Wednesday, June 3, 2020

"We Cannot Turn a Blind Eye..."

The box below quotes the words of Pope Francis from today's General Audience. What he says expresses more than anything I could make up on my own. 

People need to look directly at this violation of human dignity with open eyes. Right now, everyone has been provoked by it. One of the great stinking wounds of the social body is exposed in full view, its festering poison visible for all to see. 

This is no time for the kind of extended analysis, probing of complex issues and tendencies, and hypothesizing that historians habitually carry out in their ongoing search for "the larger perspective." Such endeavors have their time and place, but not at this moment. 

For myself, in any case, I must continue to learn what I can and to listen to the long sorrowful story of the African-American people. Their lives do matter, and they have every reason to insist that others recognize their long-neglected rights. Black Americans are a people who, over the course of four centuries, have been ruthlessly dislocated, enslaved, abused, repressed, cheated, and fragmented — a people who nevertheless have endured with a common memory, and continue to forge their own identity through the determination, resilience, and heroism of so many among them, a people who have the potential for greatness, and who are vital to the future of this nation and the world. They have already given so much, yet their sorrowful story continues, and they still suffer enormously.

The Pope directed these words to us today:

Racial injustice is an old, deeply entrenched source of the violence that has scarred the history of the USA from the first slave ships that arrived on these shores 400 years ago to the systemic hostility and humiliation perpetuated even to the present day.

As May ends and June begins in this nightmare that is the year 2020, new traumatic events have emerged that none of us can ignore. With the first loosening of public restrictions in what remains an unresolved and unpredictable viral pandemic, we have seen the monstrous, appalling spectacle of a helpless black man crushed-to-death beneath the knee of a police officer.

We first must regard the particular human persons whose affliction is in front of us. We must pray for the repose of the soul of poor George Floyd, and pray and weep for his grieving family. We also need to insist on justice and full accountability here. (Surely the multitude of honorable, decent, and brave policemen and women throughout the country desire this as much as anyone else.)

Lord, grant eternal rest to George Floyd, and console his loved ones and family, especially his little 6 year old daughter Gianna. Grant that honest justice and accountability will prevail, that hearts will change, that systems, dangerous practices, and bad mentalities will change. Have mercy on us. (Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am a man far too complacent in my ways. Change my heart, O God!)

Sadly, in the past several days, there have been riots in the streets of some American cities. There are complicated factors and motivations that can drive people to acts of angry desperation, but they cannot avoid being sucked into a whirlwind that serves only the agents of chaos. Violence begets violence in the perpetuation of the cycle of violence that becomes ever more self-defeating and mutually destructive. "Nothing is gained by violence."

There are also many people who are engaged in peaceful demonstrations, seeking constructive reforms, and trying to "work for peace and justice." It is a daunting, seemingly overwhelming task. But it is the way forward, and everyone in this country needs to be committed to it, and never give up. 


From the various places in which we stand now, we must discover and take the steps to make a new beginning, together, as human beings.

What will enable us to recognize one another as brothers and sisters? We are all such strangers to one another, and we so easily tend to cover our own isolation and fear with contempt for the other.

Racism is founded on lies. Racism is a pretext we use to disown our brothers and sisters, to absolve ourselves from relationship with them as persons, to close our eyes and ears to their sufferings, to dehumanize them and abuse them, or to have no care when they are treated like disposable objects, like garbage.

I am a sinner, implicated like everyone else in this pride that looks down on other human persons and treats them like "things." I have no hope except to follow Jesus Christ, to be converted to Him again and again, day after day, to beg for His mercy, and to open my heart to His life-giving Spirit.

I need to pray for a new heart. We all have to pray. Without turning to God, what hope do we have? Only when God gives us new hearts will we be able to see one another as brothers and sisters. Then we can find better ways to live together, to give and to share the various riches of humanity that God has given us and inspired us to cultivate as individual persons and as particular communities.

This "new heart" is a concrete possibility for every person, because God has become one of us, has taken flesh to dwell with us, to be with us, to stay with us. God is present among us as a man, Jesus, who has destroyed the ultimate power of death and sin, who is with us in all our pain, who is our Lord and our brother. He calls to Himself people from every nation, race, culture, from all the earth, from every time and place, including the particular places where we live right now.

Jesus our Lord remains forever human. He was born of a woman, Mary, who remains forever His mother. Here we have a very special reason for hope: we have a mother, and her tenderness reaches out to gather together all the brothers and sisters of her Son with untiring solicitude.

Echoing Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis entrusts the USA to the Mother of Jesus who has made her maternal presence most evident to all of her children in this hemisphere in a place south of our national border, on the hill of Tepeyac. Nuestra SeƱora de Guadalupe.

Like John Paul II, Francis calls her the "Mother of America."