2017 – Cycle A
1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41
Last week I spoke about the reemergence of Anti – Semitism in our country. Is Anti – Semitism a part of the general rise of intolerance toward religion?
Events of the past decades have brought Islam on the radar of the West. A new vocabulary has become part of our lexicon: jihad, fatwa, hajj, ayatollah, caliphate, burka, sharia, Sunni, hijab, and Shia. Do you know much else about Islam? Is not ignorance the seed bed of intolerance?
In conjunction, we have experienced the consequences of some forms of a deformed Islam. And let us not forget our own Christian self-deforming: the 16th century wars of religion, the Crusades, the support of slavery, the Inquisition and the pogroms against the Jews at various times throughout our history down to the Christian roots and symbols of contemporary hate groups. The present day deforming of Islam has resulted in Al Qaeda and its terror attacks, the rise of ISIS, the devastation of Syria and Iraq, the attack on the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo over a caricature of the prophet Mohammad, the refugee crisis, the controversy over the public veiling of women in some European countries, and the terror attacks on Brussels, Paris, New York, London, Berlin. Fueled by fear and anxiety that has been exploited by some leaders, Islam has been given a very ominous face. Judaism and Christianity, particularly Catholicism, have known the experience in the past and present.
But is this the truth?
Last week I related that 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.
But there is another part of the story that appeared in the media. But was it noted and celebrated?
The two attacks on Jewish cemeteries in Missouri and Philadelphia have resulted in an outpouring of more than $136,000 in donations from thousands of Muslims and others, who have also pledged to financially support Jewish institutions if there are further attacks.
Did you know that in 2011, after attacks on Coptic Orthodox Christian Churches, Muslims turned up in droves offering their bodies and lives as “shields” to protect Egypt’s threatened Christian community? Muslims surrounded Coptic Churches so they could celebrate in security Christmas liturgies.
Did you know that Muslim farmers in a village near the city of Gojra in Pakistan’s Punjab province are putting their savings together and helping build a church for the Christians of their neighborhood or that in the African state of Cameroon Muslims and Christians are protecting each other against savage attacks by Boko Haram?
This is the truth of Islam rooted in the care and dignity of the human being. Do you believe these good actions about Muslim people? Do they begin to make a difference in your perceptions of Islam? Winston Churchill said that “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” In our digital world lies, half-truths, perceptions, move even faster. And perceptions, once spoken and heard, or appearing in text messaging and on Facebook are most difficult if not impossible to wash from our minds.
Have you ever had the experience of no one believing you? Have you ever with another person tried correcting a lie or misconception about yourself?
Did you not feel the frustration of the man who had been born blind? The man’s neighbors don’t believe him. The Pharisees reject his truth because he was healed on a Sabbath. Out of fear, his own parents do not support their son and as the Pharisees continue in their rejection they make presumptions of the healer whom no one knows. “I told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again?” Is the man’s frustration not palpable? And not one person rejoices in the truth that the man, for the first time in his life, can physically see. But few now believe that he was blind from birth or blind at all. Does anyone rejoice in the goodness of Islam, of Judaism, of Christianity? It is easier to talk and believe about terrorism, hate, sexual scandals, and greed.
The deepest and darkest blindness is that which is self-imposed by us when presented with the truth. Why are lies and half-truths easier to believe? Why do we prefer to believe the worst about people?
This is a blindness that not even Jesus, the light of the world, can pierce. In the baptismal liturgy, the newly baptized are presented the Paschal Candle with the words: “Receive the light of Christ.” The light of Jesus can only be received not imposed. Light produces goodness, what is pleasing to God and truth.
“I told you already and you did not listen.”
How do you respond when presented with truth?