In January of 2020, I visited Israel-Palestine with a cohort of faculty and staff from Georgetown University as part of an interfaith pilgrimage. One of the last stops on our trip was a stone-strewn beach along the Sea of Galilee, next to a church built in honor of St. Peter, who is highlighted in today’s readings. It marks the place where Jesus called Peter to “tend his sheep” after the resurrection.
As our group ambled toward the water, basalt rocks crunched under foot and the sun peeked through the rain clouds. Together on the beach, we—Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Protestants, and non-affiliated believers—prayed, laughed, collected shells, and waded into the water, a moment of joy and hope as we neared the end of our journey. For the previous week, we had visited inspiring religious sites but also been witnesses to the grave suffering that has plagued so many in that land. We saw firsthand the ways that Palestinians, living under Israeli control in the West Bank, face persistent injustices—inability to travel freely or find jobs, confiscation of homes, humiliation at checkpoints, arbitrary arrests and killings. We listened to Israeli and Palestinian parents whose children were murdered in the cycle of violence. And we met with ordinary Jews, Christians, and Muslims who are pushing for peace, dignity, and equality.
My memories of the pilgrimage, like today’s readings, prompt me to ponder these questions: What hidden sufferings does Christ want me to be a witness to? Who makes up the flock that I am called to tend? How can I better accompany those who live in the land where Jesus and Peter walked, and those beyond my own Catholic community? This Lent, I pray that bonds of interreligious solidarity are strengthened, that that justice takes root in the land that is holy to so many of us.
- What suffering are you called to witness? How are you being called to respond?
- How can you better accompany and stand with those whose experiences differ from yours, particularly those impacted by injustice?
Jordan Denari Duffner is an author and scholar of Muslim-Christian relations. Her books are Islamophobia: What Christians Should Know (and Do) about Anti-Muslim Discrimination (spring 2021) and Finding Jesus among Muslims: How Loving Islam Makes Me a Better Catholic(2017). Dedicated to public theology, religious literacy, and combatting religious discrimination, Jordan is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Georgetown University, and is a former recipient of a Fulbright research grant in Amman, Jordan.