During the season of Lent, I found myself and my family attending Sunday Mass at a Black Catholic parish on Chicago’s South Side. I participated in two Holy Week liturgies in the company of a majority Black congregation listening to preaching that uplifted the Black community. As a Filipina American, I have found more resonance with an image of Jesus that is dark skinned with coarse, curly black hair in recent years.
Sometimes I wonder what the image of Jesus would be in Emmaus if we saw him as a Black man instead of the often Eurocentric faces that hang in many U.S. Catholic churches. That image of a lighter-skinned Jesus is familiar to me and is the one I am sure I would have talked with and maybe even welcomed to sit with me at dinner.
I wonder if I would have stopped to talk or listen to a Black man if my blinders were on and my focus were on the conversation with my friend while we were on the journey. Would I have stopped to listen on the road to Emmaus if it was a Black man that stopped me and my friend?
My husband and I are raising a mixed-race child and are constantly thinking about how we want to raise him in a home that celebrates Blackness. That journey means my own questioning about what I have known to be true about who my Jesus is and who my Jesus looks like today. More often it means sitting in discomfort and looking to explore new narratives and experiences.
- When we sit with Jesus and He breaks open sacred scripture, who is the face we want to see? Who do we need to see?
Clarissa V. Aljentera joined Ignatian Solidarity Network staff in 2022 as director of Education for Justice. She holds degrees from San Jose State University and Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and has worked as a campus minister at Northwestern University, for the Archdiocese of Chicago in faith formation working with programs engaging young people, engaged couples preparing for marriage, and racial justice initiatives. Before working in ministry, Clarissa spent 10 years working as a newspaper reporter. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and son.