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A Meeting In Bethlehem

My friend, the artist, Dennis Creffield The photograph was taken by Dennis at Peterborough Cathedral in 1990

My friend, the artist, Dennis Creffield
The photograph was taken by Dennis at
Peterborough Cathedral in 1990

One cold, rainy, gusty February morning, a “cheroot”, call it a jitney cab, took me the five mile trip from Jerusalem to about a mile from Bethlehem.  The cost, two shekels, about 75 cents back then.  A “cheroot” picks up people along the road.

After an exhausting hike up a steep road, dodging heavy traffic, I arrived at the Church of the Nativity for my 9:30am Mass in its Grotto.  Most scholars agree that Mary gave birth to the Messiah close to this location.  My celebration of Mass, one of the Christmas Day Masses, lifted my spirits and helped me forget the cold, penetrating dampness.

After Mass, I gave an offering for a handful of slim, wax tapers to light at the Grotto, reached by descending a flight of stone steps.  A man, next to me, a complete stranger, asked me where to obtain the candles.  I offered him half of what I had.  He took the seven tapers and said, “How much?”  I shook my head, indicating, “no charge” and gave no further thought to the incident.

That night, to my surprise, this “stranger” sat across the table from me in our Franciscan Hospice in Jerusalem.  In the following days, Dennis Creffield, the stranger’s name, joined our little group, as I offered Mass at the Holy Places in and around the Holy City.  None of us knew each other a few days before this.

Dennis turned out to be a top flight artist from London, England.  Distraught with life, he had come to the Holy Land to find some peace of heart.  On my departure day, he gave me a copy of his latest book entitled, “English Cathedrals”, I suppose, in thanks for the little tapers I gave him in Bethlehem.  The book was commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain and contains his charcoal drawings of all 23 medieval Cathedrals in England.

As we invest in the welfare of others, even complete strangers, we never know what the outcome will be.  Jesus, on the back of a donkey, rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  He was investing Himself in each one of us, strangers, not yet born.

What will our return be to Him for His grand act of unselfishness?  Will we, as Dennis did to me, surprise Christ with a total giving of ourselves to His Honor and Glory?

Fr. George Mc Kenna

February 28, 2015 Posted by | Bulletins | , , , | 3 Comments