Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land - 06/03/2000 info:
Mount Nebo

There are some places in the world that can never be forgotten even if they have been seen only once. Mount Nebo in Jordan is one of those places. The panoramic view one enjoys from its summit shows you in a single glance the promised land. The Byzantines were impressed by the charm of the place and built a church and a monastery to commemorate Moses whose death is associated with the site.

It is not difficult to imagine the emotions of Moses arriving at the top of this mountain after fourty years of wandering in the desert. Here was the land which had been the object of many struggles and of many hopes. The oasis of Jericho one discovers from the top of Mount Nebo is magical. Water gushes in the desert and makes the desert green. A new world starts and the time of the desert finishes. What a surprise!

But the real surprise starts when God speaks to Moses on top of the Mountain: "You are not going to cross the Jordan. It is Joshua who will pass before you". These words had the effects of a ice shower in midst of the desert. During fourty years Moses nurtured the hope of entering the promised land. And now the boundaries of that land were close in front of him. During fourty years Moses suffered from the murmuring of this rebellious people. He endured not only the heat of the desert, but also all kind of distress. When they left Egypt Amalek attacked them. Moses had to climb the mountain and prayed with his arms stretched. As long as his arms were stretched out the victory was assured. His entire life was a struggle.

Overcoming the pain which choked his heart Moses started to sing: "God is a rock. His works are perfect. He is faithful and without iniquity. He is just. The people have sinned" (Dt 31).A last purification of memory was necessary before committing the law to the priests.

Pope John Paul II wanted to start his pastoral visit to the Holy Land on Mount Nebo. He wants to present to believers the figure of Moses. The Church started in fact in the desert. The Old and New Testament are two elements of the same revelation: "The law was given through Moses, Truth and grace were given through Jesus", affirms John in the Prologue of his Gospel. From time to time the Church must return to the desert to listen to the voice of God. At the beginning there was silence. From that silence the word of God came out: Hear, o Israel. God created man and woman as living words. But sin made this word mad. To give back the word to God in a song after the hard time of the desert that is the message of Moses to Israel. That is also the message of John Paul II to the Christian world.

Moses guided Israel for fourty years. John Paul II guided the Church of Jesus-Joshua more then twenty years. Moses was criticized and put to test. John Paul II was criticized too. But in the desert criticism seems ridiculous.

For Moses the desert became the place of the Presence of God. For John Paul II solitude borne with a lot of patience becomes a way of transfiguration. In his letter to the elderly John Paul II quotes Moses whose shining face inspired many artists.

Every life means passing through of a desert. The aim of life is clear: the promised land. But the ways are often indirect. Difficulties are not lacking. The one necessary thing is to continue journeying even if there are problems. Every life means a choice. And one dies as he lived. Every one murmurs and is punished by the serpents God sends. But God gave the order to Moses: Take a serpent and place it on a staff. Those who will look at the serpent shall be healed. The Gospel of God adds: Like Moses elevated the serpent, the Son of Man must be elevated.

Jewish tradition places the gift of the land in relation with the gesture of hospitality of Abraham who invited three unknown men. He offered them water, bread and asked this slave to prepare a calf for them. Because Abraham offered them water God gave to his posterity a land where water runs. Because Abraham offered them bread God gave the manna in the desert to his descendants. Because he offered them meat, God send the birds in the desert. No gesture made with love shall be without his reward.

"The Life of the Christian is a pilgrimage to the house of the Father. Every day we discover his unconditional love, the love he offers to every human creature" (John Paul II).

Frédéric Manns

Created / Updated Monday, March 06, 2000 at 11:56:29