Day 42: A Light to the Nations
BY SR. PATRICIA CHAPPELL, SNDdeN | March 27, 2018
Tuesday of Holy Week
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.
A beautiful reflection of what the African American Community has been through and contributes to the white community. Please include the fact that brown people and people of other colors and nationalities have suffeted the same degradation in similar and different ways. These include Americans of Mexican descent, Mexican Americans, Latinos overall, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and continue to be faithful, and have much to teach white americans and white Catholics. Please be inclusive. That is what the Catholic church is about and should be about.
Dear Sister Patricia and Virginia V., you both write compellingly of a wrongful past for black people and “brown” people and “other colors” because of race. I am white. Please know that many of us have suffered in a like manner not because of color (though that has happened as people of all colors are capable of hurting others) but for other reasons made to hurt excruciatingly. It hurts so much and it helps to make stronger those of us who channel it in the eyes of God. That takes work and I can only attribute that to those who have channeled me in the right path guided by the Holy Spirit and Our Blessed Mother. Just look at your example and picture Sister Patricia. I could almost vomit at what I have read (and sometimes heard) of what people have said and done to others seeming to be in the name of race issues. I am not sure what I would have done had I been present to some of this sort of awful behavior-especially to the long history of degradation to the black race. I really do look at others and try to think “made in the image and likeness of God, are we.” God sees it all. But, none of us is perfect. We all make mistakes and we are all surrounded by the message of forgiveness. The “torture, torment, humiliation and inhumanity –and the effects of this dehumanization are still very much with us today” so saddens me that I cannot adequately put it into words. However, I think of the very few black people I know and they are strong hearted and I love them.”
Thank you, Sister, for your keen insight and sharing of your thoughts on today’s first reading. I just reread it for more punch. The first time I read it I did not come away with the insight you did or even near it because, quite frankly, I read it too fast and did not let my soul rest on it. We all get off track and God gives us each other to get back on. This is all so appropriate to come up a few days before the Triduum. May you have a Blessed Easter