When I was a boy growing up in my Brooklyn neighborhood, the joke was that everyone who lived on my street was either Italian or Jewish and you could never tell the difference! In fact, I only learned that some of my neighbors were not Catholic as I entered middle school since no one ever asked the question. They were kind, concerned and trustworthy neighbors who watched over all the children of the neighborhood, not just their own- including me. As I look back at my childhood, I wish that the world had not lost that “blindness” because it reminds us of the truth of who we are as the children of God
Recent events have highlighted the growing menace of discrimination, bigotry, racism, and antisemitism in our country. As a people of Christian faith, we must unambiguously proclaim and defend the Church’s teachings that such hateful ideologies are grave sins against the dignity of the human person and the divine mandate to love our neighbor as ourselves. To live in any way contrary to Christ’s divine command is a betrayal of the Gospel.
As Christians, we value, respect and defend every human life because every person is made in the divine image and likeness of God. The state of being made in God’s image was never lost, even with original sin. Furthermore, every human life has immeasurable worth because God took a human life in Jesus Christ. Through His death and resurrection, every human life has been offered the possibility of eternal glory through the forgiveness of sins and reception into the life of grace. Thus, every human life must be protected and be offered the possibility to live a dignified and safe life.
As the tone of our national dialogue continues to become more corrosive and poisonous, let us condemn all hateful ideologies wherever we meet them. Let us begin by searching the prejudice in our own hearts, root out whatever evil we find there and be courageous enough to challenge those who use racist language or promote divisiveness. This means evaluating what we say, and how we say it on social media and toning down hostile or vitriolic rhetoric.
There is a popular myth that wants us to believe that modern life is always progressing forward. The truth is that at times our society takes many steps backward at great cost. While much has changed for the better, society can learn a lot from my old neighbor in Brooklyn, where no one asked the question and no one was interested in the differences that existed between us.
The previous reflection originally appeared on Bishop Frank Caggiano’s Facebook page. Follow the Bishop for daily reflections and weekly videos.