Lift Every Voice: A Lenten Journey Toward Racial Justice

Racial injustice is a gospel issue.

LIFT EVERY VOICE is a Lent 2016 blog addressing America’s original sin of racism through the lens of Ignatian spirituality and the daily readings. From Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, voices from throughout the Ignatian network will lament racial injustice in our communities and reflect on how the Gospel calls us to repent, pray, and act in solidarity with those affected by an enduring legacy of systemic and personal racial discrimination.

For a long time, I have struggled with revealing the truth about myself; failing to celebrate my own Chicano identity in order to fit in.

Our reading today tells the story of the three Hebrew men who refused to worship the god of King Nebuchadnezzar, sacrificing their very lives in obedience to their God. Their brave act challenged me to reflect upon my own beliefs and convictions and to consider if I would do the same if ever a situation required that level of sacrifice.

In today’s first reading, the people are suffering from an affliction by serpents (which they seemed to have brought on themselves) and they look to Moses for a cure. Following the directions God gives, Moses makes a bronze serpent and mounts it on a pole and “whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” God hears the cries of the people, providing them with a visual source of their salvation.

“Dear God,” we pray, “thank you that I’m not a thug like them.”

Today’s gospel reading presents us with the image of a bruised, trembling prostitute at Jesus’ feet.

Are you willing to totally give yourself to Jesus and to his gospel message?

Certainly Martin Luther King, Jr. was no stranger to enemies. When he delivered his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech to a sweaty, overcrowded church in Memphis on April 3rd, 1968—he was in a precarious state.

Reflecting on today’s readings, I am reminded of how many voices and how many truths are silenced and devalued in our society. Throughout history, marginalized and oppressed individuals and communities have been silenced and made to feel invisible. As a woman of color, my voice has been silenced more often than not, my experience has been dismissed, and my truth has frequently not been heard or acknowledged.

For the LORD comforts his people and shows mercy to his afflicted.

Comfort can be hard to come by amidst the struggle against racial injustice. How can we even let ourselves feel a moment of God’s comfort when so many struggle daily to survive, let alone live free and vibrant lives?

In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. writes passionately about the myth of time.

“I guess it is easy for [the privileged] to say, ‘Wait,’” he writes. “But when you are forever fighting a denigrating sense of ‘nobodiness’ then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and [people] are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice . . .”

Authors Include:

M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D.

M. Shawn Copeland, Ph.D.

Theology Professor, Boston College

Dr. M. Shawn Copeland is Professor of Systematic Theology at Boston College. She is a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA), and a former Convener of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS), an interdisciplinary learned association of Black Catholic scholars.

Professor Copeland is a prolific author, with more than 100 publications to her credit, including "Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race and Being and The Subversive Power of Love: The Vision of Henriette Delille." She is the recipient of five honorary degrees as well as the Yves Congar Award for Excellence in Theology from Barry University, Miami, Florida, and the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Black Religious Scholars Group of the American Academy of Religion.

Dr. Copeland’s research interests include: 1) shifts in theological understanding of the human person and accords particular attention to body, gender, and race; 2) the African American Catholic experience, and 3) political or praxis based theologies.

Fred Pestello, Ph.D.

Fred Pestello, Ph.D.

President, St. Louis University

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., is the 33rd president of Saint Louis University. The first permanent lay president in the University’s nearly 200-year history, Dr. Pestello officially began his tenure at SLU on July 1, 2014.

Dr. Pestello is Jesuit educated and has spent the entirety of his 30-year career in Catholic higher education. He has been noted for upholding Jesuit values throughout his career, including his commitment to dialogue and inclusion both during and after campus protests at SLU in 2014.

Prior to coming to SLU, Dr. Pestello was the president of Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. Dr. Pestello also spent nearly 25 years as a faculty member and provost at the University of Dayton.

Born and raised in Cleveland, Dr. Pestello has three degrees in sociology. He earned his bachelor‘s degree from the Jesuit institution John Carroll University in 1974, his master’s degree from the University of Akron in 1981, and his doctoral degree through a joint program of the University of Akron and Kent State University in 1985.

Maureen O’Connell, Ph.D.

Maureen O’Connell, Ph.D.

Assoc. Professor of Christian Ethics, LaSalle University

Maureen H. O’Connell is Chair of the Department of Religion at LaSalle University, where she is also an Associate Professor of Christian Ethics. She is the author of "Compassion: Loving Our Neighbor in an Age of Globalization" (Orbis, 2009) and "If These Walls Could Talk: Community Muralism and the Beauty of Justice" (Liturgical Press, 2012). Her current research explores racial identity formation, racism, and racial justice in Catholic institutions of higher education.

Dr. O’Connell previously taught for eight years in the Theology Department at Fordham University. She currently serves on the board of the Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies and is a member of St. Vincent De Paul parish in Germantown, PA. She is also a member of POWER (Philadelphians Organizing to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild), an interfaith federation of 90 faith communities working to make Philadelphia a city of “just love” through fair wages for workers, funding for public schools, immigration reform, and decarceration.

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Racial injustice is a gospel issue.Join the Ignatian Solidarity Network in reflecting on this reality during Lent."...

Posted by Ignatian Solidarity Network on Friday, January 15, 2016

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