The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2017 – Cycle A
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Psalm 67; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28
Why do people hate other people or groups of people?
Have you ever hated anyone? I do not mean dislike, been rubbed the wrong way, or had a bad first impression. What I mean, have you experienced the visceral, primitive, gut feeling that another person or group of people does not have dignity or worth and should be excluded, if not killed?
The defeat of the German Third Reich in World War II did not bring an end to Nazism. Nazism, and related racial and hate groups, is a set of values. Ideas never go away, they just go underground and wait. Charlottesville, Virginia was just an opportunity for the flaming red, seven-headed dragon which we heard about on the Feast of the Assumption to rise up. A dragon prepared to devour life. And it did.
Did we ever think we would see swastikas brandished so publicly in our country? We knew they were there. We’ve all seen the pictures of Ku Klux Klan rallies and crosses being burned. Did you ever consider how ironic it is that the Klan uses the symbol of the cross, the symbol of Christian belief in redemption and salvation for the world as a central symbol for hate?
How did you feel when we heard the angry chanting of “Jews will never replace us”?
How did you feel when you saw or heard that a person deliberately drive a vehicle into a crowd of human beings? This is not Nice or Paris, London or Barcelona. Hated has not boundaries.
What is at the heart of hatred? What is the ground in which hatred can take root? Is it not fear and ignorance? Ignorance and fear of the unknown, “the other”, the person different from us. Fear and ignorance which birth hatred cuts across religions, races, and economic and educational status. Any person with the right mixture in their heart can and does hate. In the light of Charlottesville, how opportune then that the biblical passages today just happen to center on the foreigner. Through the prophet Isaiah God says: “The foreigner who joins themselves to the Lord…I will bring to my holy mountain…their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar.”
Jesus purposefully travels into foreign territory beyond the Kingdom of Israel into the district of Tyre and Sidon, and encounters a Canaanite woman, a foreigner; a person who believes differently from him; a person who is not of his tribe. Conversely, did you ever consider that the woman experienced Jesus as the foreigner, as the person to be feared?
Seemingly God is open to foreigners, celebrates the differences among his children. Why are we so afraid of each other?
The history of the Civil War in our national psyche and the place of Confederate flags and statues of Confederate leaders and soldiers in public must be left to a dialogue within our nation. What must not be avoided in the conversation is that there is still a division between the North and the South, a continued divide between people of differing races, and the presence of the unspoken issue of slavery, the selling and buying of human beings which underlies so much of our national history and that of our Catholic Church. Human trafficking for sex and labour is prevalent throughout our world in the 21st century. Is not prostitution and child labour a form of buying and selling humans? Again as I have often mentioned, it is children and women who bear the brunt of this heavy burden. This should cause men to particularly reflect on our attitudes toward women, sex, and children, on what we purchase and on our privileged position in society.
At the peace rally in Charlottesville on Wednesday night, a person said that this was a new beginning. They were wrong. There is no new beginning. There is only constant vigilance. The dragon will always be laying low and waiting.
How do we confront the dragon without and within us?
- We need to reflect on our own prejudices. We need to be honest with our self. Seniors, what prejudices might you still harbor that go back 70, 80, 90 years from when you were brought up? Ideas die hard. What do you and I really think about people who are Jewish and Muslim, gay and transgendered, black and all the various shades of skin colour reflected in the human race? Whom do you fear and why? Do we have friends, family members, neighbors and co-workers who are of other religions, races and sexual orientations? What is our attitude toward them? Does anyone among us believe that they are superior to other people due to their race? Heather Heyer broke off a relationship with a man she was dating who demeaned that fact that she worked for a black man. What would your response be?
- Support groups such as The Southern Poverty Law Center, an American nonprofit legal advocacy organization which monitors extremist groups in our country and through litigation and educational programs seeks to teach and promote tolerance between human beings. [There are 917 separate hate groups in the United States.]
- Parents, do not shield your children from what is going on, especially your pre-teens, adolescents and college students. Because of social media they are probably more aware of what is going on than we realize. Watch the news together and discuss what is happening. Listen to their experiences and feelings. Here is an opportunity for you to act in your role as teacher to your children of Christian values in their most formative years. Nazism is a set of values; so is Christianity.
- Avoid shouting matches. Shouting never changes people’s attitudes and ideas. Walk away. Fear is only broken down by experience of the other.
- Learn the lessons of non-violent activism from Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi. It is the lesson of Jesus before Pilate.
People who are Jewish, who reflect the variety of races that human being appear in, who are Catholic, who are gay, who are Muslim, who are transgendered, who wear a hijab, a yarmulke and side curls, who speak a different language, who have different customs…are different from us in any manner are worthy of dignity because they are created by God and are our sisters and brothers. The Christian who thinks otherwise must seriously enter into pray and reflection and do so in community with other Christians. For the dragon of hate first devours the life and soul of the person who hates.