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Fr. Glenn: One People Under God

on August 20, 2017 - 5:38am
By Rev. Glenn Jones
Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church
Los Alamos

This last week we were treated to yet another example of the truth of scripture—that “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) The wall-to-wall coverage about the Charlottesville and subsequent protests and counter-protests reminded of the riots of the 60’s and 70’s. Sigh. Perhaps the birthing pains of eventually moving toward a more civilized society, we can only hope.

Predictably, there were myriad reactions over the Charlottesville protests and events. One wonders whether simply ignoring groups promoting division would be a better strategy, because demonstrators want attention, and that’s exactly what they got … perhaps more than they had dared dream. Even this morning there are headlines about more “rallies”, and now the like-minded will flock to them. While media outlets often decry such groups, they nevertheless give the groups exactly what they want: coverage and notoriety, elevating their status. Would it be better to cut the vine at the root, starve it of the sustaining energy of notoriety, and let their organization die on the vine? Or perhaps simply regard such groups as one might a two-headed calf: a curiosity, but of little consequence if simply dismissed? Or maybe as someone adhering to the earth-centered solar system model—a relic of the past, apparently a bit out of touch.

Racism and bigotry will likely always exist; the temptation to feel “superior” is very strong. But like all temptations, it can be resisted and defeated. Exclusivity (“excluding”) is based in disdain, pride and even hatred; such is completely counter to true Christian values. As St. Paul wrote: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus.”   (Galatians 3:28-29) Christians know that there is only ONE Body of Christ … of which they are all part.

Scripture tells us that at Pentecost those who converted were from ALL regions, and in the book of Revelation St. John writes of his vision: “…I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from EVERY nation, from ALL tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes…” (Revelation 7:9)  If GOD makes no preferences among peoples and races, how do WE dare do so?  And St. Peter writes: “…anyone who fears [God] and does what is right is acceptable to Him.” Shall we reject someone whom God accepts?

Race, nationality and heritage are all irrelevant before God; He judges us by what we do. Do we really think that He is concerned whether we came from Ireland, Japan, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Timbuktu or wherever? Christians are called to rise above prejudice and bigotry … to see all people as God sees them … and in love of God, to seek them out for Christ. After all, Jesus Himself foretold: “…people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29) … because “[God] desires ALL men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4). And as Peter declared, “God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” (Acts 10:28) Therefore, as soon as we begin to despise any person, we begin to rebel against—and separate ourselves from—God.

But neither is violence and insult an answer. Insult simply engenders insult, and violence, violence … and both harden an adversary’s heart. We ought to realize that many persons have to combat attitudes imbued into them since childhood, and thus seek to convert with reason and patience rather than with vitriol. Yet the Christian especially need realize how incongruous is any hatred whatever with the teachings of Jesus. Dialogue and reason will not change everyone; it never has. But those who do rise above irrational hatred and prejudice will remain open-minded and … just perhaps … change for the better.

Would that we had an MLK, Jr. or a Gandhi in our day, with the charisma, ability and dedication to change hearts as they did. Barring that, we can at least hope to change one heart at a time for peace and brotherly love toward all, applying St. Paul’s description of the growth of faith: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) We plant and water seeds of the Good, and ask God to make them fruitful. And so, “…may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to ALL men…” (1Thessalonians 3:12)

“Blessed are the peacemakers…”