As a young, white, upper-middle-class child, I remember having total faith in the simplicity, functionality, and justice of systems—everything from municipal waste collection and education to criminal justice and the foster care system. I truly believed that all intentions were good, that all sides were fairly considered, that systems would run as expected—and that systems always held in mind the best interests of each individual person.
This belief shifted, painfully and slowly, but surely, as I encountered lives and communities outside my own—beginning with my step from a small Catholic elementary school to a large public Appalachian high school, then to a struggling small city in college, and to a large east coast city afterward.
It further shifted as I’ve moved in new spaces as the mother of children with learning challenges and medical issues, and formed adult friendships with people whose lives and experiences don’t mirror my own. The systems do not work for everyone—even when they work for me…and people who speak like me, live like me, and look like me.
In today’s second reading from Revelations, the author speaks of “a new heaven and a new earth.” God declares: “Behold, I make all things new.” This, paired with the call to love one another in John’s Gospel, is a powerful reminder of our call as people of faith—and particularly those of us who walk through the world with the privilege of systems that work for us.
We are called to build “a new Jerusalem”—to re-envision the world to challenge and destroy the unjust systems that bring pain, mourning, wailing, and death. We are called to ultimately place love for humanity at the forefront of all that we do, in great hope that someday all children, all people, might have justified faith in the goodness of the world around them.
Kelly Swan is communications director for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She is a graduate of Wheeling Jesuit University. Kelly has done work related to parish social ministry, child and family advocacy, community education and organizing, and magazine publishing in both West Virginia and northern New Jersey. She lives in the Cleveland, Ohio area with her husband and four children.