Franciscan Father Fergus Clarke greets our small group at his community’s residence on Mt. Nebo, a site sacred to three major religions and more than half the earth’s population.
He’s dressed in his brown robe, some shockingly cool-looking sunglasses, and a radiant smile. “Welcome to Mt. Nebo,” he says in an Irish lilt that evokes green valleys while we look at miles of dry and desert vistas. “Would you like to see our turtles?”
Sure enough, the three friars who minister here have constructed a habitat for an undetermined number of spry turtles. While not what I expected, it was just one of many surprises in our visit.
We had Mass at the friars’ small chapel, which couldn’t fit more than 20 people. Though it was late in the day and close to the site’s closing time Father Fergus graciously fit us into his schedule, presiding with a contagious degree of attention and fervor. The readings were predictable—Moses at Mt. Nebo, getting a tour of the Holy Land his people would soon inhabit, and the Gospel of John: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his Son, that whoever should believe in him might not perish, but might have eternal life.” But the homily (necessarily short, as Father unnecessarily apologized, was not).
“We cannot always like everyone; and everyone cannot always like us. It’s impossible. So what do you do?”
You look at the sign of the cross, that impossible-to-ignore evidence that everyone—even the person you don’t like, even the person that doesn’t like you, is a child of God, an immortal soul destined for glory and bought at a great price. Every person, yes even that person, has inexpressible value to God. Every person is someone for whom Christ himself did not hesitate to die. Every person. Even that person. Even you.