by Bernadette Gasslein

Two things struck me this morning as I participated in the Celebration of Lord’s Passion.

In past years, the communities where I have participated, even where they use the 2009 version of the Canadian Lectionary, have always kept what our earlier lectionary used, “the Jewish authorities,” rather than “the Jews,” (2009) in passages such as “If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews [Jewish authorities].” I know that the Canadian bishops worked very hard to retain “the Jewish authorities” in such passages, but Rome did not permit them to do so.

This morning, to hear that phrase recurring was a lesson in how antisemitism is communicated. If we hear the same thing often enough, and no one catechizes/instructs/challenges the message, it becomes ingrained in our subconscious.

In our world where genocide roams once more, and where even high-placed officials seem ignorant of the rudimentary facts of the Holocaust, this language strikes me as humanly, politically and spiritually dangerous. Words shape reality – and this shaping is distorted. In a world increasingly fraught by violence and hatred towards the “other,” we need to heed the insights of our best scripture scholars who have taught us that it was not the “Jews”, but the “Jewish authorities” who conspired in the death of Jesus – which was not for “many” but for “all.”

The second thing that struck me is the absence, in the Solemn Intercessions, of two prayers: one for the Muslim people, and one for peace.

Perhaps the Muslim people are considered to fall under “those who do not believe in Christ,” but in a world where Christians, Muslims, and other adherents of minority religions are being martyred by ISIS, I believe we need to expand this repertoire of prayers. The Roman Missal (n 13, Friday of the Passion of the Lord) foresees the possibility. I think it is time that we petition our diocesan bishops for prayers that address these “situations of grave public need.” I propose the following.

Let us pray for the Muslim people,
who with us call themselves
children of God’s covenant
with Abraham,
and who also adore the one merciful God.
For the sake of your Son, we pray:

Priest: Holy and mighty God,
the children of your covenant
are more numerous that the grains of sand.
Grant to all who share faith in you,
the merciful judge of all humanity,
to live in peace and tranquility.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

And, this year, in the shadow of the dropping of the world’s largest conventional weapon earlier this week, and nuclear posturing between North Korea and the US, I ache for a more explicit cry for peace. (Ironic how every year there seems to be an event that cries to heaven for the shalom of the kingdom just around Good Friday):

Let us pray for all those brutalized by war
and stalked by famine,
that they may know
the dawn of your peace and justice
in their lives.
For the sake of your Son, we pray:

Presider: We veil our faces before your glory,
O Holy, Immortal One,
and before the cross of your wounded Christ,
we bow low.
With the angels and archangels,
we praise you, our Mercy;
we bless you, our Compassion,
for in our brokenness
you have not abandoned us.
Hear us as we pray through Jesus,
our high priest:
heal all division, reconcile all that is estranged,
console all suffering and raise up to new life
all that is bound by death.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(I composed this prayer many years ago for Revised Common Lectionary Prayers [Fortress Press, 2002], 100.)

Bernadette Gasslein is editor of Worship journal.

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