March 22, 2024

That All May Be One / Fr. Rick Ginther

Paschal season offers hope to our Muslim, Jewish brothers and sisters

Fr. Rick GintherWe have entered, or are about to enter, three holy seasons of the Abrahamic faiths: Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

Ramadan began on Sunday evening, March 10. It will continue until April 9.

Holy Week begins on March 24; the Easter season is from March 31 through Pentecost on May 19.

Passover spans from April 22-30.

This is a tense time in our world for each of these faith traditions. Somewhere in the world, each is bearing the brunt of conflict, religious intolerance and even persecution.

In the midst of this, each prays for peace, cares for the poor and needy and prays for an end to prejudice.

I am aware of the anguish among the local adherents of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. These people of faith struggle with emotions, doubts and questions focused upon others and upon themselves.

In the midst of the current tensions, how can the people of the three Abrahamic faiths cope, reflect and pray toward hope?

I believe their holy seasons offer that hope.

Ramadan seeks cleansing and refocus through fasting and prayer. Charity by its adherents emanates from these. And Allah is praised as the author and center of life.

Passover celebrates the release of the Hebrews from captivity in Egypt. Connections of the ancient liberation are made to current physical, mental or spiritual bondage. The Almighty of the covenant is praised, especially in a seder meal.

The paschal season seeks to celebrate salvation for all in Christ through his atoning sacrificial life, death and resurrection. It is ritually and prayerfully summed up in the Eucharist and the sending we receive to go and live the Gospel.

Yes, there is hope among the children of Abraham through these festivals. They inspire a reframing of our attitudes toward each other.

For Christian Catholics, Holy Week reveals reframed attitudes toward both Jew and Muslim. They are rooted in the Second Vatican Council document “Nostra Aetatae” (“In Our Time”).

The intercessory prayers on Good Friday clearly seek God’s blessing upon all Jews and all those who do not believe in Christ, for example, Muslims.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continue to urge us to avoid intolerant emotions and thoughts directed to our Jewish brothers and sisters during the Palm Sunday and Good Friday Passion narratives.

They write in their footnotes for Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion: “The passion narratives are proclaimed in full so that all see vividly the love of Christ for each person. In light of this, the crimes during the Passion of the Christ cannot be attributed, in either preaching or catechesis, indiscriminately to all Jews of that time, nor to Jews today. The Jewish people should not be referred to as though rejected or cursed, as if this view followed from Scripture. The Church ever keeps in mind that Jesus, his mother Mary and the Apostles were all Jewish. As the Church has always held, Christ freely suffered his passion and death because of the sins of all, that all might be saved.”

It is ours to embrace these prayers. It is ours to mindfully cleanse ourselves of any antisemitic attitudes.

And to cleanse ourselves of any Islamaphobic attitudes.

Popes from St. John XXIII through to Pope Francis have consistently reached out to both Jewish and Islamic leaders in peaceful and reconciling ways. We can do the same in our prayers and attitudes.

Let us be so, aware and open to our brothers and sisters in Abraham, as we enter the paschal season.

(Father Rick Ginther is director of the archdiocesan Office of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs. He is also the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis.)

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