Although many reading this bulletin may have already voted by taking advantage of early voting opportunities, still I suspect many of you will be waiting to visit your voting place next Tuesday, November 8th. We have had all kinds of exposure to candidates on the national, state and local levels through debates, media advertisements, pieces we have received in the mail, and all kinds of discussions with friends and associates. Hopefully all of these opportunities have helped us to make a well-thought-out decision. Perhaps we have also done some personal research on the internet or have gone to a “fact checker” service to see if what we have heard or seen has truth and factual adherence.
I now offer a last minute commentary on two topics that are most pertinent to our upcoming elections, namely, Racial Justice and Freedom of Religion and Conscience. These commentaries have been written by a coalition of religious men and women and come to us from the United States Franciscan Office of Peace and Justice. These, along with several others can be found at www.popefrancis16.com. if you would care to read more.
“The problem of intolerance must be confronted in all its forms: wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious convictions or ethnic identity, the wellbeing of society as a whole is endangered, and each one of us must feel affected.”—Pope Francis (Address to a delegation of the Simon Wiesenthal Center on 10/24/13.
The August 11, 2014 community response to the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, shed a clear focus on personal and structural racism that continues to plague our nation’s history, its laws, and its criminal justice system. Our legal processes and political solutions can give some answers and provide some solace for these continued events of violence and racism, but we too need to confront our individual failings.
Faith teaches us how important it is to encounter the suffering of others. In the Bible, some of the early questions that God addresses to humanity are: “Where are you?” and “Where is your brother?” Today God asks the same of us. We must seek out and find our brothers and sisters in Ferguson, New York City, Charleston, and throughout the nation who suffer from the violence of racism. Though those with privilege can never completely grasp it, they must encounter their suffering, listen to their stories, and try to share their pain. Pope Francis says this “culture of encounter” will give us the ability to weep with those who suffer.
Though some want to move immediately into political, policy, or even moral solutions, this approach is limited. No law, no government program, and no sermon alone will end the violence and bring complete healing to Ferguson and to the nation. So we must resist the temptation to thrust ourselves into these situations and declare ourselves the messiah with the answers. Rather, we must be co-companions for the long journey towards healing, examining both racial privilege and racial oppression. We must strive to be allied for and with each other. The era of the “voice for the voiceless” is over. Everyone has a voice to be heard.
During his ministry, Jesus of Nazareth encountered many people begging for healing. While in Jericho, two blind men called out to him asking for mercy and for the gift of sight. Though the crowd tried to silence them, the men did not waver, but rather cried out, “Lord, open our eyes!” Scripture tells us that Jesus was then moved with compassion for them and gave them their sight.
What truth do we discover in Ferguson when we encounter the suffering there, and our own blind spots are removed? We first see that the outward violence that has plagued Ferguson since Brown’s killing did not begin on the streets that afternoon. Rather, it is the fruit of the invisible violence that plagues our communities every day. It is the violence of institutions, too often including the police that fails to serve their people. It is the violence of the disproportionate mass incarceration of people of color and minorities. It is the violence that afflicts the poor and makes us indifferent to others’ suffering. It is the violence of inaction in the face of failing schools, decaying cities, racial discrimination in hiring, and economic disparities. It is the violence that sows distrust between people and communities because of the color of their skin. This violence is not always as attended to as the gunshot that killed Michael Brown, but it is just as deadly.
Nearly eight years after the election of President Barack Obama, we must acknowledge that racism is still very much alive in our nation, and even in our churches. In fact, when we end the carnival of naivete around this issue and remove the masks, we will see the truth: individual and structural racism is tearing at the very fabric of our nation. It is cloaked in seemingly different and even benign issues such as tax codes, school districts, the criminal justice system, and the allocation of federal resources. We experience this racism in our own lives and in our own hearts—even in perhaps the smallest of ways. No one is truly beyond it. It is a broken part of us that is twisted up in our own lives, our own histories, and our own failings. But when we acknowledge its presence in our lives and in our communities, we can join with the Psalmist and cry out, “Forgive us, Lord, for we have sinned.”
This first step of encounter and acknowledgement can begin the journey of reconciliation for our communities and our nation. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said it well: “True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth….It is a risky undertaking, but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing.”
Today, we must be those people of Jericho. We must cry out and ask God to remove the masks that blind us. The road of encountering human suffering and the invisible and institutional violence that precedes it is uncomfortable, but it is not sterile. It will allow us to see the grittiness of the truth and to experience the gift of reconciliation and healing that will bind the wounds that divide us and allow us to move forward as a community and as a nation.
Freedom of Religion and Conscience
“American Catholics are committed to building a society which is truly tolerant and inclusive, to safeguarding the rights of individuals and communities, and to rejecting every form of unjust discrimination. With countless other people of goodwill, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and the right to religious liberty. That freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions”—Pope Francis (Speech at the White House, September 23, 2015)
In a time when hate and fear of religious difference has dominated much of the rhetoric of some presidential candidates, we remain committed to preserving that freedom of religion which is an anchor of the First Amendment to the Constitution. As Americans, we are called to respect people of all faiths, including Muslims in our midst. As Saint Francis did with the Islamic Sultan, we must reach out as Catholics to form friendships and partnerships with Muslims.
There is no room in our society for anti-immigrant laws that seek to exclude any people based on their religious beliefs. Our democracy is strongest when we support diversity of thought and belief. We are also strong when everyone can live in communities, contributing to the common good.
Jesus tells us our faith must manifest itself in works, so we insist that no distinction be drawn between our houses of worship and our public ministries to the poor and sick. This ensures that our work to serve the excluded can be practiced within our faith tradition. That being said, no Catholic institution—or any institution—should use a false notion of religious liberty to discriminate against anyone they employ or serve, particularly the LGBTQ community.
Sadly, the issue of religious liberty has often morphed into a partisan wedge. The United States’ foundational commitment to religious liberty has, for more than two hundred years, helped unite Americans, not divide them. We oppose efforts to restrict religious liberty for all people of any religion, but we also oppose efforts to demean it by turning it into a partisan issue.
At times there can be honest disagreements about just what is the common good, but we must work together to ensure that the religious consciences of all our people are honored. This, at times, can lead to different perspectives on the freedom or practice of religious beliefs, but our faith challenges us to work together to find the way forward where we maximize the freedom of expression and denigrate no one.
THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Seven brothers appear both in the First Reading and in the longer form of the Gospel. In both instances, the brothers help teach us about resurrection. In the passage from 2 Maccabees, the ruthless King Antiochus attempts to coerce the brothers and their mother into eating pork. One by one, the brothers remain faithful to God’s Law and refuse, resulting in their death. The words of the second brother attest that “the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever” and the third affirms the hope God gives of being “raised up by him.” To King Antiochus, the fourth brother communicates the message that for the king “there will be no resurrection to life.” At the time, belief in the resurrection was not widespread, so for the brothers to express this belief reveals that God is a God of the living, not of the dead.
The seven brothers appear in the Sadducees’ question about the resurrection, as they seek to manipulate Jesus into denying the validity of belief in the resurrection. In succession, after a brother dies, the next brother marries his wife. The brothers and the wife all die childless. The Sadducees wonder whose wife the woman will be at the resurrection. Jesus’ response instructs the Sadducees and us that the real question about sharing in the resurrection has nothing to do with our marital or societal status in the world or at death, but rather with whether we believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God in Jesus Christ, for us, is the God of the Resurrection. In him, we seek to share eternal life.
In the Second Reading, we hear Paul continuing to pray for the Thessalonians. His use of the phrase “good hope” suggests the Second Coming of Christ. The encouragement Paul offers intends to bolster the Thessalonians in the interim before Christ comes again. In turn, Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray for him and his partners in the Proclamation of the Gospel as we pray in support of each other in the Church.
NATIONAL VOCATION AWARENESS WEEK
The Catholic Church in the United States celebrates National Vocation Awareness Week this week, November 6-12, 2016. This annual event is a special time for parishes to foster a culture of vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and the consecrated life. Pope Francis, in his homily at the final Mass of the 2016 World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, encouraged the youth of the world to open their hearts to Jesus. “Don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ to Him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow Him!” said Pope Francis. “Don’t let your soul grow numb but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which demands sacrifice.”
This week is designed to help promote vocation awareness and to encourage young people to ask the question, “To what vocation in life is God calling me?” Or as one bishop put it, “Our willingness to invite those within our own communities and families to consider that God may be calling them to priesthood or consecrated life will bear abundant fruit in the Church and bring great joy and happiness to those called. We want what is best for our children; even more so does God desire their happiness.”
O God, Who wish all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of Your truth:
send, we beg You, followers into Your harvest
and grant them grace to speak Your word with all boldness,
so that Your word may spread and be glorified,
and all nations may know You, the only God,
and Him Whom You have sent,
Jesus Christ Your Son, our Lord,
Who lives and reigns, world without end. Amen.
HURRICANE MATTHEW EMERGENCY RELIEF
Haiti is reeling from the blows of Hurricane Matthew, which crashed ashore on October 4, bringing 145 mile per hour winds, storm surges and up to 40 inches of rainfall. The category 4 storm has caused massive devastation and flooding in Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and which has yet to fully recover from a catastrophic earthquake in 2010.
Rescue workers continue to try to reach affected areas, where many people have been hurt. The death toll in Haiti has surpassed 900 and is likely to rise as authorities reach more communities. People have limited access to potable drinking water. Catholic Relief Services and local partners are responding now in some of the most affected areas in southern Haiti. Teams are still learning about the scale of damage and are working to determine the most pressing needs as quickly as possible. CRS has prepositioned emergency materials nearby, including tarps and hygiene and living supplies, which can be distributed quickly to communities as needed. CRS has 132 Haitian staff and 11 international staff in the country. It has multiple offices nationwide, and 51 staff in Les Cayes. CRS has worked in Haiti for 60 years.
You may respond to these needs by check, sending it to ATTN: Hurricane Matthew Emergency Appeal, Catholic Relief Services, 3525 South Lake Park Ave., Chicago, Illinois 60653, or you may donate online at goo.gl/klzhOz.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE FALL SEASON
A certain man was the first to arrive at work one morning. The phone rang and he answered. When the caller asked for some specific information, the man explained that it was before normal business hours but that he would help if he could.
“What’s your job there?” the caller asked.
The man replied, “I’m the company president.”
There was a pause. Then the caller said, “I’ll call back later. I need to talk to someone who knows something about what’s going on.”