3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 22, 2017
Saint Mary Parish,
Parish, Baltimore 11am
The Holocaust Museum: Lessons
Last Saturday, one week ago today/yesterday, I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
Probably some of you have visited this. I had never been there before.
As you know, the Museum is a memorial especially to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust in the 1940s. This genocide by the Nazis killed 6 million Jews.
The Holocaust eventually included other targets, like citizens of Poland and the Soviet Union, gypsies, homosexual and disabled persons and others. The Nazis exterminbated a total of 11 million people.
As I slowly walked through the Museum, I found myself sad, in disbelef, in horror, and at times I became aware that I was just shaking my head NO! It is just too hard to imagine this.
Well, that experience quickly put me in touch with some thoughts that have been maturing in me over the last year or so. I have boiled these down to two reflections and I want to share them with you today.
1. Words Are Powerful
My first reflection is that our words are powerful
The words we speak and the words we write or text or email – these can be very powerful. We need to be aware of this.
For example, have you ever said something and the moment it is out of your mouth, you wish you could take it back? Maybe in frustration, we said to a teenager: “You’re never going to amount to anything.”
Or to someone: “You’re a lazy, self-centered waste!” Or: “You’re a good-for-nothing blankedy blank.”
Our words can help a person develop and grow. Or they can freeze a person right where they are and even send them backwards.
Our words can build up self-estemn and self-confidence. Or they can tear it down and injure someone for a lifetime.
Our words can give positive vision to a group or community. Or they can lead those same people to harmful ways.
So, I am suggesting, we have to pause, reflect, and go within ourselves before we speak. We have to get in touch with our true inner self and with God who is within us.
We have to consider the effects of our words for today and tomorrow and the future. And then, we have to decide what to say and when to say it and how to say it.
So, knowing that our words have such power is very important. We need to use our words in a mature and holy way.
2. Negative Stereotypes Are Destructive
My other reflection is related to the first.
Negative stereotyping is always destructive. And it is always wrong.
This is what happened in Nazi Germany and what caused the Holocaust. Thoughtless and hurtful words were applied to the Jews.
These words and labels led to negative stereotyping. In that instance, we know the horrific results.
Some scholars tell us that negative stereotyping arises from the human temptation to scapegoat. We make another person or an entire category of persons the scapegoat for our problems.
So, we need to resist negative stereotyping of others. Today, it might be directed to Syrian refugees or Hispanic immigrants, to women or African Americans, to members of the LGBTQ community or to Muslims.
We need to have the inner strength not to paticipate in this. In fact, we need to label it as morally wrong.
Instead, we are to follow the way of Jesus. In today’s gospel, Jesus calls the first apostles to follow him.
Jesus calls us to do the same. But following him means more than coming to Mass and receiving the Eucharist.
And one thing for sure that it means is that we use the power of our words constructively and caringly. And it also means that we resist negative stereotyping and treat all persons as God’s daughters and sons.