Lent III

Lent III
2017 – Cycle A
Exodus 17:3-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5:1-2,5-8; John 4:5-42

What is happening in our society?  Just when you think we have advanced in our relationships between human beings we seem to be taking steps backward; receding in fear and ignorance.

As the issue of racism has raised its ugly head in the past year, so too the swastika has made a reappearance with the rise of Anti – Semitism in our country and  In centuries past Holy Week was a time when Jews were vilified from Christian pulpits using phrases from the most Jewish of the four Gospels, Saint Matthew.  As Pilate washes his hands of the affair, the whole Jewish people are recorded as crying out, “Let his blood be upon us and upon our children.” [Matthew 27:25]  The spark set off – the firestorm of violence by Catholics against Jewish communities burned.  What has set off the reemergence of Anti – Semitism today?  throughout Europe.  As Holy Week approaches will Jews again have to live in fear? We are summoned to witness

  • A mid-January threat to a Jewish community center in Wilmington, Delaware turned out to be a hoax. But the warning was one of at least 100 that Jewish community centers and schools have reported since the beginning of the year.

antisemitism 2

  • On 26 February 2017 100 tomb stones were toppled at Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery in northeastern Philadelphia while days before 150 headstones were toppled at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, Missouri.
  • In March 2017 a professor at the University of Texas, Austin paused during his delivery of a calculus lecture to share “his favorite way they murdered Jews (during the Holocaust).” Other students in the class later attempted to justify his behavior. (9 March 2017)
  • Recently it was related to me that the ugly stereotype of the greedy Jew reared its head in a side comment at an area business in Oneonta.
  • While walking in a mall a student wearing a T-shirt identifying a Jewish fraternity was called a ‘baby-killing Jew’ by another student. A third student admonished his colleague — not for engaging in a hateful verbal attack but because he should ‘not say those things in public”. (9 March 2017)
  • In the last couple of weeks, swastikas have appeared in public places at American University, Washington, DC, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA and the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign. [March 2017]

Why at the beginning of the 21st century, after the horrors of World War II, are people again committing and justifying hatred and bigotry against the Jews?   Have we already forgotten?  Have the stories and lessons of pogroms, ghettos, concentration camps, gas chambers, violence and stereotypes from the Middles Ages through World War II not been passed down?

With the examples from college campuses that should be marked by openness, discovery and inquiry, it is clear that bigotry and prejudice are insidious; ever to burrow into the darkest parts of the human soul.  Are you aware that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 917 active hate groups in the United States; 47 of which are in New York State?  Hate and ignorance are an ever present evil calling for an ever present vigilance to admonish, to teach and to heal generation after generation.

samaritan womanHow well the woman of Samaria was taught her place in the world.  “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” [John 4:9]  She is deficient on two accounts.  She is very conscious that she is a woman and a Samaritan, a religious heretic from a mixed race.  What in the Harry Potter world is called a “half-blood”.  And her lesson has been so well learned that she can only view Jesus in the same light.  He is a man and a Jew, a religious heretic whose race is different.  In her words the Jews are only, “you people”.  They have no identity as she has no name.

“How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” [John 4:9]  Questions can be doors through which people can connect.  It is the ensuing conversation that opens up understanding and acceptance making for a world of difference between the woman and Jesus.  Samaritan and Jew, man and woman interact and reveal the presence of a God who is worshipped not on a particular mountain but in Spirit and truth.

  • What is your attitude toward Jewish people, our spiritual sisters and brothers?
  • Do you and I intentionally or subconsciously continue the stereotypes of Jews masked by humour? Are we silent when such images are voiced by other people?  Have we justified bigoted behavior and language under the guise of freedom of speech?

Holy Week and Passover are approaching.

  • Have you ever attended a synagogue service on the Sabbath or inquired about attending a Passover Seder?
  • With what new understandings might we Christians listen to the Passion stories this Holy Week?

The teaching of the Bishops of the Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and echoed by the Bishops of the United States puts to rest 2,000 years of animosity.

In her rejection of every persecution against any human being, the Church…decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.                                                                 [Nostra Aetate, #4, The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council]

The crimes during the Passion of Christ cannot be attributed indiscriminately to all Jews of that time, nor to Jews today.  The Jewish people should not be referred to as though rejected or cursed, as if this view followed from Scripture.  The Church ever keeps in mind that Jesus, his mother Mary, and the Apostles all were Jewish.  As the Church has always held, Christ freely suffered his passion and death because of the sins of all, that all people might be saved.”                                                                                                [Statement on the Liturgical Proclamation of the Passion,                                                                                     The Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs]

This teaching of the Catholic Church puts to rest 2,000 years of animosity; at least on paper.  But teachings don’t change people’s attitudes and behaviour.  That can only be done by an open heart.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water.”  Is your heart thirsty for truth?

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