If ever there was a reading that speaks of the spirituality of the African American Catholic community in the U.S., it is today’s reading from Isaiah. It proclaims an uncommon faithfulness that is spoken and lived with humility and simplicity.
Called from birth, given a name. Life experiences that, while cutting and penetrating, were assuaged in the shadow of God’s arm.
In the collective memory of the African American community is found torture, torment, separation and selling of family, cruelty beyond belief, degradation, humiliation, and inhumanity—and the effects of this dehumanization are still very much with us today.
Yet when a faith-filled people ‘thought they had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spending their strength’ they knew that their reward was with their God…a God of liberation from all forms of oppression. The community never lost sight that they had been ‘made glorious in the sight of Yahweh and that God was their strength.’
It was and is now God’s time to say to this strong, faith-filled community: “I will make you a light to the nations so that my salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.’
In short, the African American Catholic community has much to teach white people about fidelity. This community is the light that we must follow, the voices that we must listen to, the eyes from which we see our polarized world, and the hearts to embrace and reject oppression and privilege which is enjoyed by many who are members of the U.S. dominant culture.
Today’s Gospel recounts the betrayal by a disciple named Judas. Before we judge him too harshly, let us ask ourselves if our complicity in addressing the sin of racism is not yet another betrayal with far greater consequences than the one claimed to have been caused by Judas.
Sr. Patricia Chappell, Executive Director of Pax Christi USA, is a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She was trained by Crossroads in anti-racism training and organizing and serves as the national co-chair on her community’s anti-racism team. She was a keynote speaker at the 2017 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice.