Day 24: Finding God in the Chaos by Loving Our Neighbor
BY NATHAN SESSOMS, PH.D. | March 17, 2023
As a faculty member at a Jesuit institution and a diversity and educational equity consultant, I am often fascinated and encouraged by the links between diversity, equity, inclusion, and biblical teachings. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is asked by one of the scribes which of God’s commandments is most important. In deftly navigating the trap that is inherent in the question (as if one commandment is more important than all the others), Jesus articulates that we must love the Lord with all of our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and with all our strength AND love our neighbors as ourselves. Through His clever response, Jesus boldly emphasizes the significance of both acts and responds to the initial challenge by providing the scribe with a challenge of His own!
In an era partially defined by book-banning, the altering of Advanced Placement curricula for African American Studies, and the subsequent silencing of voices, today’s readings provide us with a simple roadmap that allows us—as believers—to navigate these challenging times. The bible is very clear in its teaching that all people are created in God’s own image and likeness. Therefore, all people are worthy of being treated with dignity and respect, while also having their humanity affirmed. For it is only by loving our neighbors—all of our neighbors—that we truly demonstrate our love for God. However, while many believe that they are steadfast in their pursuit of God and salvation, they, instead, lean into their own fears and insecurities, while failing to listen to and learn from the experiences of the historically marginalized and oppressed. In doing so, they forgo valuable opportunities to develop both empathy and a greater understanding of perspectives other than their own. Ultimately, they deprive themselves of the opportunity to love their neighbors, as themselves…and love the Lord as Jesus teaches.Finding God in the midst of chaos requires us to focus on God’s voice, listen to the instruction it provides, and fully engage with the righteous path toward which it guides us. Per the first reading and responsorial psalm, we are also challenged to be accountable when we fall short of God’s expectations, ask for forgiveness, and, rather than wallow in guilt and shame, make a fresh start armed with the new knowledge and insight we’ve obtained. Rather than be bold in our bigotry and biases, we must be bold in our willingness to to engage in self-reflection, and apologize to those whose humanity we fail to recognize and acknowledge. Finally, we must avoid the tendency to remain silent, comfortable, and, thereby, complicit with the many policies, practices, and procedures that, ultimately, result in inequity. If such policies, practices, and procedures only create welcoming spaces for some of us, ultimately, they fail all of us.
- Am I open to the voices or experiences of all people, or only those similar to my own?
- Whose humanity am I failing to affirm? What do I believe I stand to lose, by advocating for their gain?
- Am I following God’s instruction or, instead, being led by my own fears and insecurities?
Throughout my life I have been been open and supportive to the underdog … those who suffer because of poverty, racism, oppression, etc, but I find myself judging those who seem to fail to love their neighbors and contribute to the division we are currently experiencing in our country. I recognize this as the “log in my eye” and ask for God’s mercy and grace that I might love all creation without exception.
I hear you! I’m in the same boat and pray for eyes to see and love all.
Well said, Betty.
During the racial uprisings in 2020, I became very aware of prejudices that I have been part of as a white American. I am increasingly bothered by references to the “woke movement ” in a derogatory manner or negative context by Catholic individuals and also on some Catholic public platforms. I am unsure what to do about this beyond prayer. Any vocal disagreement with such negative references is usually met with derision.
Our voice counts. It can make a difference. Remaining silent all the time is unfair for the beautiful gift of voice we are blessed with.
I am so happy to hear Nathan Sessoms’ point of view in the book banning, marginalizing African American studies, voter suppression, immigrants, etc., etc. These behaviors are NOT the model Jesus has shown us as he engages Samaritans, women, tax collectors, lepers, the sick and impoverished. How can some groups of Christians not see the hypocrisy in their actions? But we have to understand the fear driven and fear bound places that generate such beliefs…Holy Spirit, lead us through these times and help us love everyone, including those with whom we don’t agree.