November 9/10, 1938, the Nazis destroyed the property of the Jewish people in Germany; many Jews were hurt or killed during that infamous night. The name Kristallnacht means “crystal night,” since so much glass was shattered or broken as Jewish businesses were destroyed, creating mounds of broken glass shards from the window panes. Tomorrow is the 80th anniversary of this terrible night of infamy.
As Pope Francis reminded us in a homily a few days ago, Christians can never be anti-Semitic, a hatred that must be rooted out in all its forms. The Germans in the 1930’s were a deeply cultured and educated people who were struggling economically following World War I. The Jews were targeted by Hitler as a scapegoat to blame for the difficult economic state Germany was in. Unfortunately, the Church has done its share of targeting Jews throughout the centuries, brandishing them as “Christ killers,” a lie and hypocrisy.
Our church emphatically teaches that we are ALL responsible for the death of Christ because He died for us and for our sins. While a handful of Jewish and Roman leaders had Jesus crucified, every human being, from Adam until the last human being before the Second Coming, contributes to His crucifixion; we are all complicit. The Truth is sometimes too hard to face, so we deflect onto others, creating a lie that is so easy to believe.
Anti-Semitism caused a man to enter a synagogue, shout hateful things, and brutally kill 11 innocent people. This man’s hatred of the Jews caused him to do this. Hatred comes in all shapes and sizes and is directed at one person or a group of people we don’t understand or who threaten something deep within our own hearts.
May each of us have the courage to face our own biases and we all have them in one form or another. As followers of Christ, we are called to love our neighbor, which includes every human being, especial the one we don’t like. Jesus even calls us to love our enemy, turn the other cheek and stop the violent response. This is the hardest of all His teachings, one that we can’t forget less eliminate.
The nurse who was called to take care of the man who killed the 11 people in the synagogue was a Jewish man. This nurse, a Jew, caring for a man who did horrible things to his own people, did not see hatred in the man’s eyes. He just wanted to take care of him, one human being to another. This Jewish man acted more Christlike than many of us Christians.