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Protests At Pentecost

I started to write a reflection on another topic, but the protests of this past weekend and the (appropriate) endless news coverage, not only overwhelmed my senses, but also challenged me to ask what should I be doing at this time; how I should respond?

Unlike Pentecost, which we have just celebrated, where the apostles came out and spoke the gospel message to people of different races, and were heard and understood, here there are many good, peaceful people being drowned out by angry voices and even violence. Incidentally, I won’t try and articulate what I perceive to be the issues at stake here, although some are very obvious, as there are many who can better do that. Instead I’m more concerned about our role and response to these events, as disciples of Jesus.

Let me begin by offering what I think we should not do. We should not treat these problems, though they have troubled us for much of our history, as unsolvable. As Christians we know: “All things are possible with God” (Matthew 19). Moreover, it would not be the right thing to throw up our hands, tune out the news coverage, and wait for it to go away. Nor should we be too quick to condemn whole segments of our society. Clearly there are people who need to be held to account for what they’ve done and some aspects of our society and institutions are in need of significant reform. Last, but most important, while it is natural to be angry in the face on injustice, we must make sure that our anger is underpinned by our love of our brothers and sisters, and does not become a self-righteousness that promotes hate. Of course, all of the above are easier said than done. So what should we actually be doing?

It might be helpful or at least more straightforward to frame the response to this question around what I consider the three pillars of living our faith: prayer, good works and self-sacrifice.

First prayer. In these especially troubled times we must reach out to God in prayer. It’s hard to know whether these times are given to us, to cause us to drop to our knees to ask for God’s help, or we’ve ended up here because we haven’t spent enough time “on our knees”. Regardless, whether it’s the rosary, silent or verbal prayer, attending mass, or ideally all of these, we need to pray for peace, understanding, reform and God’s guidance on the path forward.

Good Works. Not all of us are called or indeed well suited to march in protest. But that doesn’t let us off the hook. I believe that whatever good works we choose to do, whether it’s directly related to race issues or not, is helpful. At this time with so many minorities disproportionately affected by Covid 19, giving to food banks can be a practical way of helping. Also, we can contribute by educating ourselves on the issues at play here and make sure that when we vote in November, it truly reflects our beliefs and values. There are many voices trying to frame the issues to suit their purpose. It’s incumbent on us to inform ourselves.

Self Sacrifice. Gandhi said: “be the change you want to see”. If we want to have peace, kindness, generosity, equality, justice and love, it is worthwhile asking ourselves daily, if we are living these values in ways big and small. Are we always putting the needs of others ahead of our own? Awareness of our behavior is the first step to improvement.

There’s a saying that we should work as if everything depended on us and pray as if everything depended on God. I don’t know if it’s a perfect answer to our current turmoil but maybe it’s not a bad place to start.


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