I’m going to begin this week’s reflection by bringing into focus three quotes from the scriptures we’re reading today. In the first, Moses prays for his people as they are about to begin their journey to the Promised Land. In the second, Paul directs the Christians in Corinth to change their ways so that they may enjoy God’s gift of peace. In the Gospel, Jesus defines his mission and, in doing so, presents us with a new and radical vision of God. I encourage you to spend some time in personal reflection on these three sentences before you read my reflection. What feelings and thoughts do they bring up in you, today? After you’ve spent some time in reflection move on, and perhaps add my reflection to your own.
Exodus “If I find favor with you, O Lord, come along in our company. This is a stiffnecked people; yet pardon our wickedness and sins and receive us as your own.”
Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Gospel of John “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world may be saved through him.”
Many months ago, when it was first reported that government law enforcement along our Southern border was arresting and separating children from their families and putting them into cages, I stood in front of you during a Sunday Mass and admitted that I was so appalled by what I had seen on the news that I was rendered speechless. I only spoke for about a minute that day. All I could say was, “How could we have allowed this?”
Today nothing has changed for these unfortunate people. Children are still being separated and put into cages. The only thing that has changed is that these people have been generally forgotten by the American people. These children have been traumatized and, if they survive Covid19 as they’re imprisoned in their cages, will carry the trauma with them for the rest of their lives. All this hostility and torture just to fulfill a campaign promise made to white supremacists. I’m still asking, “How could we have allowed this?”
Now, after our entire nation has witnessed the sadistic nine-minute execution/ murder of George Floyd on national TV, millions of our fellow citizens are asking, “How could we have allowed this?” This is the most important question we’ve ever asked as a nation. That question is the beginning of a national examination of conscience. We don’t need to point fingers at anyone. We, each of us, first need to confess that, throughout our four-hundred year history, we have been complicit in racism and injustice by our communal silence.
We were complicit when the first slave ships were greeted at our harbors in 1619. We were complicit when the genocide of the indigenous people of America began. We were complicit in 1867 when the Supreme Court in the case of Dred Scott vs. Sanford declared that black people, whether enslaved or free, were not included in the rights afforded to American citizens.
We were complicit when Japanese Americans were taken from their homes and placed in internment camps. We were complicit when we annihilated the population of two Japanese cities with atomic bombs. We were complicit when we dropped Agent Orange on the population of Vietnam for ten years.
We must confess that we’re a stiff-necked people. We don’t acknowledge that we’re the children of our history. We don’t acknowledge that the sins of our fathers and mothers rest heavy on our shoulders. We don’t agree with one another, and so we have no peace. We’ve lost our souls – personal and communal, and so we suffer the hell of inequality and injustice. We lack compassion for one another and so we can’t love – we can’t heal.
Today I pray that we, as a nation, may have the courage to begin the long and painfully difficult process of confessing the sins we have committed over the past four hundred years. We have to acknowledge that we must mend our ways. We have to begin healing our nation by working to heal each other’s wounds.
In the gospel Jesus tells us that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” God’s love is always embracing us – saints and sinners alike that we might be saved. We need to reach out to the power of God’s love. We need the courage to be truthful about our past. We need to stoke up the courage to be truthful about our present. We need to trust the divine energy that can heal us. We need to envision the new world our scriptures prophesied. We need to move forward. Each and every one of us needs to hope again.