“All lives matter.”
“My family didn’t own slaves.”
“I don’t see color. I see people.”
“My parents worked hard for everything we have.”
“What about black on black crime?”
“This is just another case of a few bad apples ruining the bunch.”
“Don’t play the race card.”
If Luke’s parable were unfolding today, these fragments of thought and speech could be things that those who “receive what is good” in our lifetimes might say—to ourselves, to others, or even to God—when we come face to face with the sores of racism on bodies and in spirits as near to us as the doorways of our churches and universities, our classrooms and offices, our homes and residence halls.
Like purple garments of righteous authority, indifference defends us against the pain of folks who lament that something is profoundly wrong with the way things are.
Like fine linens that soothe and comfort, indifference cloaks us in a false assurance of our own innocence, keeping us from seeing ourselves in the twisted roots of racism in our culture and our Church.
And like any sumptuous meal, indifference sends us into a food coma that compromises our vigilance for the prophetic messengers already among us, the Lazarus whose proximity to God’s tender mercy names the very privilege of our indifference.
Today Luke reminds us that the embrace of mercy can transform indifference into gratitude for the chance to offer our unique gifts to the work of bridging the racial chasm separating us from our deepest selves, each other, and the bosom of God.
- Where do I feel the temptation of indifference in my own life?
- Who are the prophets God has sent to interrupt my indifference? What are they saying to me? How can I respond?
After eight years in the Theology Department at Fordham University, Maureen H. O’Connell returned in 2013 to her native city of Philadelphia to Chair the Department of Religion at LaSalle University where she is also an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics. She holds a BA in History from Saint Joseph’s University and a PhD in Theological Ethics from Boston College. She authored Compassion: Loving Our Neighbor in an Age of Globalization (Orbis Books, 2009) and If These Walls Could Talk: Community Muralism and the Beauty of Justice (The Liturgical Press, 2012), which won the College Theology Book of the Year Award in 2012 and the Catholic Press Association’s first place for books in theology in 2012. Her current research project explores racial identity formation, racism, and racial justice in Catholic institutions of higher education. She serves on the board of the Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies and is a member of St. Vicent De Paul parish in Germantown, where is also a member of POWER (Philadelphians Organizing to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild). POWER is an interfaith federation of 90-faith communities committed to making Philadelphia the city of “just love” (as well as “brotherly love and sisterly affection”) through a more just wage for workers, fair funding for public schools, immigration reform and decarceration.