Can we watch an hour? Help preserve the holy places Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Apr. 17, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

It always makes me sad to read the Scripture passages telling how the apostles fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane just before Jesus’ arrest — not only once, but three times!

Jesus says to them, “Could you not watch one hour with me” (Mt. 26:40)? It doesn’t seem like much to ask of his disciples — who had traveled with him and were the primary teachers of his message — to stay awake by his side. However, the apostles were human. Jesus recognized their humanity when he added, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Unfortunately many of us aren’t always being vigilant about what is happening around us, especially when it comes to things that are impacting our faith and our Church.

Preserving the holy places

As we follow the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus during Holy Week and Easter, we are reminded of those places where Jesus lived on earth. Those places still exist in what we now call the Holy Land.

Throughout the centuries since Jesus walked on the face of the earth, those holy places have been preserved, often amid many challenges. They include:

• A basilica in Nazareth which stands over the cave where the Annunciation of the angel proclaimed the Good News that Mary was with child.

• In Cana, there is a church where tradition holds that Jesus worked his first miracle.

• Shrines and holy places commemorate the Sermon on the Mount, welcoming pilgrims and those on spiritual retreat.

• The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, originally built by the Emperor Constantine, encapsulates what tradition holds is the place of Calvary and the tomb where Jesus was laid before his Resurrection.

Good Friday collection

All these sacred places continue to exist primarily through the work of the Franciscans of the Holy Land with funds from the annual Good Friday collection taken in Catholic parishes throughout the world. This is the only collection to be taken on Good Friday.

Besides supporting sacred places, this collection helps fund Christian ministries, including schools, homes for the elderly, and over 29 active parishes.

The Good Friday collection is important because it gives every Catholic a chance to invest in the future of Christianity in the Holy Land. We may not be able to give an hour, but we can give what we earn in an hour at work — or even more.

As Pope Francis prepares to visit the Holy Land in May, he said that his  “thoughts turn in a special way to the Holy Land where Christ lived, died, and rose again . . . Every Catholic therefore owes a debt of thanks to the churches that live in that region.”

Jesus asked the apostles to stay awake for an hour. Today, I’m sure he would ask us to stay alert to the needs of Christians in the Holy Land, who now comprise less than three percent of the population there.

Please contribute to the Good Friday collection in your parish on Friday, April 18.