When I was growing up in a small town in New York with my Filipino-American sisters, many moments of explicit racism created shadows in our childhood. I remember when a group of neighbors jumped the fence in our backyard and cut down my mother’s prized Tiger Lily flowers, the time our mailbox was smashed, and the time that a crowd of bullies taunted my older sister with derogatory names and threw rocks at her as she walked home from school.
Having experienced the fragility of people so agitated by our family’s “otherness,” when I prayed with the readings today, I had to ask myself: What was so threatening about Jesus’s presence that educated people of faith would resort to throwing stones?
In response to the question, “Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus’ boldness, freedom, and faith are held in striking contrast to those who question his authority and so quickly abuse their power with violence. Jesus knows the truth of who he is and what roots him. He has no fear.
It has been powerful for me, then, to reflect on my own history and to accompany a family seeking sanctuary within our churches in San Francisco. This family has patiently and humbly led the communities of St. Agnes and St. Ignatius to that place of intersection in our society that is full of tension and fear. The call to sanctuary also invites me to that place within myself.
The reality of immigrants and refugees in our society moves us to investigate both the places of generosity we hold and our complicity in larger systems of injustice. The precarious situation they are forced to inhabit urges us to reflect on how fear might motivate our decisions, offering false protection to ourselves but doing real harm to others. Who or what roots us in love and greater freedom when we are called to be bold?
Grace Salceanu is the director of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center & Children’s Faith Formation at St. Agnes Church in San Francisco. She previously co-directed Casa Bayanihan, the University of San Francisco’s study abroad program in the Philippines rooted in accompaniment, academics, community, and spirituality.