by Sr Phyllis Jaszkowiak
September 10, 2017
Listen here, or read the text below.
Our readings today invite us to be true neighbors to each other. Neighbors that love each other, help each other become better people, reconcile with each other after a disagreement, forgive each other when one hurts the other, continually show the love of God to each other. Neighbor here means those close to us – family, friends, people living next door. It also means society and that we must try to change it for the better when it sins.
The prophet Ezekiel is told he must try to dissuade the wicked ones from their ways. He may not always succeed, but he has to talk with them. Jesus says we are to talk with someone one-on-one first and try to win them over. If that doesn’t work, then take along two or three others. If that doesn’t work then bring it to the community. Paul sums it all up when he says, “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence love is the fulfillment of the law.”
The process outlined in the Gospel can be used for the social sins, the structural sins of society. Racism is one of those sins, perhaps our (United States) original sin. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1967, “Racism is evil because its ultimate logic is genocide.” Each time racism raises its ugly head we must resist it.
Every immigrant group coming to the US has encountered this sin. It is the sin that says one group is dominate or superior, all others are subordinate to this group and can be used, abused, exploited, at the will of the dominate group. The only group that did not encounter this sin was the very first settlers. They were welcomed and helped by the Native Americans. After that we said to the Native Americans, this now is our land, you have to leave. So we put them on reservations. And since then we have tried to keep every other group out, or enslave them, or build walls to keep them out.
What would happen if we really took the advice in today’s readings to heart? What would change in our world if we did no evil to our neighbor? How would we change if we tried to really follow this path to reconciliation?
There are signs of hope in our world today that we are listening and trying to change. In our parish we are trying to include and engage all of us as we build up our community and resist racism in our city. The Faith Formation Commission of our parish is inviting all of us to a whole parish learning with the theme “Solidarity with Compassion”. I would encourage us all to attend these sessions and so keep learning what it means to call everyone ‘neighbor’ and treat them all with love.
In the civic community there have been protests against the hate spewed forth by some of our politicians and by the white supremacists. There have been outpourings of love, support and sympathy for those who have died while witnessing love and not hate.
We need a deeper conversion to the love of neighbor to which God calls us, a love that is never easy, most always uncomfortable, and does not guarantee success. Our response is not violence but is truth-telling, deep listening, dialogue, forgiveness and conversion to the way of love and to the common good. This will bring about the reconciliation that God desires for our world.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa has shown that this way of love really does work. It made possible a transition of growth, reconciliation, and tolerance after decades of Apartheid. It stopped a bloody revenge that most of the world feared would happen. Through people telling what they had done, others telling what had been done to them, they were able to forgive one another and move in the direction to which Paul invites us, “Love does no evil to the neighbor.” Archbishop Tutu, the leader of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was able to lead his country through this time of transition because he had been converted to that deeper love of all humans to which God calls all of us.
Our task, given to us by God, is to find ways of eliminating racism, and other social structural sins, and bring reconciliation to our world today. God gives us a start by the process Jesus gives us. We now have to flesh it out in our world, whether that would be in our families, communities, church, city, nation or world.
If we really take to heart the call ‘to love our neighbor as ourselves’ we will be changed. And if we are changed then everything else can be changed. As Kerry Robinson says in the current issue of America, “I am aware of the invitation at hand: to seek reconciliation, to foster civil dialogue, to mitigate fear and to be more loving, more welcoming, more radically hospitable, just as the Gospel enjoins.” We will need to do what Jesus asked of us last week, “Take up your cross and follow me,” knowing that we are never alone in this work of reconciliation, mercy and love. For where two or three of us are gathered, there Jesus is in our midst.
Kerry Alys Robinson, THE MAGNANIMITY OF THE GOSPEL, America Magazine September 4, 2017. Page 54.