“During Holy Week our scripture readings make frequent reference to “the Jews.” These words are broadly understood as referring to some of the Judean authorities of the time who were opposed to Jesus, and not to Jews as a people, then or now.”
“… a heightening of rhetoric against a certain group can incite violence against that group, even when no violence is called for.”
In church today the readings lent themselves to an unfortunate comparison. First, in the Hebrew Bible, we heard about the commandments given to Moses; then we heard in the Gospel of Matthew how Jesus took the commandments further, deeper -- from external legalities to instructions for the heart. How many preachers will see how, pairing the readings in such a way, sets the Jews up to be used as foils?
Yesterday, Ash Wednesday, church-goers recited the “Litany of Penitence.” One petition struck me in particular, “Accept our repentance, Lord, …. For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us.” (Italics mine)
Wouldn’t this be an example of prejudice and contempt? We hear it read aloud on the third Sunday in Lent every third year: