When we were in Guatemala last spring we visited a group called NISQUA a U.S. NGO that accompanies court witnesses as international protectors from assassination. I asked the NISQUA representative about the cause of violence and repression in Guatemala expecting she would say – capitalism. No – without hesitation she said – RACISM! Racism can pervert any system or political – economic structure. Racism in the U.S. is different than in other countries in the Americas, but at its core it is the same. It is the refusal to grant the status brothers and sisters to certain people because of color and/or social class. The Jewish Bible calls them the ‘anawim.’ Today it’s the low wage workers – the unemployed – the indigenous – immigrants and African Americans shot and killed by police and neighborhood lawlessness.
A popular Christmas tale is the story of the Three Kings found in the Gospel of Matthew. (Mt. C. 2) The author of Matthew attempts to adjust the Jewish messiah myth and refer it to Jesus. Jesus is presented as a special child born in poverty but a king destined to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to the world. He will be called out of Egypt as stated in Jewish Scripture. The homilist at our San Francisco parish, before a packed church of over500 of the faithful, noted that the story is metaphorical but pointed to the truth of the story which is a matter of Faith. The kingdom of non violent peace is here for all but only insofar as we are people of good will. That means people of Faith committed to bringing about the Kingdom of Heaven – not just Christians but all people for all people. Our homilist exuded the ‘Joy of the Gospel.’
But Matthew’s story relates that King Herod slaughtered all the children in Bethlehem under two years old to protect his position in the Roman Imperium which promises the ‘Pax Romana’ to the world but through violence. We’ve moved to Roman Imperial horror. It was easily dismissed by our San Francisco homilist with a short comment – then, after all it is just a story. But what does it remember? What does it point to?
If you relate the gospel story to the current news cycle, the slaughter of innocent children is present in full force especially in Milwaukee but also in San Francisco. The sound of Rachel crying is clear once again.
“Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In R’ama there was a voice heard in lamentation and weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeping for her children and would not be comforted for they were no more.” (Mt. C. v. 17-18)
We have to ask why and what are we going to do about it? Faith includes imagination and commitment. A beginning would be an all inclusive discussion by Faith communities about racism with a goal of stopping the political, economic and military violence against God’s chosen ones – the ‘anawim.’ The joy of the Gospel is in co-creating the Kingdom of Heaven despite the opposition of the seeming ever present Imperium.