I don’t know whether to feel guilty for taking a time out, as it were, from the news, and more importantly, the news about what’s happening in Gaza, being mindful of the number of deaths, and grieving in a distant, disconnected way over the innocents killed. The Palestinians around me get on with their lives, I mean what choice do they have, depending upon their age, they’ve lived with this for 76 years. They stay informed of course at one level of consciousness, then continue on with their work or studies or parenting. When you’re helpless, you listen for news to which one cannot respond.
So I walked to Shepherd’s field, just a few blocks from where I stay. I wandered around, seeing the caves which may have been home to those shepherds – caves which were common dwellings (no doubt also for Jesus in Nazareth). The contrast between how they lived – humble does not sum it up – and what they experienced, is intended to be incredible, as Luke seemed to say that God’s glory is and will be experienced by the most marginalised of God’s people. There are remnants of churches in the caves and above them – 4th 5th 6th C, and some used for contemporary pilgrims.
My time out today was sitting by the only hotel pool in town and so I was joined by 100+ kids (today is the Muslim day of rest). Don’t bother trying to swim a lap! So I read from the desert fathers, hermits who wrote their reflections about getting close to God, in the 4th – 7th C. At one point their were tens of thousands of them in Palestine, Syria and Egypt, getting away, stripped of possession and becoming “naked in the world, for Jesus, who was naked”. They dramatically influenced the subsequent monastic life throughout Europe and the Middle East. The irony of reading the desert fathers next to the pool was not lost on me. An awareness I had from their words was how I find comfort in food and productivity, how they are more a priority over seeking intimacy with Christ. Perhaps those fasting now during Ramadan also speak to me.