One of the interesting things about social networking sites like Facebook is that one can be friended by any number of different people. Most of these are strangers whom we will never meet in this life and, sometimes, those people who “friend” others can be extremely random. I’ve had my share of these over the last few months. Recently, one of these made my blood boil and it is for this reason that I am writing this article.
First of all, let me state here that there are many Catholics and other Christians who probably share in the belief that the Jews are responsible for most of the world’s problems. Indeed, they believe that certain historical events came into being because of Jewish compliance.
According to some Catholic historians, Anne Boleyn had Jewish blood and, therefore, the English Reformation was the work of the Jews on her part and that of others. Of course, the accusation is preposterous. Anne Boleyn was an Englishwoman pure who had darker looks than most of her contemporaries. That does not necessarily make her a shew-in for a Jew. Neither does the fact that Lord Cecil’s father was a money-changer. These are just facts in history and the conspiracy theorists take them up to prove their point. “Let’s blame it on the oldest bogeyman of all,” they say. “Let’s blame everything that happened on the Jews.”
Yet if we were to come back from this precipice and look around, we would realize a truth that is extremely important. Without Judaism, Catholicism would not exist.
Indeed, Christianity was once a sect within the larger Jewish tradition during the first century. The earliest Christians were Jewish converts. Many of them went to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray and observed such things as circumcision. It was only with the advent of St. Paul that the Gospel message began to be spread among the Gentiles in the Mediterranean basin. Even then, however, St. Paul always approached the local Jewish communities first before he went and preached to the Gentiles. He understood as well as anybody that Christianity has roots that are firmly Jewish
Beyond this example, we can also say beyond a shadow of a doubt that Our Lord was also a Jew. Like the rest of His nation, He was a slave to the Old Law of Moses. He was circumcised, observed the fasts and feast days, and was renowned throughout the whole of Judea and Samaria as a charismatic rabbi. He was the One that had been prophesied centuries before by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and, in more recent times, St. John the Baptist. Yet His own people did not receive Him and condemned Him to death on a cross. This was not the end of the story, as we all know, but the beginning and since those early centuries Christianity has continued to spread.
If we look at these facts, why is it then that some people are willing to hate those people of whom Christ was one? Why is it that there idiots out there who believe that the Jews are the greatest bogeymen around? Who gave them the authority to condemn them and to come up with such ridiculous things like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?
Perhaps, the answer to this question lies in the fact that people are always looking for a scapegoat on whom they can blame their problems. During the early centuries of Christianity, the pagan Romans constantly looked on the Christians with suspicion. They accused them of being cannibals and eating children, the Christians were atheists who did not believe in God, and so on. They were the scapegoats. If, God forbid, an invading army managed to steal some land from the Romans near the Persian border or if a crop failure occurred, the Christians were dragged before the lions because they were foreign and different from what the Romans believed was acceptable. If nothing else, they saw in them people who were completely incompatible with their own plans for society.
During the years following World War I, anti-Semitism rose to unprecedented heights in Germany, Poland, and numerous other central European countries. Why? Within the Nazi Party, there was long-held belief that the Jews were actually Communist sympathizers and that they were the ones who controlled most of the capital in Germany. Therefore, Hitler believed that the German race should be purified of its non-German elements and that Slavs, Jews, and others should be exterminated because they did not possess Aryan blood. Once he said it enough times, people believed him and the mob began to smash the shops belonging to Jewish owners, ban Jews from working in certain occupations, and also work heavily to exterminate them.
This systematic looking for a scapegoat is an illness that has been with us since the dawn of mankind. What we don’t realize, however, is that those people whom we like to tar and feather are no different than any of us. They may be professionals or blue collar workers, they may have families, they may be gay or straight, and so on. In fact, they are very much like us. Just because they belong to a different religion, culture, or race, does not necesssarily mean that we should hate them and treat them like dirt.
St. Paul said in his Epistle to the Galatians that “in Christ, there is no Jew or Greek, no circumcised or uncircumcised.” We should take those words and tattoo them into our heads. If we are to live as God intended us to live, then we should treat all people as if they were Christ regardless of national origins, race, or sexual orientation. All of them belong to Our Lord even if they do not know Him or understand Him. This last factor should not make them less in our eyes. Rather, it should impel us to be much more friendly to them and treat them better.
Remember, too, that St. Francis spent the first few years of his life not giving a whit about the things of God. However, he met a leper on the road one day. The smell was awful, the man had sores all over his body, and St. Francis’s horse probably wanted to gallop away. What did St. Francis do to that poor leper? Did he leave him alone and turn his horse around? No, he went and embraced the man. He did this because he saw Christ in him and this was a lesson he carried his entire life.
Before you and I go and start hating on others, we should take a moment and imagine that that person is Christ Himself. If we see Him standing there and speaking to us, will we still treat Him with hatred? Will we still crucify Him in one of His members? No. Rather, we should treat that person with the utmost charity for that is what Our Lord has taught us to do.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!