Guest Editorial: Hans Gruber, Jerusalem Archaeological Task Force
Jerusalem, Outremer - Now that the Holy Father has returned to Rome, the thoughts of the faithful turn to the next big thing on the agenda, of course, I mean the Synod on the Family.
Certainly a lot of conjecture has arisen as to what this event might bring about in the life of the Church. Will it undermine age-old Catholic teaching about the inviolability of the sacrament of marriage? Will it help to get people back into the Church? What will it say about contraception, homosexuality?
Life in the Church is never boring, and nothing illustrates this better than a jaunt through the pages of history. Whether we are talking about the drama of Henry VIII's divorce to Catherine of Aragon, the Nazi and communist threats to the Church, Vikings, Huns or the persecution of Roman Emperors, Church history has been a two-thousand year tale of crisis after crisis.
This was all anticipated in the Gospel, of course. The Gospel of John especially reinforces the fact that Christ bid His disciples to have His peace within themselves, because the world would not give them peace. Indeed, the Book of Acts illustrates in summary the kinds of crises that would beset the Church throughout the centuries. It is therefore a mine of inspiration for how to deal with difficulties. And yet, archaeology has itself also unearthed some golden spiritual nuggets for us.
A few years ago I oversaw the excavation of the Upper Room: yes, the place where the Last Supper was held that first Holy Thursday. One of the most fascinating finds consisted in some notes that were exchanged between the Apostles Thomas and James the Lesser. Evidently, they had been seated next to each other during the meal and were doing what millions of students have done over the years: passed notes back and forth to each other while Jesus was talking.
I have translated a part of it here:
James: I am totally dreading the part where Jesus gives us His blood to drink. I mean, ew!
Thomas: Show some respect! It's a metaphor - I assume.
James: So many cups.
Thomas: And it's Judas' turn to wash the dishes. But look: guess who has to suddenly go somewhere - Judas! Surprise, surprise.
James: He takes that money sack everywhere.
Thomas: I know, right? Does he also sleep with it?
Thomas: But Jesus does seem to be playing fast-and-loose with the Passover, doesn't He? I mean, where's the lamb even? I was totally looking forward to bitter herbs tonight.
James: Also a metaphor?
Thomas: No offence, but does He have the authority to make these changes?
James: It's all these liberal apostles He appointed from the Decapolis. But even still we do have to have faith that God is in charge, right?
Thomas: He writes straight with crooked lines, they say.
Thomas: Oh man, Jesus is totally looking at us! I forgot He can read our thoughts. Remember when Nathaniel was under the fig tree? Total burn.*
(* Copyright 2015, Jerusalem Archaeological Task Force)
So you see, even back then believers worried about innovations. This is a great lesson for us to think about this October. We have to have faith that no matter what, God is in charge, even when it doesn't look like it.