The Gate of Heaven
Even upon the servants and the handmaids, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
And I will work wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke; The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, at the coming of the Day of the LORD, the great and terrible day.
Then everyone shall be rescued who calls on the name of the LORD; For on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, as the LORD has said, and in Jerusalem survivors whom the LORD shall call. (Joel chapter 3)
Last week I attended a very special Mass celebrated by His Beatitude, Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jersualem at the Abbey of Latroun in the Judean hill country to the east of Jerusalem. This Mass was being said for Philippo, a young Italian man from Siena who had been called by the Lord Jesus to come to the Holy Land to live the life of a hermit in the countryside of Israel and to offer his life of solitary abandonment to the love of the Lord and to enter into deep prayer for the conversion of all the peoples to the Messiah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. I witnessed Philippo make his first vows to Jesus in this solemn ceremony of “Profession Eremetique Temporaire” to pledge to be faithful to this arduous calling. I wept during the Mass when I saw his parents who had traveled from Siena deep in prayer generously offer up their son to the service of their Lord. I thought of the extraordinary sacrifice of their lives that Philippo and his parents were making in order to bring many lost souls to Jesus that they may gain salvation and be with the Lord for all eternity in the boundless joy, peace and love of His Heavenly Kingdom far removed from the wilderness and desert of this earthly life. Over the years selected souls have been called from across the world by the Lord to Israel for this purpose and like Philippo, through prayer and sacrifice are being prepared by Jesus for the great harvest of souls that the Lord hungers for.
At the sight of the crowds, His heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest.” (Matthew 8:35-38)
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom He sent ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place He intended to visit.
He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the Master of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest.
Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves…
Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’
If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you….
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you…say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you’. Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you go out into the streets and say,
‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand.
I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum, ‘Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld.'”
Whoever listens to you listens to Me. Whoever rejects you rejects Me. And whoever rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
(Luke 10: 1-16)
The Lord has been bringing these chosen souls – His faithful workers – across my path and into my life during the three years I too have been laboring in the “soul fields” of Israel. Priests and nuns and laypersons from many nations, and even the Italian hermit, have been called to Israel to pray for conversions, preach repentance from sin and turn the hearts of the peoples here in this land to the Lord and His gift of salvation in Jesus Christ in what is still the time of Divine Mercy. (For a comprehensive understanding of these “present times” in which the Church and the world are living please see http://www.markmallett.com/blog/).
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Oh, that today you would hear His voice,
‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion in the day of testing in the desert,
where your ancestors tested and tried Me and saw my works
for forty years. Because of this I was provoked with that generation and I said, “They have always been of erring heart, and they do not know My ways.”
As I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter into My rest.”
Take care, brothers, that none of you may have an evil and unfaithful heart, so as to forsake the living God.
Encourage yourselves daily while it is still “today,” so that none of you may grow hardened by the deceit of sin.
We have become partners of Christ if only we hold the beginning of the reality firm until the end,
for it is said: “Oh, that today you would hear His voice: ‘Harden not your hearts as at the rebellion.'”
Who were those who rebelled when they heard? Was it not all those who came out of Egypt under Moses?
With whom was He “provoked for forty years”? Was it not those who had sinned, whose corpses fell in the desert?
And to whom did He “swear that they should not enter into His rest,” if not to those who were disobedient?
And we see that they could not enter for lack of faith.
(Hebrews 3: 7-19)
For He says, “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.”
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2nd Corinthians 6: 2)
One day, I went up to Jerusalem to meet one of these laborers for the Lord, a holy lady from Mexico who was called by Jesus fifteen years ago to leave everything and follow Him here to work in the Holy Land for the salvation of souls. I arrived an hour early for our meeting on the Mount of Olives, having driven up to Jerusalem from the coastal town where I live. We were to meet at the Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane and to attend Holy Mass together. This large basilica church was built over the Rock of Agony, where Jesus in fervent prayer to God the Father sweat blood before His betrayal by Judas on the night before His crucifixion. As this is one of Christianity holiest shrines, there are always many pilgrims inside the church. It can be very crowded with tour groups and quite difficult to pray due to distractions caused by the people moving around and the flashes from their many cameras.
Therefore, I decided to park higher up on the Mount of Olives above the Gethsemane church and look for a place of solitude to pray until my fellow laborer for souls arrived. I spotted a tall church bell tower in the distance and headed for the grounds of this convent believing that perhaps I could enter and pray in their chapel. I had never visited this particular place before and did not know the history of why it was built on that spot or who resided there. I entered a side street and found the large entrance door to the church and convent grounds. It was closed and locked. I noticed a bell and rang it. A small Arab man answered the door. I greeted him in my poor Arabic and then asked if he spoke English. He confirmed that he did. I inquired as to what shrine it is. and he informed me that I had come to the Russian Orthodox Convent of the Ascension where about 60 nuns lived and prayed and worked. Most were quite elderly he told me. The convent grounds were quite large and were situated on the heights of the Mount of Olives within an Arab Muslim neighborhood called A-Tur. “At-Tur”, or “Et-Tur” in Arabic means, “The Mount.” This village is also called “Tur-Malka” which means The Mount of the Queen, based on the Hebrew word Malka which means Queen.
According to the Russian Orthodox tradition, this sacred site is where Jesus while being observed by his apostles and disciples and His Mother Mary ascended to heaven 40 days after His resurrection . This site is also where the head of St John the Baptist was buried after his beheading by King Herod Antipas in the king’s dungeon. The head of St John the Baptist was found in the 4th Century in a jar hidden in the chapel adjacent to the church. A metal cage inside the chapel marks the site of the hidden head. Inside the cage is a painting illustrating the event of the finding of the buried head. This happened in 452 AD when two monks found the site after St John appeared to them in a dream, and directed them to the cavity where the head lay buried.
St John the Baptist is a pivotal and important figure in Christianity as he was the prophesied “forerunner” of Christ, proclaiming the Advent or First Coming of the Messiah whom he identified as Jesus at His baptism, calling Him the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. The long-awaited Redeemer and Savior for whom Israel had been yearning had appeared. Even John’s name revealed God’s merciful plan to save mankind from their sins through Jesus Christ.
John in Hebrew is “Yochanan”, which means: Yo (God) + Chanan (Pardoned). Thus the name John in Hebrew means “God has pardoned”. And Jesus, whose Name in Hebrew: Yeshua or Yashua means salvation, deliverance, Yahweh is salvation.
Here I had been led by the Lord’s providence to pray in solitude for the conversion of Jerusalem and all Israel at the place where Jesus ascended into heaven after His resurrection to “sit at the right hand of the Father”, and “from where He will come again to judge the living and the dead” on that great and terrible Day of the Lord. I also could not help but make the connection that I had been guided here purposely by Jesus as one of His faithful disciples – one of His laborers for the souls of the 21st century – and that I, with Philippo, and the Mexican lady and all these Russian nuns, and all the others whom the Lord has called here to the Holy Land to pray and sacrifice and witness Jesus’ saving love and truth were preparing the hearts of these lost sheep for Christ’s second coming just as St John the Baptist as a “voice crying in the wilderness” heralded the first coming of the Messiah.
Josef, the Arab doorman to the convent led me through the sacred grounds and brought me to the Chapel of the Ascension. There, all alone except for solitary silent nun writing in an old book under the stained glass window, I prayed before the cavity where the head of St. John the Baptist was found, for the conversion of all the inhabitants of Israel, secular unbelievers, Jews, Muslims, Bahia’s, Druze, Cercassians and all other peoples, nations, tribes and tongues living in the Land.
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind could blow on land or sea or against any tree.
Then I saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the Israelites…
After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”
All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God,
and exclaimed: “Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
“For this reason they stand before God’s throne and worship him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.
They will not hunger or thirst anymore, nor will the sun or any heat strike them.
For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Book of Revelation Chapter 9)
Josef left me for an hour and returned to escort me out. As we walked toward the big door Josef surprised me when he said, “You know, I too am a Christian. I was a Muslim, but now I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. May I tell you how this happened?” I responded that certainly I would delight to hear his testimony! We sat on the bench near the door and Josef began to tell me how he had turned his heart to the Savior of all humanity, Jesus the Christ and been converted. He was married and had children. He lived right there on the Mount of Olives in the village of At-Tur. Some years before, Josef’s infant daughter had become sick and they had taken her to the Augusta Victoria Hospital which is located on the north side of the Mount of Olives. Josef’s baby had spent several days in the hospital under the excellent care of the doctors at Augusta Victoria. Each day Josef went to the hospital to be with his little baby girl and the doctors encouraged him that she would be fine. On the seventh night of her stay in the hospital Josef woke a little past midnight having had a mysterious and terrifying dream. Josef explained that in his night vision he saw his little infant daughter in a glorified state at the top of a long ladder with tears rolling down her cheeks with her little arms outstretched towards Josef who was at the bottom of the ladder looking up at her. He knew she was in heaven by the light emanating from her face and body. She beckoned Josef towards her in heaven by waving her little hand to him. Beside his baby daughter at the top of the ladder was Someone whom Josef did not know. He sensed He was mighty and majestic and that all heaven must belong to Him. Josef ‘s baby girl was with Him there.
When he came upon a certain shrine, as the sun had already set, he stopped there for the night. Taking one of the stones at the shrine, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep at that spot.
Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s messengers were going up and down on it.
And there was the LORD standing beside him and saying: “I, the LORD, am the God of your forefather Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you are lying I will give to you and your descendants.
These shall be as plentiful as the dust of the earth, and through them you shall spread out east and west, north and south. In you and your descendants all the nations of the earth shall find blessing.
Know that I am with you; I will protect you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land. I will never leave you until I have done what I promised you.”
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, “Truly, the LORD is in this spot, although I did not know it!”
In solemn wonder he cried out: “How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!” (Genesis Chapter 28: 12-22)
Josef awoke from his dream and a few moments afterwards Josef heard the phone ringing. It was the hospital calling him to come quickly. When Josef arrived at the hospital his baby daughter had died.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the Shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for Him, and the sheep hear His voice, as He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.
When He has driven out all his own, He walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow Him, because they recognize his voice…
I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear My voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd…
How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to Me.
But you do not believe, because you are not among My sheep.
My sheep hear My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
(Gospel of John 10:7-10)
Josef told me that soon after the death of his baby daughter a Christian missionary approached him and shared with him Jesus’ words from the Gospel of John. Josef recognized immediately in those words the voice of the Great Shepherd of the sheep whom he had “seen” at the top of the ladder at the gate of heaven standing beside his own baby daughter who was clothed in light. Immediately, Josef gave his life to Jesus Christ and began to follow the Good Shepherd for the reward of eternal salvation at the cost of losing everything he had on earth. His wife left him and took their other children away from him. He was rejected by his Muslim family, neighbors and village folk in At-Tur.
He lost his livelihood and he became destitute. After nearly two years as a vagabond, a homeless, poor wanderer on earth yet blessed with a heavenly hope and the gift of faith in Jesus, his Messiah, his Savior, Josef was taken in by the old nuns at the Russian Orthodox Convent and he served them as their doorman. Today, Josef, one of the Lord’s precious laborers of souls in His harvest field of Israel, witnesses his faith in Jesus to any and all at prayer meetings and in the alleys and backstreets of At-Tur. Right there on the sacred Mount of Olives where Jesus– the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world – ascended into Heaven to sit on the Throne of the universe at the right hand of His Father, Muslims and many others are coming to know their mighty Savior, their merciful Lord and are turning their hearts to the Good Shepherd of their souls who calls their names and marks their foreheads, sealing them for eternal life in Him.