“Not all of you are clean,” Jesus tells the disciples gathered before the Last Supper knowing that one of his closest friends would betray him. Reflecting on this vivid Gospel reading and on racial injustice in my community, I identify more easily as one who is not clean. Over the course of my life, I have struggled to open my eyes to the sin of racism with limited success. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by people who have challenged me to see this sin in our midst today and to respond with love to the dehumanizing impacts of racism. I’d like to think of myself as Simon Peter who doesn’t understand the magnitude of what Jesus is doing. But in reality, white Americans are more like Judas who received 30 silver pieces to betray Jesus. In spite of the pain and suffering caused by racism, too many white Americans are complicit to the economic and systemic benefits it affords us.
It is easy to be complicit if our faith communities and friends do not include the perspectives of people of color. In a city as diverse as New York, it is incredible to me how homogenous Catholic communities are. Thank God for Pope Francis who models the love and inclusiveness to which God calls us in his annual Holy Thursday foot-washing ceremony. Pope Francis welcomes all to experience the tenderness and love of God: women, Muslims, refugees, prisoners, and a diversity of races. Jesus’s call in the Gospel challenges us to build this inclusive Kingdom of God in our home, school, place of employment, family and faith community.
I am committed to being an ally to people of color in actively working to undo racism. My wife and I have found a diverse Catholic faith community that challenges us to see the Gospel through their eyes. We have built friendships with families in our neighborhood from other countries and cultures. We have sought out schools for our daughters that embrace and celebrate this diversity. And still, there is much more to do. “As I have done for you,” Jesus tells the disciples, “you should also do.”
- Have you seen instances of an intentionally diverse Catholic community? What sets them apart from other communities?
- What would it look like to widen your circle of familiarity?
Nick is the assistant for social ministries for the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces of the Society of Jesus. His wife Michelle and daughters Grace and Hannah live in the Bronx.