I’ve been hearing in the news lately about anti-Semitic comments. I do not know why there is a rise in these comments. The Jews as a group were stereotyped by Catholics as bad for a long time. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke it is the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes who get the blame for persecuting Jesus. However, it is important for us to realize that not all the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes were against Jesus. There were those who came to follow Jesus. In the Gospel of John it is the Jews as a whole who get the blame for persecuting Jesus. From this, Jews have been despised. Yet, we must realize, just as with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes in the other gospels, it was not all the Jews who despised Jesus.
The Catholic Church has come to realize this. I think of Jesus’ words, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). When we pray for our enemies and those who persecute us, we ask God to change their hearts. We also ask God to change our hearts. Now, we pray for the Jews as sharers in a common ancestry. On Good Friday every Catholic Church in the world shares in praying the same ten solemn intercessions. One of these is for the Jews. It reads:
“VI. For the Jewish people
Let us pray also for the Jewish people,
to whom the Lord our God spoke first,
that he may grant them to advance in love of his name
and in faithfulness to his covenant.
Almighty ever-living God,
who bestowed your promises on Abraham and his descendants,
hear graciously the prayers of your Church,
that the people you first made your own
may attain the fullness of redemption.
Through Christ our Lord.
Every single person is a child of God. As we heard in the first reading (Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14) on All Saints Day, “After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” God offers a place in Heaven to everyone.
This includes the Jews. It includes everyone. This is reflected in several of the other Good Friday Solemn Intercessions (for the complete text of the Good Friday Solemn Intercessions see http://www.ibreviary.com/m/preghiere.php?tipo=Rito&id=541. You will need to scroll down past the readings).
As we come to see all as God’s children, we must be careful of stereotyping and assuming people of any given group are all alike. For example, we live in a world where we fear terrorist attacks from Islamic extremists. The concern is based on real experience. However, that does not make all Islamic people terrorists. We pray for the extremists to have a change of heart. We pray for all to come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer.
We face other nations engaging in attacks that we may not understand. For example, after several months of watching Russia attack the Ukraine, I still don’t know why they are doing it. What do we do? We pray. We pray for the safety and needs of the Ukrainians. We also pray for the Russians to end the attacks.
Likewise, I don’t understand what is going on in North Korea. They have been testing missiles. Are they preparing to begin military attacks against South Korea or other countries? I don’t know. I don’t understand why they would. What must we do? Pray for the North Koreans, for their leaders to stand down and for the people to seek peaceful resolutions to whatever the issues are.
When we hear of shootings in our own country, we often ask why? We don’t understand. It sometimes involves hatred towards a particular group such as African-Americans or people who identify as LGBT. For the African-Americans, I point back to the passage from Revelation I mentioned above. All are God’s children, regardless of race. Do you realize that while we depict Jesus in paintings and statues as looking like a person of white European descent, He was not. He was from the middle-east. As to members of the LGBT community, we do not judge them for their attractions and we do not condemn them for their actions. Yes, it is not what the Bible teaches but we leave the judging to God. These attacks are not warranted. We must pray for an end to the attacks and for the people who are attacked. (For more on how we interact with those who choose “alternative lifestyles”, see my article “Towards Dignity and Truth: Compassionate Dialogue on Homosexuality”.
Hate is not God’s way. Hate leads to more hate. It is time to love as Christ calls us to love. It does not mean saying what others do is always okay. It does mean we must pray for them and treat them as God’s children. God loves them (and us) enough to meet them where they are. He loves them too much to leave them there.
We need to pray and work for unity. I write this on election day 2022 in the United States. In election campaigning we see much division and polarization. There doesn’t seem to be possibility for true dialogue because each side is so sure they are right that no one seems to really listen. When things seem impossible, remember Nothing is impossible for God. We pray for unity. We pray for real dialogue (see my article, “Seeking Real Dialogue” based on Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti). We pray that people realize there is Truth. It is the Truth that comes from God.
In John 17, Jesus prayed that we may be one. Let us join him daily in praying that we all be one with God and each other.