Around any major holiday you can find on almost every news or pop-culture website or blog a list entitled, “How to Survive [Holiday] Dinner.” The lists usually poke fun at the phenomenon of the dinner table becoming a microcosm of the current public discourse. Close or distant relatives may deliver their rhetoric and dish out opinions as they pass around the mac and cheese.
However, the scene is not always humorous.
College students may face the overwhelming anxiety of telling their parents, who have been funding their education, that they want to do a year of service with an organization such as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Questions about financial and job security may fill the conversation as parents try to better understand their “master dreamer” of a child.
For someone working directly with marginalized populations, hearing a family member disparage a group of people based on biased information can make any sweet potato lose its taste. Last but not least, the power to cast a vote also serves as the power to declare to the world what ideologies you stand for and the ones you do not. After four years of suffering through this administration, the thought of someone I deeply love continuing this fear-mongering tremendously dampens my overall hope.
As I write this reflection, a group of middle school students is sitting in our campus ministry conference room discussing the dynamics of politics in their families: “My so-and-so hates Republicans, my so-and-so hates Democrats…”
So what are we to do?
We are called to wear our long tunic loud and proud! We do not let those who are blinded by fear, greed, or hate to strip us of our mission. Our voices and presence will not be locked up in a cistern of disrespect and intolerance. Harassment may come in the form of verbal criticism, as it does for many in our Ignatian family, or in the form of physical harm. Our prayers and actions are and will always be extended to those who bring to fruition the Beatitude…”Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
There are times when the work becomes overwhelming, when our hearts cannot break open another time, when our spirits feel like they just want to give up. It is in these moments that we are invited to throw off despair and put on radical hope. We come from a long line of master dreamers who have changed the world in big and small ways. It is in those times of distress that we rise from that feeling of hopelessness, take our steps in faith, and “remember the marvels the Lord has done.”
Justin T. White is a theology teacher at Loyola Blakefield in Towson, Maryland.