If you have a friend who needs a crash course on how to take social action, before you point them to a webinar or toolkit, I recommend inviting them to revisit Sunday’s readings—here we have a social justice seminar within the Mass. From the first reading to the Gospel, each scripture passage provides a mini lesson on how to work for justice and reconciliation.
Starting with Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans: “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” If our actions are not inspired by love for our fellow humans, what purpose does it serve? Is it a game we play to measure our own individual success? Or is it a road taken with others and for others to achieve the goal of a better future for all?
As Ezekiel points out, we have an obligation to speak out against injustice—not only to save ourselves, but to help others see how their actions take away from life. This is about entering into a relationship created by dialogue. We can shout into the void (I see you, Twitter) as much as we like, but are we also taking the time to enter into dialogue with a particular individual that may be committing the injustice?
Of course, the injustice may be greater than one individual. It might be a group, an institution, a government. We have a responsibility to call them out as well. But how do you work for justice on your own when you face something much larger than you? Well, Jesus has an answer: organize.
Action done in community can have a tremendous impact. “Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by heavenly Father.” Those steeped in the work of justice and reconciliation know well that progress can only be made when a cause expands beyond an individual to a community to a movement.
Now we have some homework: working to restore right relationship* here in the United States. Our divisions can only last as long as we ignore the need for reconciliation. It is critical in these next couple of months that we enter into dialogue, rather than be distracted and silenced by the aimless noise.
*Jesuit Refugee Service defines as a journey to “create right relationships,”rooted in justice, and sought in dialogue among diverse religions, cultures, and groups.
Josh Utter is originally from Madison, WI, and a graduate of Loras College in Dubuque, IA. Based in Washington, D.C., Josh is the outreach and advocacy coordinator for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. He also currently serves as a resident minister on Georgetown University’s campus. Prior to his work in work in D.C., Josh was a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone and spent time in discernment with the Midwest Jesuits.