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Vocations “come and follow me”

“The glory of the Lord shone around them”

“Every time God approaches man, man goes back into his bubble because he is afraid,” Br. Emad Kamel, head of youth ministry for the Custody of the Holy Land, told the 80 participants . “And each time,” he continued, “God tells him, ‘Do not be afraid.’ We all want to do great things, but what is Jesus’ place in our lives?”
The Advent meeting for Franciscan Youth in Bethlehem brought together young people from Galilee, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Its theme was “Shepherds of Bethlehem” and at the heart of the meeting was the theme of humility. The day began at Azione Cattolica in Bethlehem, and then continued at the Basilica of the Nativity with a moment of prayer at the grotto, and ended with a pilgrimage and a mass at the shepherds’ field in Beit Sahour.
“The youth of the Holy Land are very important to us,” said Emad. “We are dedicating special efforts to them because they are the future of the Holy Land. Yes, we are putting a lot of work into [serving] them and even more love because we want to follow Jesus Christ together, [and] we want to be close to him at a time when we are constantly drawn by the material world.”
He stressed that the importance of this meeting is firstly to prepare their hearts to meet Jesus. The real meeting has nothing to do with gifts, beautiful clothes or holiday lights. In simplicity, “let him be in our hearts, let him be born in our lives. We hope that this meeting, with its silence and prayer will be an opportunity for everyone to be touched by God’s word,” he said.
The shepherds of Bethlehem were marginalized by society, but they were the first ones to receive the Revelation. The message is clear: no one is at the margins of the plan of salvation.
“The shepherds are synonymous with humility, just like the birth of Christ. God’s humility that becomes flesh could not have happened through any response other than man’s humility, as Mary sang, ‘He looked upon his humble servant,’” said Br. Emad. With the humility of St. Joseph, who, going against to the logic of the world, stayed with Mary, accepted God’s will and followed it. Thus, nobody can celebrate Christmas far from the grace of humility and no one can accept the God’s presence in their lives if they do not respond to God humbly. We are called to simplicity and humility because we always need God’s grace and His presence with us.”
“It's a day of renewal for our faith,” said Nicola Handal, “Bethlehem is like hitting F5 on a keyboard;it's refreshing the page. We will not let the political situation prevent us from celebrating Christ’s birth. As Palestinian Christians, we try to live our lives normally in an abnormal situation, and we resist in our own way: through prayer, our presence, our education and our daily work.”



“The liturgical time of the Church helps get much closer to God,” said Vicky Giacaman, the religious education coordinator. “It is also our goal to bring young people closer to God. It is important for them as well, because in their daily lives they do not spend any or a lot of time with God, but they are [spiritually] thirsty and they look forward to these spiritual meetings; they are as impatient as red embers.” Particular attention is paid to youth being able to express themselves and listen to others, so that they can return home with spiritual nourishment that gives them things on which to meditate and renew themselves. “I pray for peace for the Holy Land, and especially during this particularly difficult time, we must keep hope because the birth of Jesus Christ, despite all the hardships, also represents joy. The pilgrims of the world should not be afraid to come to the Holy Land, but we especially ask them to pray for us so that we can face this situation with courage and faith.

Nizar Halloun

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