August 24, 2013 by lellielieb
Today is my birthday. It is also St. Bartholomew’s Day. I have been a lover of history all of my life, and I remember when I first learned about the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre and realized that it happened on my birthday. It made me sad that the day of my birth marked the anniversary of such a grim day in the history of the church. On and around this day in 1572 the French King (some say at the urging of his mother, a Medici) ordered the killing of several Huguenot leaders. The ordered assassinations turned into mob violence and spread to the countryside. The estimated number of deaths varies from source to source, and is believed to be between 5,000 to 30,000; the best modern guess is around 10,000. This event significantly crippled the Protestant movement in France. Eventually, many of the Huguenots would leave France permanently, many of them going to the New World. The incident led to bitterness, anger, and problems between believers for centuries. Some turned from faith completely; if this was the result of religion, they wanted no part in it.
I was thinking about this as I turned to my reading for this morning. The fact that I have been immersed in church history all week intensified my interest. I was amazed at what I found in the Gospel lesson for this day:
“A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”
I know that the Bartholomew’s Day massacre was really more about politics than it was about religion. However, there were church leaders on both sides who were determined to hold or get power. The day is a dark blot on Church History.
I read that on August 23, 1997, Pope John Paul II was in Paris and took a moment to speak these words:
“On the eve of Aug. 24, we cannot forget the sad massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, an event of very obscure causes in the political and religious history of France. … Christians did things which the Gospel condemns. I am convinced that only forgiveness, offered and received, leads little by little to a fruitful dialogue, which will in turn ensure a fully Christian reconciliation. … Belonging to different religious traditions must not constitute today a source of opposition and tension. On the contrary, our common love for Christ impels us to seek tirelessly the path of full unity.”
Full unity–that’s what we’re supposed to have. The Epistle reading was encouraging on that score. After the disciples had the argument about who was greater, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, we find these words in Acts chapter 5: “And they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Porch.” It’s possible. Jesus died to reconcile us to the Father and to one another. Lord, make us one in You!