These are truly days of reckoning for our entire nation, as people throughout the land gather in protests to give expression to deeply held anger at the racism that continues to haunt and divide. One white police officer kneeling on the neck of an unarmed Black man, killing him, has brought to the surface a very ugly reality. The question keeps surfacing: “Why is this happening and who is responsible?” The reasons are deeply complex but they boil down to one painful truth: those of us who are White can never understand the experiences of people who are African American, a people enslaved and believed to be less than human, all enshrined in the institutions of our country until the abolition of slavery. But the effects of slavery live on, most often in the shadows, until they burst out into the open at a racist tragedy gone viral.
Today is a brand new Feast in our Church: Mary, Mother of the Church. The first reading tells the story of the ancient curse that entered the world through the free choice of Adam and Eve to do things on their own, apart from God. After they sinned, they immediately hid from God, experiencing shame in their naked bodies, something never intended by God. Then they passed the blame on: “No, he tricked me.”; “The serpent made me do it.”; “It’s her fault.” Ugly truths are truths we would rather run away from, and do so quickly. To ease the burden of conscience and the stark realities of history, we remove ourselves from complicity. “I’m not responsible for something that happened decades and centuries ago. Get over it.”
We who are White are being called to stop hiding from this painful truth, and our conscience, our moral compass, is compelling us to stand naked, in spirit, letting go of the clothes that hide. Let’s stop “clothing” this racism and put on the “clothes” given to us at our baptism, when we were “clothed “ with Christ in mercy, justice and truth. These clothes of water and Spirit unite, fortify, bring peace rooted in justice. We cannot have any lasting peace without lasting justice.
Mary is the Mother who “gathers” us into the church. She is our graced Mother who prayed in her Magnificat from Luke’s Gospel, “ He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, while the rich he has sent away empty.” These prophetic words come from the mouth of Mary, hardly meek and gentle words. They speak of a new way of living, in which those who suffer the injustice of poverty and race, will become the leaders of a “new heaven and a new earth,” where everyone has a place at the table. May all of us have the courage to surrender to this new vision, which Mary, our Mother, is calling us to do. In this new vision of life, Christ will shine in multitudes of colors.