On Tuesday, March 16, I was shocked to hear a news report that a man had shot and killed eight people in the Atlanta, Georgia area. Six of those killed were Asian-American women who all were working to support their families. The senseless killing of anyone is shocking enough but that the man who murdered these people targeted only Asian establishments and travelled to three different places raises fear of increasing racist attacks upon others. In recent months a number of elderly Asians and Asian-Americans have been attacked, pushed to the ground and injured in unprovoked attacks upon these innocent people due to their race.
Though our country has experienced racism and xenophobia in varying degrees of seriousness from the beginning of the country, in the past couple of years we have seen an increase of intolerance, hate attacks and racist behaviors. As a nation we pride ourselves on accepting many people, tolerating different views and being open to new ideas and experiences. That we have made great progress over the past decades in our acceptance of many people who might be different than us, is true. However, we still have a long way to go in following Jesus's command, "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31)
When elderly people are pushed to the ground without any provocation by cowardly younger people, as a number of men and women have been recently in San Francisco, Oakland, New York and other cities. When civil authorities, sports commentators, internet pundits routinely disparage others because of race, ethnicity or culture then we must admit that racism has reared its ugly head in the public forum.
As a believing Catholic and clergy man of our Church I find the recent surge in racist behavior to be very troubling and abhorrent to everything we say we believe as Catholics. If we say we are the people who respect life, who promote the God-given dignity of all people then we need to ask ourselves what more must we do to promote respect for all people. For surely these recent racist attacks and attitudes are totally at odds with what we profess we believe in as Catholics.
On Thursday, March 18 Cardinal Cupich issued a statement regarding the Atlanta area shootings. He wrote:
To our brothers and sisters in the Asian-American community, please know the Archdiocese of Chicago and the whole church stand with you in this moment of grief and horror. We pray for the victims of the Atlanta shootings and their loved ones.
A recent study found that from 2019 to 2020 anti-Asian hate crimes increased 150% — even while hate crimes in general dropped 7% over the same period. This is intolerable. We pray for all who suffer racist violence and hate speech. There can be no place for either in our society, and it is incumbent on all of us to resist language, culture and acts that denigrate Asian Americans and all people of color — because they have deadly consequences. We must be ever vigilant against words that inspire acts of hate — this responsibility is even greater for elected officials.
When people make racist comments or jokes, it normalizes bigotry, reinforces racism and risks encouraging those who would commit hate crimes. It is incumbent on all Christians, all Americans, to resist subtle and overt acts of bigotry, to build up the common good through acts of love for all our neighbors, near and far.
On Saturday, March 20 Cardinal Wilton Gregory (who was raised here in Chicago) and is now Archbishop of Washington, DC participated in a forum, "Open Wide our Hearts; The Enduring Call to love - Confronting the Sin of Racism" with the Bishop of Alexandria, Virginia. Cardinal Gregory said, "... that racism is only able to survive if there is ignorance."
He spoke of the need to engage with those different than us so that we might come to a deeper understanding of one another. You can watch the entire forum with Cardinal Wilton Gregory and others on YouTube. Just enter the title, "Open Wide our Hearts; The Enduring Call to love - Confronting the Sin of Racism" to watch the Mass celebrated before the Forum and then followed by a number of talks and discussion in the Forum.
As we begin our journey once again in this Holy Week 2021 with Christ, I encourage everyone to attend as many services as possible this week. Whether here at St. Peter's, Holy Name Cathedral, Assumption, Old Saint Mary's or another parish please try to journey with the Lord in a special way this year with Jesus through his Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Today, Palm Sunday, we recall how the large crowds welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, palm branches swaying and folks shouting his name and greeting him loudly. But as we will hear in the Passion story that is read at Mass, the crowds quickly turned on Christ's message of love and equality for all. The adoring fans of Jesus on Palm Sunday swiftly turned violent when he called them to live honestly the message of his Heavenly Father. Even the very men Jesus had chosen to carry on his message, run away from him when faced with following Christ and deny even knowing Jesus.
On Holy Thursday we recall the gift Jesus left to his disciples and all of us who over the centuries profess the name, Catholic; that of his own life, his body and blood in the Eucharist.
On Good Friday we remember God who became human like us dying on the Cross for the salvation of everyone who accepts his invitation to eternal life. On Good Friday we also take up the annual collection for the Holy Land. Since the time of St. Francis the Franciscans have taken care of and ministered at the Holy Places in Israel. The friars also minister to the Palestinian Catholics in the Middle East.
On Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil we light the Easter candle, renew our Baptismal Promises and celebrate Christ's resurrection and his promise that we too will rise from the dead and live forever with him and all the saints in heaven.
On Easter Sunday we proclaim to all the world that Jesus conquered the darkness of death. We will pray at Mass, "O God, who on this day, through your Only Begotten Son, have conquered death and unlocked for us the path to eternity, grant, we pray, that we who keep the solemnity of the Lord's Resurrection may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit, rise up in the light of life. Amen"
You will find in today's bulletin the Holy Week Schedule. Hopefully, we will see you at the services this week. May we all pray during this Holy Week for an end to the violence of our times, deeper understanding between all people and a pathway to end racism and fear of others in our day.