I figured out why I’m so gloomy today. No, it’s not because of the weather which has been overcast and raining for at least 40 days and 40 nights. Because after all, there are at least some colorful autumn leaves gleaming through, seeming all the more brilliant because of their contrast against a perpetually pewter sky.
No, that’s not it.
On my walk today I passed the synagogue that’s just a few steps from my home: Kol Ami, which translates to “All Together.” It was named to represent the merging of two groups of the local Jewish communities. I’d like to think that it also means – or can mean – that we members of different faiths will some day join together.
Maybe what’s made me so gloomy today is the cruel invasion of that holy ground in Pittsburgh: hearing the names and backgrounds of the slaughtered victims; knowing that they were celebrating the naming of a baby – such a sacred and joyful occasion. And I must confess to feeling a gut-wrenching grief for the man who displayed such hatred.
I don’t get the Jew-hating, especially by persons of a Christian persuasion. I don’t know if the killer at the Pittsburgh synagogue lays claim to any particular religious belief, but I know enough world history to realize that one religion has always had an overdose of hostility towards people of a different religion. I also know that there are lots of folks who don’t want to have anything to do with religion for themselves and for their children, because they know too much about the god-awful hatred and cruelty “religious” people have had for others.
I hope the Pittsburgh murderer doesn’t claim to be a Christian, because Christians are the very ones who ought to be thankful to the Jews for having given us Jesus whose family and best friends were Jewish. Jesus was raised in that Faith. His understanding of God came from that Faith. The law of love came from that Faith. He is quoted as having said that “Salvation comes from the Jews.” (John, 4:22) And he was right. Jews are our spiritual parents.
Meanwhile, I’ve returned to re-reading Sunday’s Gospel about Bartimaeus, the blind man who called out to Jesus for help. He persisted in crying out, too, in spite of the crowd’s callous efforts to shut him up. But he wouldn’t shut up.
I used to wonder why Jesus asked Bartimaeus what he wanted. Surely, it was obvious! But Jesus wanted Bartimaeus to know and boldly articulate his desire: That I might see! By recognizing and naming his heart’s desire, Bartimaeus unknowingly gave evidence of his own strength. That’s why Jesus told him, “Your faith has saved you.” Jesus gave him credit for his own cure! All Bartimaeus needed was that bit of encouragement from the Master to realize that his persistence, his refusal to be discouraged, his boldness in speaking out when everyone tried to shut him up – these qualities would bring about the miracle he desired.
So, the connection to the shooting in the synagogue?
Maybe we need to be more bold. Maybe we need to look within ourselves, to overcome our timidity in speaking out – speaking out for our own cure and for the cure of others who let themselves become tools of hatred.
The temptation is to blame others for hatred — perhaps someone in government, or a particular political party. The ugly irony is that we then turn our hatred toward those we blame for hatred, we feed the very hatred we condemn. Obviously, this only perpetuates and deepens hatred in the world.
Only love can defeat hatred. Only love can erect the wall that keeps hatred at bay. And we’re the only ones who can do that.