Renowned poet, author, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time…”
This quote makes perfect sense and serves as a suitable strategy rooted in our very real need to protect ourselves from oppression and marginalization. I certainly have no problem admitting that I have, at times, adhered to this strategy in my personal dealings with others. More recently, however, in serving as a diversity consultant and having been raised Catholic, I’ve begun to rethink this strategy, particularly with respect to my spiritual journey. I have come to see that, as a believer, my calling is much more complex and difficult.
In today’s first reading and responsorial psalm, we are reminded that, while following Jesus and demonstrating love, empathy, and compassion to others, we will, at times, find ourselves in danger—perhaps not physical danger—but we will often be misunderstood, taken for granted, unappreciated, devalued, and maybe even dehumanized in our parishes, places of employment, and our own homes. However, the reading also reminds us that God is with us and, in our times of despair and anguish, will always protect us. Therefore, as faithful servants, we can continue to engage in the work we are called to do, while demonstrating resilience and perseverance.
Meanwhile, today’s Gospel reading describes a specific situation in which we may find ourselves. Particularly for those of us who have answered the call to create a more just and equitable society, our bold willingness to speak-up, stand-up, and show-up for justice and liberation could make others—our supervisors and co-workers, cherished friends, and beloved family members—very uncomfortable. Ultimately, they may be unwilling to even consider our message of acceptance and love for all people, its links to the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching, and its direct associations with the life of Jesus, which serves as a glaring example of activism through His consistent engagement with those who were deemed outcasts in society.
In these moments, we must harden not our hearts. Instead, we must take heart, replenish our spirits, and re-engage armed with the faith and confidence that we are—at all times—protected by God.
- Why might it be difficult for you to embrace Christ’s message of acceptance and love of all people?
- What fears serve as barriers to your engagement with your calling to create a more just and equitable society? What can you do to overcome them?