Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Preacher to Contemplative Nuns

Father Tom is a great friend to our community - frequently
our celebrant for Eucharist, our regular confessor, and,
like so many Redemptorists, and excellent homilist. Fortunately he publishes a blog at: Father Tom apent most of his life as a missionary in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and served as Provincial of the Vice Province of Puerto Rico for nine years. He generously share his skills, his writing and his deep faith.


A Homily by Father Thomas Travers, CSsR

Spy Wednesday

I read or heard some place that prejudice is not innate. Rather, it is something that we have to learn, and that most people do learn it at a very early age and may become quite proficient in it. This same thought is reflected in the words of the song from “South Pacific”: You've got to be taught before it's too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, To hate all the people your relatives hate, You've got to be carefully taught.

Certainly I was. I grew up in an Irish-Catholic ghetto in Boston during the war years… (There was only one real war for us and that was the Second Word War). And, as part of the war effort which was always so extensive and so all-prevailing during those years, we were trained to hate the Germans and the Japanese. We were taught anti-Hitler songs in our good old Catholic grammar school and were encouraged to throw out of our homes anything that was made in Germany or Japan. (Now we would be throwing out our best stereos, cameras, watches!!) We were brainwashed, pure and simple. We were taught prejudice and not only in our community but later in our family, it became a big, big deal when my eldest cousin announced that she was going to marry an Italian.

Strangely enough, we never felt anything, one way or another, for the Afro-Americans because we did not know them. They were far away in their own ghetto and “never the twain should meet.” I met my first Afro-American at my first real job, washing dishes and serving meals in a Hospital cafeteria and he was a nice kid.

Not only were we all prejudiced towards others. All of us have been the recipients of prejudice due to our race or gender or religion or place or origin. Historically we have all been victims of it.

What does prejudice have to do with our celebration today? Today is Wednesday of Holy Week but before, for centuries, it was called by the “hoi polloi”, “Spy Wednesday” and traditionally it was a day given over to the expression of hatred and prejudice. In many countries of Europe Judas was hung in effigy and then the hatred towards him spread over into the Jewish community and all things Jewish because, the reasoning was, that not only was Judas guilty of Decide, but so were all of them. Their ancestors killed God. What greater crime could there be? What greater reason to hate all of them?

Yesterday, Barack Obama addressed this issue of prejudice in American when his pastor, Mr. White came into the news for his wild hateful and prejudicial statements. Obama called on all to continue the dialogue. I believe he is right. This dialogue must go on and it must address the need to move toward reconciliation in all the areas of our prejudices: race, gender, religion, place of origin, etc.

And I believe that one step forward is to address the underlying issues that cause prejudice and to try to solve them with justice and charity. And then, at some point, forgiveness has to kick in. If it does not we are going to keep going round and round in this vicious circle.

What I mean concretely is this: At some point we have to forgive Judas. At some point we have to forgive the Pharisees. At some point we have to forgive the High Priests. We have to forgive Pilate and the Roman Soldiers. We have to forgive the Jewish crowds who called for the release of Barabas, and the crucifixion of Jesus. We have to forgive them all. After all, that is what Jesus did when he said: FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.

So, today and all during the days that come, when we relive the Passion and Death of Jesus, may this be our prayer, too. And may we not only pardon all these people who were active in the death of Jesus, but also all the other people who have caused us harm personally or as a group, and perhaps even caused us to die on our cross. May we ask their forgiveness for our prejudice and forgive all of them for theirs. Unless we do this, the cycle of prejudice in this world is just going to go on and on. So during the next couple of days, and beyond, let one of our mantras be: FATHER FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO. AMEN.

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