In today’s gospel, Nicodemus questions the Pharisees by asking, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” The Pharisees are quick to judge and dismiss Jesus and his teachings simply because he is from Galilee.
For St. Louis natives, we have a strong tendency to ask others where they went to high school. This question can let a person know almost immediately the other person’s background and socioeconomic status, along with generating other often ill-conceived notions about that person. It can seem like human nature to jump to these conclusions.
In the past, I always thought this was a harmless question. But in reality it only perpetuates the ‘us vs. them’ mindset that was also present in Jesus’ time. If we continue this mindset and if we let judgments of others based on their background or where they come from cloud our decisions, then our world will only continue to be plagued by conflict, violence, and war.
Conflict, whether it is with a friend, family member, rival school, or even a bordering nation, can only end if we are willing to set aside our preconceptions and fears and instead listen to other people and embrace the culture of encounter.
Jes Stevens is a Loretto Volunteer working for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good in Washington D.C.