Holy Name Cathedral Pentecost, May 30-31, 2020
In these days when the deadly coronavirus has separated us, this week has exposed a deeper division in the human family caused by the perpetual plague of violence, hatred, and racism that has infected our country for far too long. This past Memorial Day weekend was Chicago’s bloodiest in five years, with most of the violence affecting communities of color. Yet, we had no idea how much worse the week would get. Just after our nation passed the chilling milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, a disproportionate of those being people of color, we were sickened as we watched in horror and outrage yet another video of an African American man dying on the street of an American city. He died, after the officer arresting him for allegedly trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill used his neck as a kneeler for about 9 minutes — despite the man’s desperate cries for air.” The man’s name was George Floyd. We must never forget it.
Some are rightly saying that these events are a wake-up call for our country, to finally faced up to the consequence of centuries of national racial injustice that began with the inhuman practice of slavery, our nation’s original sin, and which continues today in the myriad of ways people of color are treated as less-than-human, or worse.
That is true. This is a wake-up call for our nation. But, these tragedies are also a wake-up call for us as a church, a point that should not be lost on us as we are reminded by the first church in Jerusalem what it means to be a church on this Pentecost day. Through the Word of God, they call out to us today across the ages to be true to our mission to the world. They recount for us how the spirit which gave birth to the Church empowered them to unite people of every land and language, speaking so that all could understand them. The point is simple. The church’s mission from the very start and for us today is to bring humanity together as one people of God, who could understand each other, bond with each other as brothers and sisters of one another.
This is our mission. This is who we claim to be. At the least this means rejecting ourselves, our family, and especially our children any form of racism, condemning any effort to divide humanity into “them” and “us”, or degrading others by word or deed. No one who traffics in this language or acts this way can be called a Christian. Period. But it also means that we are to take an active part in building a better world and society, not out of political persuasion or for material reasons of prosperity, but because this is the mission of the Church; this is God’s original plan, to save humanity “not as individuals, without a bond or link between one another, but to bring them together as one people” (Lumen Gentium, 9).
It is easy to be discouraged by what we see happening and begin to think that there is little we can do. But, today, Christ is true to His promise that He has not abandoned us and left us, orphans. We are not alone. He breathes His spirit upon us and empowers us as he did our ancestors in the faith to unite people together. This is what it means to say in the creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit.” So, let us be brave and bold, undaunted by the challenge before us, and take up the mission of Christ with fresh vigor, to build up the people of God and make God’s world a better place.