Keeping Vigil with Wisdom

BY MARILYN NASH | November 13, 2017
Sunday’s Readings

I didn’t make it to the Ignatian Family Teach-In this year, but was fortunate to hear Fr. Bryan Massingale at the Justice in Jesuit Higher Education Conference at Seattle University this summer.

Fr. Massingale was unequivocal when speaking to the pervasive sin of racism: “white comfort sets the limits of our engagement.”

I heartily agree.

As a white Catholic, committed to living at the intersection of faith and racial justice, I know how discomfort can hold me back; I witness it all around me, often in those of us with the best of intentions.

With hearts oriented toward understanding, we seek out stories by theologians and activists of color who share experiences, perspectives and yes, sometimes admonishments in podcasts, books, and articles. The comment sections following these articles are often filled with examples of white-discomfort.

We get angry and frustrated that our “allyship” has gone unappreciated or worse, has been critiqued. And when we inevitably offend, misstep or trip on our own privilege, we get uncomfortable and shut down.

Our mistake is thinking we are only helping others by dismantling racism; the truth is that standards and systems of white supremacy harm all of us. As members of the Body of Christ, we are called to be accomplices, not allies in the work of racial justice.

We cannot expect one article or conversation to show us the “right” way to engage.

We cannot wait to move and call for change until we think we have all of the information and know the correct way forward. We are called to risk our comfort and begin from right where we are. To try, fail, seek wisdom, and try again.

Wisdom is not transactional; stories are not instruction manuals. Like parables, the words of others are meant to provoke us into a new way of understanding and choosing. Wisdom is a companion with whom we are invited to keep long, discerning nights of vigil. Hastening to make herself known, she comes to us in the midst of ignorance, discomfort, and even failure.

She doesn’t ask us to be right or ready.

She asks us to transform; with each new dawn, to help proclaim a new day.

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