20th Sunday in Ordinary Time | August 16, 2020
See today’s readings here. Video recordings of the Sunday evening Mass, where Fr. Brian regularly preaches, are available on Facebook at Delaware Koinonia. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found here: Salesian Sermons
I am a racist, currently in active recovery.
I’ve known about my racism for awhile, but I’ve spent a lot of my life denying it.
I mean I was raised by parents who told me to love everyone equally.
My best friend since high school is black.
And I’ve spent the last 7 years of my life working in a school that is predominantly filled with students of color.
If anyone has earned the, “I’m not a racist card”, I think I qualify.
But the truth is, despite everything that I’ve shared, I am a racist.
It is an unavoidable fact of life.
Each of us has prejudices. Each of us makes judgements. Each of us is shaped by our unconscious bias
And in the United States, in 2020, I have been socialized since birth to see race, to respond to race and to judge others by race.
I was socialized through segregation. Growing up in a neighborhood that was entirely white.
Attending a grade school that was overwhelmingly white.
I did not have a black teacher or professor until graduate school and it was for one class.
My friend group is overwhelmingly white. My colleagues are predominantly white.
And none of this was by accident. For the society that has formed me is one in which white people and white spaces are deemed safe, desirable, and preferred. While black spaces and black people are threatening, dangerous and to be avoided.
And that is why, when I look back on the landscape of my life, I see how this prejudice warped my experience.
How I was terrified to go watch fireworks in Harrisburg because it was a “dangerous city”
How I saw two black teens walking by my car and I leaned over and locked the door
How my life was filled with so few people of color and I never once understood that as a bad thing.
How I would tell my students to stop saying words like “jawn” and speak proper English.
How I would push my students of color to be twice as good, without ever once telling them how screwed up it was that they lived in a nation in which they had to be exceptional to simply achieve what their white peers got for being average.
But who I have been and who I am does not mean it is who I must be going forward. As I said, I am in active recovery. And it is this Gospel that is my inspiration for my work.
For see, this Gospel has always been fascinating for me. Watching as pastors, teachers, and professors would attempt to tell me that Jesus didn’t say what he said.
But the truth is that Jesus said it because Jesus too had been socialized.
And like any human, he had been given the prejudices of his people.
Prejudices that were deeply skeptical and resentful of both Samaritans and Gentiles.
But unlike most of us, Jesus did not allow himself to be trapped by his prejudices. On the contrary, he transcended them. And in the process, offers us all a model of transcending our own.
For the 1st thing he does is listen. Listen to the experiences of the other.
Even though the disciples tried to prevent this moment from happening. Insisting that she be sent away.
Denying her voice. Denying her experience.
A process that continues to our present day. For each day, we drown out the voices of our sisters and brothers and trans individuals of color. Shouting them down on news shows. Denying their validity on social media or vilifying their intentions. Withdrawing from the conversation rather than listening to an experience that makes us uncomfortable.
Jesus, however, rejects this temptation offered by the disciples. He does not run from this encounter. He does not dismiss her voice. He does not press on to other responsibilities. Other conversations. No he stops. He listens and he engages.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. No, not only does he listen, but he grapples with what her experience means for his own experience of the world. He allows himself to be changed by the encounter.
And then, in that moment of change, he reaches out with the gifts he possesses and grants her what she needs. What is hers by right.
My friends. This is our model as we too navigate our own prejudices. Our own racism. Our culture steeped in white supremacy.
We must listen
We must allow ourselves to be changed
And then we must do the work of giving what we possess to build the kingdom of justice, equality and peace for all God’s people.
This is our challenge. This is our call. This is our commission.
Let’s get to work, my friends.
May God be Praised.