What do the song Nowhere Man and my name “Barbara” have to do with today’s readings? Well, if you are with me as I take you on a word journey to Jerusalem AD 30 and connect it to Beachwood, Ohio AD 1970 you’ll find out.
Many of you who know me know how connected I feel to Judaism. I grew up in a Jewish community … probably one of the foremost Jewish communities in the U.S. – Beachwood, Ohio. My neighbors for the most part, were Jewish. And, my family was the alien… the stranger among them. We were Roman Catholic, Hungarian by descent and lower middle class. Unlike other families in the neighborhood whose fathers owned furniture stores, were lawyers, doctors or business men of esteem in the community. My dad was a factory worker who mowed lawns for the wealthy as a second job to provide the “good life” for his family and a college education for his children.
However, the only time I was made to feel like an alien or stranger was when I stepped out of the cocoon of this Jewish community and went to church or school in the Roman Catholic community down the road a piece. It wasn’t the neighbors who viewed us as strangers in was the kids in school who were all either Irish or Italian who didn’t have much in common with the chubby little blonde haired/blue eyed Hungarian who was bussed into school and who still followed the old world traditions at home honored by her grandparents.
The fact that these traditions had more in common with my Jewish neighbors than my Catholic school mates didn’t dawn on me until I reached puberty and found that the rich Catholic teens wanted little to do with me because I was some how different from them. In many respects I am still different today. I have chosen a life and life style that alienates me from main stream Catholics. I am a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, excommunicated from the rigid law bidding conservative catholic communities and en more alien, I am a non “gay”, non “straight” woman leading a group of marginalized LGBTIQs who have themselves been alienated by their faith tradition.
That brings me to today’s readings and my understanding of what and who the alien among us really is. If you look deeply into your heart, perhaps you will be able to discover who you really are. Cut through to discover the labels each of us place on ourselves and come home to the center…the core of your own being perhaps you will see or experience what Jesus meant when he responded to the leaders of his day and his religion by honing in on the key principle of the Jewish faith … a principle that Hillil the Elder, a Jewish scholar, brought forward in Jesus day and still continues to be remembered for. Hillel said, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow human beings. This is the Whole Torah … the rest in commentary. Go and Learn.” The Golden Rule? Sound familiar?
So, who is the alien that the first reading tells us not to molest? Is it our fellow human being that Hillel refers to? Is that stranger in our midst, the one who is not like us? Is it the one who does not fit the mold, the outsider?
Or is it the one who comes in the name of our God? The one at the very center of our being? Are we perhaps the alien who needs and deserves to be loved? And, is that alien connected to each of us? That alien who we fear, that unknown who we can not bring ourselves to face, much less, love … the one who we can not seem to forgive?
Is Judaism the antithesis of Catholicism or is it the other side of the same core issue today with the hierarchy that Jesus did with the Pharises when he said, “Shema y’isreal Adonai el heinu Adonai echad. Ve’ ahavta et Adonai eloheykha Adonai bekhol-levakha u’vekhol nafsheha’ u’vekhol me ‘odekha.” Hear, Oh Isreal; the Lord our God is one. You shall love your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might. Them love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
So, what do “Nowhere Man” and my name ‘Barbara’ have to do with today’s readings?
The first … the song is obvious:
He's a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody
Doesn't have a point of view
Knows not where he's going to
Isn't he a bit like you and me? …
Nowhere Man, don't worry
Take your time, don't hurry
Leave it all till somebody else lends you a hand
The second … Barbara is only obvious if you know Latin. It means beautiful stranger among us.
In what way do your feel marginalized as the stranger? And how do you marginalize others? Are you a Nowhere Man or the Beautiful Stranger among us? Think about it this week and pray for the courage to begin to love the alien in our midst.