capernaum

1st Century Synagogue where Jesus prayed
Inside the St. Peter’s Church
Peter’s house under the Octagonal St Peter’s Church
A look at the room of Jesus inside St Peter’s house
Sea of Galilee can be seen from the home of St. peter
Peter was a fisher man who lived near the sea
Jesus used to get into Peter boat to preach to the crowd

The house of Peter in Capernaum

Peter welcomed Jesus into his home at Capernaum

While Jesus was at Capernaum, he stayed at the house of Peter his apostle. From there, he carried out his ministry: teaching in the synagogue, and healing the sick. The healing of the paralytic let down through the roof actually took place inside, in one room in Peter’s house. When Capernaum went into ruins, exact location of Peter’s house was also uncertain until 25 years ago, when Italian archeologist uncovered the remnants of a humble house buried beneath the remains of an octagonal Byzantine martyrium church. The remnant dated to the first century B.C.

But what was surprising and perhaps one of the strongest proofs of authenticity that this was Peter’s house was what happened to this house from the first century AD, (that is after the death of Christ). They discovered that the use of this particular house completely changed from a normal residence to a church.

The stone oil jars replaced cooking pots and in one room in particular, the walls were plastered ceiling to wall, quite unusual for a home in those days. Further surprise: as the years went by, the plastered room was renovated and converted into the central hall of a rudimentary church.

The room’s old stone walls were buttressed by a newly built two-story arch that, in turn, supported a new stone roof. The room was even re-plastered and painted over with floral and geometric designs of various colors and more than a hundred graffiti were scratched into the plastered walls. Most of the inscriptions saying things like “Lord Jesus Christ help thy servant” or “Christ have mercy.” They are written in Greek, Syriac or Hebrew and are sometimes accompanied by etchings of small crosses or, in one case, a boat.

This house was used like this for more than 300 years before it was finally replaced in the fifth century by a well-built octagonal martyrium church. Octagonal buildings were built to commemorate very important sites.

Still the inner sanctum of the octagonal building was built directly above the remains of the very room of the first-century house that had the plastered wall and graffiti’s. What modest home, could have a room venerated, turned into a church, with prayers inscription scratched in on the walls, and all subsequent churches built on its foundation if it not for the fact that this was the room of the Son of God.

Ist Century Synagogue at Capernaum close to Peter’s house, where Jesus went to pray
Ist Century Synagogue at Capernaum close to Peter’s house, where Jesus went to pray
Peter’s house

Jesus Preached the Beatitudes in Capahnaum

Next we visited the place where Jesus preached the nine Beatitudes.

On a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee, a sanctuary commemorates the place where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes.  

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy…” Matthew 5:3–12 

We saw that the slopes of the surrounding mountains rises up from the lakeside forming a natural amphitheatre, such that the wind coming from the sea of Galilee could carry the words of Christ to people sitting two or three football fields away. As they listened to Christ, it was the beginning of a new dawn for mankind.

The Beatitudes present a sort of veiled interior biography of Jesus, a kind of portrait of his figure. He who has no place to lay his head is truly poor; he who can say, ‘Come to me for I am meek and lowly in heart’ is truly meek; he is the one who is pure of heart and so unceasingly beholds God. He is the peacemaker; he is the one who suffers for God’s sake. The Beatitudes display the mystery of Christ himself, and they call us into communion with him.”

After the Beatitudes, Jesus compares believers to the salt of the earth and the light of the world. St. John Chrysostom brings out the connection between the two passages as follows: “Those who are meek, modest, and merciful and just, do not keep these virtues for their own profit alone, but pour them out like clear torrents for the benefit of others.

The Beatitudes are a portrait of Jesus.

On the road to the Church of the Beatitudes in Capernaum

Inside the Church of Beatitudes in Caphanaum

Mass at the Church of Beatitudes in Capernaum

We celebrated the Mass on a little canopy outside the gardens in front of the Church of Beatitudes.

Jesus multiplied 5 loaves to feed 5000 people in Capernaum

Tabgha is a zone three kilometers to the west of Capernaum

In Tabgha, we venerated the rock upon which the Lord placed five loaves and two fish, with which he fed the multitudes. Early Christians identified Tabgha as the place where this miracle had been worked and Archaeological work confirmed the accuracy of the tradition that had been handed down, by bringing to light the remains of the altar, the venerable rock which showed that numerous fragments had been removed from it, and a mosaic of a basket of loaves flanked by two fishes.

In the floor a large part of the original mosaic flooring is preserved, with a geometric design in the aisles and nave, and richly figured in the two halves of the transept, showing various kinds of birds and plants found around Lake Gennesaret.

Christ intended to use this Miracle as his opening to initiate his discussion about the True bread of life, pre-figuration of the Eucharist

“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.”

So begins the discourse about the Bread of Life, in which our Lord reveals the mystery of the Eucharist. It is so rich that it is considered “the sum and summary of our Faith.”

 “The sacrament of charity, the Holy Eucharist is the gift that Jesus Christ makes of himself, thus revealing to us God’s infinite love for every man and woman.”

In the Mass, the holy Sacrifice of the Altar, an offering of infinite value, which perpetuates the work of the redemption in us,  Jesus our Lord comes to meet us, becoming really, truly, substantially present: his Body, his Blood, his Soul and his Divinity.

Inside the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves at Capernaum

Church of the Primacy of Peter

Next we went to the spot where Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me?”

“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” …John 21:15

Why did Jesus ask Peter three times “Do you love me?” Catholics believe that that was how he made Peter the prince of the Apostles at Capernaum. The spot where this happened is now a Church called the Church of the primacy of Peter. Behind the Church is the sea of Galilee

Outside the Church of the Primacy of Peter at Capernaum

Inside the Church of the Primacy of Peter at Capernaum

We venerated the rock on which Christian tradition say was the rock on which Jesus place the breakfast before his Apostles. The rock is known as “Mensa Christi” and it was right in front of the alter in the Church of the Primacy of peter

Jesus walked on the of the sea of Galilee Capernaum

Next we went for a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee. It was on this lake that Jesus walked on water.

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.  And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.  But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”… Matthew 14:22-33 Sea of Galilee is also called Lake of Genesaret or Lake Tiberias

Returning from the sea of Galilee in Capernaum





In God’s Land: Lazarus’ Tomb, Mount of Temptation and Masada

8 09 2019

Bethany

We had early breakfast, by 6.30am to be precise, so we can leave on time for Bethany. Bethany is in the Palestinian territory. So we had to take our passports again. As we left the great city of Jerusalem, we began descending into the rift valley towards Bethany, soon on both sides huge expanse of desert and Sand Mountains, the mere sight of which is sufficient to make you thirsty. We could see Bedouins living in tents and very primitive conditions. Soon we caught sight of the Dead Sea

Dead Sea is 80km long and 400 meters, it is considered concentrated salt. What this means is that if you take a cupful of Dead Sea water and put a spoon of salt in and stir, the salt cannot dissolve, because water is already saturated.

 Sodom and Gomorrah is on South end of the Dead Sea. Along the coast of the Dead Sea, we could see Israeli Kibbutz (farming communities) with stretches of green house farms and miles and miles of date palms, a testament to the industrious people who can make even the desert fertile.

Bethany: Church of St. Lazarus

We arrived at the West bank town of al-Eizariya, and drove to the St. Lazarus Catholic Church, built on the home of Maria, Lazarus and Martha. The Lord Jesus Christ came here many times, friends of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

Luke 10:38-42 Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

“Now, as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Entering Church of St. Lazarus in Bethany

During Mass at side chapel beside the St. Lazarus Catholic Church: Bethany

After Mass we entered the main Church to view the interior

Tomb of Lazarus

The Tomb of Lazarus

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have … to Jesus, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died…John 11:21

Climbing a little hill from the St. Lazarus Church is the tomb of Lazarus

And Jesus Wept

Jesus wept where when heard that his friend was dead. Jesus gave life to Lazarus to foreshadow our resurrection. We ask him to give us the love he gave to Lazarus and Mary and Martha

Masada

Fortress of Masada

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!  Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate.” Matthew 23

Jesus left the Temple, and as he was going away his disciples came up to draw his attention to the Temple buildings. He said to them in reply, ‘You see all these? In truth I tell you, not a single stone here will be left on another: everything will be pulled down.’

Matthew 24:2

This prophesy of Christ was fulfilled in the year 70 AD when the city of Jerusalem was completely destroyed and The Temple burnt by the Romans

As the story goes, in 66 Ad there was a great Jewish revolt against the Roman, resulting in the destruction of the city and the temple in 70 Ad by Roman army

After the destruction of Jerusalem, some surviving Jews (about 900 men, women and children) took shelter in Masada, a fortress built by Herod. There spent two years training and arming to defeat Roman but in 72AD, the Roman army laid siege on Masada, breached the walls and entered and found that the 900 Jewish survivors all committed suicide.

“As Judaism prohibits suicide, Josephus, a Jewish historian, who recorded the incident, reported that the defenders had drawn lots and killed each other in turn, down to the last man, who would be the only one to actually take his own life.

 Josephus says that Eleazar ordered his men to destroy everything except the foodstuffs to show that the defenders retained the ability to live, and so had chosen death over slavery.” (Source Wikipedia)

Today, Israel regards Masada as a symbol of courage.

From Bethany, it was a short bus ride to Masada. Below are pictures of us arriving at Masada

The Israelis have built cable cars that take tourist and visitors up the mountain fortress.

We rode a cable car to reach the fortress of Masada

Walking among the ruins of Masada

Qumran

When we left Masada, our next stop was at Qumran

Besides the Dead Sea, Qumran is best known as the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by a young shepherd boy who was looking for one of his sheep that got missing. Reaching one of the caves in the hill, while calling his sheep, he threw stones to check if the cave was flooded. Surprised to hear potteries shattering, he investigated and discovered plenty of clay jars, when he opened one, he saw that they contained ancient manuscripts.

He sold of it to antique dealers and after changing hands several times they reached scholars who could accurately evaluate the age and value of the parchments. Further exploration uncovered a total of 972 texts including the oldest known existing copy of the Old Testament. The texts are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Nabataen. The scrolls are believed to have belonged to the Essenes sect. St. John the Baptist was an Essene

 The Dead Sea Scrolls are 1,200 years B.C. These range from small fragments to a complete scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and every book of the Hebrew Bible except Esther and Nehemiah.

Jericho

Our next stop was in the town of Jericho. It is the oldest city in the world.

The children of Israel where praising the lord and the wall of Jericho came tumbling down… Joshua 6:2-5

Joshua, crossing River Jordan, achieved his first victory at Jericho. The children of Israel blew trumpets, and the walls came down.

Jericho is also the town of Zacchaeus, the tax collector who climbed a Sycamore Tree in other to see Jesus

Jesus said to him, “Zacchaeus’, come down for I shall stay in your house today. “

Most important is that in Jericho, Jesus was tempted by the devil . a mountain approximately 366 metres (1,201 ft) high, towering from the northwest over the town of Jericho in the West Bank .

Mountain of temptation of Jesus

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”…Matthew 4:8, Luke 4:5

Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights praying and fasting, after he was tempted, and the devil came to him and said, if you are the sin of God, order these stones to turn into bread, and Jesus said to him, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God

Standing by the rock on which Jesus was tempted by Satan

Standing by The rock of Temptation( The rock on which Jesus was tempted

River Jordan

Still in Jericho, our next stop was by the river Jordan where John the Baptist Babtized Jesus

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am pleased, listen to him.”….Matthew 3:17

It is also at the Mount Nebo in Jordan, that Moses ascended to heaven, and Elijah ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire.

 Across the river Jordan is the border between Palestinian and Jordan with armed guards








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