Sunday, January 19, 2020
+ 2nd Sunday A +
Today we accept the call to follow Jesus, to be a light—if not to the nations—at least to our beloved city. Jesuit Fr. Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries:
Our locating ourselves with those who have been endlessly excluded becomes an act of visible protest. For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge can change them…The powers bent on waging war against the poor and young and “other” will only be moved to kinship when they see it. Only when we can see a community where all that is excluded is valued and appreciated, will we abandon the values that seek to exclude.
The powers bent on waging war against the poor and young and the other. Need I remind you that this is going on right now: The suppression of votes Georgia. In Florida pulling every trick to keep people who have served their sentences from voting. The effort to scare undocumented people from participating in the census so urban populations will be undercounted. Cutting food stamps for the poor. And just the other day, rescinding Obama era nutrition standards for school lunch programs.
We begin with Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, who takes away all that divides us. It will cost him his life, but that doesn’t stop him.
Jesus walks our streets and enjoys sitting at table to eat, drink, and listen to sinners (Us!). He talks about turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, loving enemies.
Always that determined vulnerability, that compassion that sees into you, not to punish but to heal.
- It is 1616. In Cartagena, Colombia, a port receiving annually 10,000 slaves to be sold, Spanish Jesuit Peter Claver is ordained. He serves them for 35 years, calls himself “a slave of the slaves.”
As ships dock, he begs for fruit, biscuits, or sweets; goes on board with translators; and shares his gifts and medical skills with each person. After brief instruction, Peter baptizes as many as he can [300,000 before his death].
He then prevails on slave owners to treat their fellow Christians humanely. Determinedvulnerability. Healing compassion.
He always says, “It behooves me always to imitate the example of the ass. He never complains in any circumstance, for he is only an ass. So also, must God’s servant, the priest, be.”
(I suspect most of you agree with this current example.)
St. Peter is the patron of African missions and interracial justice.
Now it’s 1857, a year after the parish opened. Black Catholics are not allowed in the church but are invited to worship in the basement Chapel of Blessed Peter Claver. Three Jesuits serve them.
Mary Lange, founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence and St. Frances Academy, worships here. The community grows and St. Francis Xavier parish is founded in 1863. The lower church becomes the Chapel of Grace.
Today, as we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr., we restore the original name of the chapel. We take this step to own and atone for the grave sin of racism woven into our nation from the 1st day, our Church in this country, and into our own parish history.
We commit ourselves, under the patronage of St. Peter Claver, to work for interracial justice in Baltimore. The life’s work of Fr. Watters and the dedication of our many lay partners and benefactors testify to that commitment.
All of us are members of “The Society of Jesus”—a society that includes everyone. Some of us are ordained. We are all companions of the Lord.
As a nation, as a Church, we have a long way to go. Determined vulnerability and healing compassion will yet make us a community where all that is excluded is valued and appreciated.
Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world. Have mercy on us.