Thursday, April 9, 2009

For Love To Rise, Tear Down Walls

As we proceed into Holy Week, I continue to see so many things that are contrary to the message of Jesus. Today I am thinking about walls -- the physical wall that the inhabitants of a rich neighborhood in Buenos Aires, San Isidro, are trying to build between themselves and the poor in neighboring San Fernando. The poor took matters into their own hands and started to tear down the wall and a judge has intervened, ordering its construction to be suspended. But how far this is from the message of Christ, who not only reached out to rich and poor but gave a preferential place to the "anawim" -- the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

I am also thinking of the spiritual walls our institutional Catholic Church builds when it wants to exclude this one or that one from the Eucharist. Tonight we will be celebrating a Christ who opened the table to everyone. He didn't quiz them on their marital status or how they voted on a bill or in the polling booth. He didn't look at their clothes or shoes. He washed their feet, no matter how dirty or smelly, as an example of servant leadership and he broke bread even with the man who would leave the table to betray Him. This is the Christ I follow, but when I hear what comes out of some members of our hierarchy, I feel excommunicated. I wonder if I have any place in this Church at all, except sitting in the back with the rest of the marginalized Catholics and watching while the privileged "worthy" few step up to take communion.

I wonder how many of the mansion dwellers in San Isidro who want to build walls between themselves and the poor will go to communion this week, and how many of the humble residents of San Fernando will stay in their pews, feeling unworthy to come forward. Until we stop building walls and excluding those who are different from us, Christ has not truly risen.

My friend Roger wrote the following poem during Holy Week that happens to speak wonderfully to this theme.


What is love?

I reach out.
You reach back.

And God?

God is the reaching,
meeting, meaning.

And walls?

Walls are what blocks
the flow of life to life,
cuts off the caring,
kills the sharing,
gets in the way
of the Way.

They are the death
that needs to die
for love to rise
from the grave.


1. The wall in Buenos Aires

2. In Papua New Guinea, Fr. Sam Driscoll, O.F.M. Cap., commemorates Jesus washing the feet of His apostles on Holy Thursday.

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