I was raised in South Side Chicago in the '50s when the Black Ghetto was well-defined, the boundaries known by everyone and unfortunately generally accepted as "the way things are." The west boundary was just a few blocks from my house and Black people were never seen on our side unless doing obviously hired jobs for City Works, Waste Collection and the like.
My parents were significantly different from the parents of many of my friends. We were taught never to use the "N" word, though its use was very common in other households, and that Blacks (and everyone else) were just as good as we were.
This belief and what was expected of us was illustrated by the story I often heard about the time my father got the best, literally and figuratively, of his uncle, the Monsignor, most often a smooth and convincing speaker. They were discussing something which prompted the Monsignor to use the "N" word referring to an individual and then to generalize the comment about all Blacks. "You'll want to be careful with that," my father said. "Now why would that be?" asked the Monsignor derisively." You may find yourself sitting next to one of them when and if you get to heaven." Nothing further was heard from the red-faced Monsignor.
When my group of close friends were planning our Graduation party, the girl who had volunteered to be host was told that if we invited the sole Black member of our high school class, there would be "no party at this house". We moved the party to my house having experienced up close and very personal how deeply our environment was permeated by racism.
In today's Gospel passage, Jesus is challenged because of His inclusion of all sorts of people at His table. His reply confronted the righteous, among whom the Pharisees no doubt counted themselves, with their need for some serious attitude adjustment. If they wanted to take a seat at Jesus' table, they should be ready to sit next to all kinds of folks. They could exclude themselves; He would exclude no one. (I think of my friend's family who missed one darn good party!)
Time for some serious reflection. Care to join me? There's an open seat next to me.
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