Jerusalem and Auschwitz Liberation Anniversary

(written 1/27/20)

Pope Francis Western Wall

In the first reading at Holy Mass today, we read about how King David captured the city of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, a non-Hebrew Canaanite people.

We tend to think of Jerusalem as the most thoroughly “Biblical” of cities, as God’s city. But archaeologists tell us that the city had a 3,000 year pagan history before King David captured it.

According to ancient tradition, the founder of the Hebrew people, Abraham, came from what is now Iraq. He prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac on the spot that later became the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

So, after King David captured the city from the Jebusites, David’s son Solomon built the Temple on that spot. The site that Abraham had consecrated centuries earlier by his faithful obedience to God.

King David captured Jerusalem by military conquest. Today we recall another military capture. Pope Francis said we should commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet army capturing the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland. The Red Army liberated the surviving Jewish prisoners.

As a young GI, my grandfather participated in the liberation of a different concentration camp. He was utterly horrified by the sight of the emaciated prisoners, whom the Nazis had all but starved to death. In fact, the sight impacted my grandfather so heavily that he never spoke of it. We never knew that he had participated in the liberation of a death camp. But after he died, my mother and aunt found black-and-white photos he had taken with his little camera, after his division captured the camp.

May God be merciful to us for the horrible crimes we human beings have managed to commit against each other. May He pour out His grace to help us find peace among ourselves.

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