Memory and forgiveness

502abc1410abc1122e8ef52ff8a34df5It is as if I am being pursued by them,  so constant is my pace when it comes to them. What am I talking about? A few topics that have been an obsession for me for most of my life, even during my earliest days.

One of those topics is the Holocaust. When I was young I was aware that my father had grown up in a Jewish family, but that he no longer practiced that faith. My mother was Catholic, and after visiting many churches in the years before I was 5 or 6, we ended up Catholic too. (I was baptized in a Catholic church about 5 months after I was born. Honestly, I’m not sure how that happened in the 50’s given the irregular status of my parents marriage and general lack of church attendance at the time, but somehow it did.)

That said, my obsessive curiosity about Judaism started at an early age. And while I cannot tell you how old I was when I first became aware of the Holocaust, I can tell you that the tumble down the rabbit hole of interest came quickly and with intensity. Perhaps it began with Anne Frank’s diary? Who knows? Whatever it was, I was hooked for life.

By time the Continue reading

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I Need Help (First Sunday of Lent)

407px-Christ's_temptation_(Monreale)

“He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.” Susannah Heschel, daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, now of blessed memory.

In today’s Gospel and readings I see so many parallels to where we are today. For those among us who have some yearning to “make America great again.” Well, that may sound nice, but I can never figure out what we might actually go back to that would be so great. Greatness, if you ask me, can never be returned to, greatness – if it is to be – is found only by going forward. For others who may long for a greatness built upon justice, unity, and equality, other things can be read into today’s readings by understanding the risk of temptation – and avoiding temptation.

Jesus has been in the desert a long time in today’s reading – even if we are at the beginning of our own Lenten journey.  Maybe he is hangry! No, I’m not trying to be funny. He has been sleeping in the wilderness without the benefit of a nice tent, cozy sleeping bag, a water filtration device, and energy bars. Think about what this means. Not exactly a comfortable retreat to “get away from it all.” Quite the opposite!

Me, I love the desert, but boy oh boy,  I have no desire to stay out there for 40 days and nights! Yet that is exactly what Jesus did. And then he meets satan, the satanas – which means the tempter or evil one in general. Now Jesus must be so tired and hungry. The evil one makes three pitches which all center on Jesus Continue reading

Night falls

Night Wiesel

Reading Night has me considering just how night falls around us lately. Should I be embarrassed to admit that I had never read Elie Wiesel’s Night? It felt kind of shocking to me, as I am holocaust-obsessed person, not to mention a big reader. Frankly I’m not sure how I never did, but I never did read the book. Until now. Wiesel’s recent death propelled me down to our local library to find a copy.

When I think about this moral giant’s passing, and the confluence of current events I find myself feeling ill, wondering out loud – how did we get here? Again? Some among you may think I am being reactionary, or simply overreacting. Pardon me, but I will err on the side of caution here, many good Germans, Jews and non-Jews, felt like others were overreacting back then. By time they could do something it was too late, so the cautionary tale approach works just fine for me.

The slim volume is harrowing – there is no getting around that. As Wiesel chronicles elements of his Transylvanian childhood, he creates evocative scenes of daily Jewish life with his words. I’m not going to review the book for you here; many of you read it, and if you have not, I will simply say do not delay – read it now.

Maybe it is my own odd preoccupations with death, Continue reading