Doers of the Word
Sunday, Nov. 22,
CHRIST THE KING
Which group do you belong to?
Jesus directs his judgment parable towards groups! We all have to answer for how we have lived out the “Gospel Creed” as told in Luke’s Gospel, 6:27-38. Jesus makes it clear that we also must answer for how our nations, churches dioceses, communities, families have lived them out too. What a sobering, demanding call to conversion! A true story to get us correctly to that judgment:
At the beginning of every Sabbath a group of women who call themselves “The Women in Black” gather at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to pray. Dressed in black chadors, the women chant Kaddish, the Jewish prayer of mourning for the dead. Facing the wall, they sing first for all the people of Israel who have died that week in the fighting: then with their backs to the wall, for all the people of Palestine who have died. They have been doing this for years and they elicit a wide range of reactions – from insults to solidarity.
One Sabbath, they turned from the wall only to face a hostile group of rabbinical seminarians and their teachers who spit on them while shouting curses. One man in particular spit repeatedly in the face of the woman who was leading the prayers. The encounter grew more heated, threatening to escalate into physical violence. The leader, a diminutive woman, stopped her prayer to speak with the man trying to provoke her with such strong insults: “I know exactly how you feel, I have felt the same way too, with my heart filled with hatred and wanting to kill.” Those shouting insults fell silent. In a tear-choked voice she continued. “Six years ago, in a suicide bombing I lost my fourteen-year-old daughter, and I wanted to kill anyone, to make someone suffer for my loss. I didn’t care who, and for months I lived like that. And then I slowly began to realize that I had become just like the people I blamed and hated. I was becoming inhuman and incapable of love, of kindness or simple courtesies. I despised myself. And that’s when I realized there are only two kinds of people in the world. There are those whose response to everything that happens is rage, hate, violence and disruption, getting even and taking it out on someone else. And there are those whose response to everything that happens is love, forgiveness, to seek understanding, reconciliation, peace-making and realizing we are all the same – we ache and bleed the same way; we wail and grieve the same way; we love the same things – life, our families, our God, our country, our grandchildren. And I had to decide which group I belonged to: those who hate and kill or those who love and make peace.
Her voice dropped, “I decided. Now it is time for you to decide – which group will you belong to? Which kind of power will you serve and obey? Will you be filled with hate or love, revenge or making peace? You decide now.” Silence. Then the man spit at her in the face and walked away. She nearly buckled but she pulled herself together, stood with the other women in black, and began with a cracked voice that grew surer and clearer with each word she prayed. And then it happened – the students and teachers separated themselves. Some spit on the ground and walked away, but others stood shoulder to shoulder with the women, not touching them but praying Kaddish together.
A moment comes in the lives of us all when we have to decide – just as we must do every time, we hear one of Jesus’ parables.