This is not the blog I intended to write.
I am no stranger to protests having marched for many decades starting in the 60’s for civil rights all the way up to the women’s marches in recent years. I have been in Washington, D.C. more often for protests than for tourism or conferences. I have never been assaulted or arrested although there were several close calls. Only once was I insulted and that was when a man spat on me from an open bus window as I distributed leaflets about our unjust policy in El Salvador. I studied the causes carefully for which I marched; I studied mostly with others before joining a protest insisting it had to be a cause where a faith presence was clearly needed.
That presence is just as needed today as it was in the past, maybe even more so. Thankfully, two Bishops have stood up and confronted the evil of a racism cloaked in a photo-op that desecrated the doorways of their faiths. Episcopal Bishop Mariann Budde and Roman Catholic Archbishop Wilton Gregory, religious leaders in Washington, D.C., issued startling statements sure to garner criticism from some in their flocks. But I admire their courage and obvious commitment to stop the bleeding of justice in our land. They have demonstrated what a Church of Pentecost looks like. It confronts wayward power; it reads and prays the Word of God; it does not brandish that Word like a weapon; it lets the words within fall on the ears and seep into the hearts of the listeners.
The first post-Pentecost Christians absorbed the gifts of the Spirit and went immediately among the people to preach and to work miracles in the memory of Jesus. They did it in the presence of religious authorities who were still angry and distrustful of this new faith. They eschewed the Roman leaders who chased them down to the synagogues and threw them into prison. They were encouraged by ordinary people like Barnabas, who had sold his farm and volunteered to be within the intentional community now taking place.
This was a community unlike any other that existed before or immediately after the time of Christ. It was an intentional community that even the pagan historian Josephus described as “…the continuation not as a spreading contagion but as an undying love.” Could that describe our faith, my faith, during this pandemic and this time of political protest? Theologian John Dominic Crossan asks, “Is your God a God of justice or revenge?” Crossan delves into the short Psalm 82 concluding that justice needs compassion to be true justice. “Where there is justice without compassion, there will be anger, violence, and murder. A thirst for justice without an instinct for compassion produces killers.” There is much to ponder here so lets do that as post-Pentecost believers. And then let us take whatever action is possible these days to really live our faith in justice and compassion. Crossan writes, “But compassion, no matter how immediately necessary or profoundly human, cannot substitute for justice, for the right of all to equal dignity and integrity of life. Those who live by compassion are often canonized. Those who live by justice are often crucified.”
Let’s reflect on Psalm 82 for starters and then re-read Chapters 1 & 2 in Acts of the Apostles.
How do you see yourself being challenged at this perilous time in our history? How do you see your faith and patriotism providing direction?
Thank you for this powerful reflection! I especially appreciated your thought-provoking and heart-moving quotations on compassion and justice. But most of all I am inspired by your own personal witness! Thanks again! Melannie
Sister once again you a put into words what a lot of us feel. In a talking to some of my friends of all colors I really listened to what they were saying. I felt it in my heart. One of the older black men I volunteer with reminded me that sharing his feelings helped him as much as it educated me. I am truly blessed to know him.
Where is the compassion in our world?
Wouldn’t Jesus say “All life matters”!?
So often this world makes me so sad.
I’m glad I can shake it off and trust in God.
Thank you so much! My black friends have been so relieved to see the Catholic Church speaking out against racism, finally! Very powerful words. We can’t be comfortable, we have to deal with this. One friend protested with a sign that read “I am no longer willing to enjoy comforts at the expense of others.”
Thanks for your words, Mary Ann. I attended a silent prayer vigil recently at a city parish. The “sisters” were given t-shirts to wear which identified us. When I asked why, one of the organizers said that many of her black parishioners asked “Where are the sisters? They always marched with us.” I am not suggesting that we go back to the habit but it gave me pause. The Church needs to be more visible in times like these. Faith in action – justice rooted in compassion has never been needed more.