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Welcome, No Matter What!

Fr Rich AndreFr. Rich Andre, CSP
March 31, 2023

We’re glad you’re here with us today! Maybe you haven’t had a regular relationship with any faith community for a while. Maybe you or a loved one has been hurt or alienated by a community of believers. Or maybe you’re someone who’s been coming to the Paulist Center regularly for decades. No matter what your circumstances are, you are most welcome here!

This sacred space is steeped in the history of inclusion and welcome. In the 1880s, the building that then stood at 5 Park Street housed the offices of The Woman’s Journal, a publication that advocated for women’s suffrage and the reform of child labor laws. The current structure was first built in the 1950s to educate tens of thousands of non-Catholic Bostonians about the faith, and many of them went on to join the Church. Members of this community founded the original Walk for Hunger to support our own in-house ministry to the hungry that continues to this day. The Paulist Center is known for its inclusion of divorced and separated Catholics, people identifying as LGBTQ+, and women who long for greater leadership roles within the Church. We have successfully advocated for many justice initiatives over the years. Three of our most active advocacy groups today focus on justice for immigrants, care for creation, and racial justice.

As you continue discerning how to relate to God and to organized religion, please know that we would be honored to journey with you. We are a community that values inclusion, reconciliation, healing, and justice. While the Paulist Center is a Roman Catholic community, our celebration of liturgy, our sense of community, and our emphases in preaching and programming welcome people who belong to other Christian denominations or other religious traditions, people who are formerly Catholic, as well as people who continue to fully identify as Catholic, even if they question aspects of Catholicism.

On Palm Sunday and Good Friday, we witness the complexities in how a faith community evaluates who belongs, who behaves, and who believes properly. Some leaders in the religious establishment and the Roman government felt so threatened by Jesus, the Christ, that they arranged his betrayal, railroading, abuse, torture, and execution. Yet Jesus remained true to the Almighty. The Resurrection is a victory for us all!

A closer examination of Matthew’s and John’s Passion narratives may surprise us, as they may not be as antisemitic as we see them depicted in many movies and in the way many churches proclaim these narratives. Throughout his gospel, John speaks of “the Jews” aiming to have Jesus killed. But as we can see in passages such as 19:6-7, John uses the phrase only to refer to those chief priests and elders who directly pushed for Jesus’ death. It is they who shout “Crucify him,” not the assembled crowd. Matthew speaks of “the crowd” shouting outside Pilate’s balcony, but they have been manipulated by that same small group of leaders (27:20-25). As the Church has forcefully declared: “What happened in [Christ’s] passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction.… The Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures…. The Church… decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.” (Nostra Aetate, #4).

In a year when antisemitism is on the rise, it is worth noting the three lessons Jesus gives his disciples just before Holy Thursday (Matthew 25:1-46). Our actions – no matter how small – make a difference in how the reign of God breaks into the world. When do we contribute to evil, like Judas? When do we try to change the course of events, like Pilate’s wife? When do we quietly accompany those who suffer, like Mary Magdalene? When do we wash our hands, like Pontius Pilate? As Jesus teaches about the Last Judgment, whatever we do for a brother or sister – whether we recognize it or not – we do it for Christ.

Please know that you are always welcome at the Paulist Center, no matter where you are on your faith journey. We are not a community exclusively dedicated to Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Even our unique crucifix simultaneously depicts both the agony of the Passion and the hope of the Resurrection. We hope to see you again throughout the Easter season, when we celebrate anew that nothing is impossible with God!