The Bible and Charlottesville

The Bible and Charlottesville

Originally, I had written a completely different article for this week’s bulletin and then the events of Charlottesville last weekend erupted to my horrified dismay. How are we still embattled in conflicts which are hinged on the premise that one race has a “right” or a “privilege” that exceeds those of another’s?
I doubt that many individuals who read this will be sympathetic the white nationalist movements, so I do not feel there is a need to argue about the fallacy of their position. When flag bearers wave Nazi symbols in the open, there is a general consensus that something has run amok.
I also don’t think the parish or the world needs another opinion article about racism. You should have already (or at least I hope) and probably have been inundated with personal experiences, antidotes, philosophies and opinions about the need to support the equality of all people.
What I do feel is pertinent for us to reflect upon as a parish is where the call to inclusion, for acceptance of immigrants, foreigners, and any person of a different race comes from in the Bible and in Church teaching. Luckily, in terms of supporting material, I didn’t have to look much farther than this weekend’s scriptures.
In the First Reading (IS 56:1,6-7) from today’s scripture the prophet Isaiah states “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD and becoming his servants – who keep the Sabbath from profanation and hold to my covenant, them [the foreigners] I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
Is there anything more clear? Who has the privilege of right relationship with God before God’s holy altar? Is it a privileged race? No. Not at all. The prophet Isaiah declares that the covenant with God belongs to those who do the will of God, even if those individuals are foreigners. There is no privilege guaranteed to race. Anyone who places race as a privilege right ahead of the will of God does violence to the will of God.
Later in the Gospel reading for today (MT 15:21-28), a very subtle articulation of this same theme comes through in the actions of Jesus in response to a foreigner who seeks his help. In a playful twist, Jesus even tips his hand toward the perceived prejudice of privilege saying “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” By Jesus’ words, you would think he would deny the foreign woman any benefit, but her faith was so strong that Jesus participated in the healing of her daughter. Again, the race, the nationality, the creed did not matter and it shouldn’t for us either.
In the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, the Catechism, the Tradition of the Church, and numerous other Biblical passages, we can see the same theme arising over and over again. The Kingdom of God does not have room for bigotry and perverse tribalism, no matter who the tribe is.
Hopefully, there is a moral voice inscribed in your heart that echoes this truth, but part of the service of the Church to us, the disciples of Jesus, is for the Church to remind us that the internal voice crying out for justice has been ratified repeatedly by the sacred writings and actions of the Church. What remains to be ratified is for us to have an unquenched response to justice in our world not by arguing more craftily in a Tweet or taunting others for their political positions but by being instruments of peace, instruments of reconciliation, and instruments of love. If we as Church can contribute this to the conversation and public actions of our society, then like the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel, our faith will heal us.
-Davi d Heimann, Pastoral Associate

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