Fr. David’s Homily on Pentecost Sunday – May 31, 2020
This brief passage (Jn 20:19-23) doesn’t lack any drama. The disciples are locked away in a room, hiding out, because they are afraid. It was in their fear that Jesus came to them and showed them a path to peace, an abiding peace in their lives. He doesn’t make the path easy, however, the path is one of reconciliation. And anyone who has ever walked that path knows that it is fraught with trouble and difficulty. Is it any wonder that we are afraid to go there.
But without going there we are doomed to the repetition of historical sin that will always shame us and take away any moral leadership we might claim for ourselves. In the words of the evangelist, we “retain” our sin.
Racism is, as our bishops put it, “a real and present danger that must be met head on. As members of the Church, we must stand for the more difficult right and just actions instead of the easy wrongs of indifference. We cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities and yet still try to profess to respect every human life. We serve a God of love, mercy, and justice.” It would seem to me that any other path is not worthy of a disciple of Jesus.
1 Statement of U.S. Bishop Chairmen in Wake of Death of George Floyd and National Protests http://www.usccb.org/news/2020/20-83.cfm Accessed: 05/30/2020
Twenty-eight years ago our city was caught up in the Spring riots of that year. I was an intern living at a parish in South Central Los Angeles the night the Rodney King verdict was handed down. It was 27 years before then that the Watts riots erupted in our city. Whatever else we might think about, we have to face into the damning truth that we have not dealt with the systemic and social injustices in our city or in our country that permit of, and even foster racism.
Racism is evil, plain and simple. It is our work, as believers, to refuse to hide from it, and to work towards its demise. Every laugh at a racist joke, every disparaging comment made because of a person’s skin color, every fearful eye or word reacting to another because of their accent, their skin color, or any other way in which they might be different to ourselves, needs to be confronted and called out. Our shame lies not in experiencing prejudice, but in our fear and refusal to engage it head on and change it for good.
Jesus calls us all out of the rooms within which we would rather hide and not face into the realities and truths of our shadowed selves. Forgiveness is his promise. Reconciliation is his path. But be certain of one thing… this isn’t something that comes from whispering prayers to the heavens that somehow God might intervene in human history and work some miracle outside of nature. It is a work to which we must commit ourselves, and it will require effort and commitment on our part, I have no doubt. We can’t wait for another 25 or 28 years for another explosion of frustrations and angers and age-old hurts of injustice. We are called to work in partnership with the Lord to overcome racism in our lives and to move forward to a renewal of life.
And mark my words, if we engage in this work we will meet our God face to face. Our encounter will come from our experience of working to sustain life, and to do all in our power to protect and preserve fellow human beings who are made - as we are - in God’s own image and likeness. We are, as Paul reminds us, all part of the One Body of Christ. And so God will mightily bless this work, and will most certainly accompany us in the difficulties and challenges we experience because of it.
So to all who claim the name Christian, I invite you to both pray and work toward a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit on this Pentecost Day. Pray and work for a desire to be rid of the harm that bias and prejudice cause. Pray and work toward the courage to face the inward challenges of our own biases and prejudices. Invite disciples of Jesus everywhere to pray to the Holy Spirit for the Spirit of Truth to touch the hearts of all, and work diligently to walk the path of forgiveness and true peace that Christ reveals.
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