“But racism still profoundly affects our culture, and it has no place in the Christian heart. This evil causes great harm to its victims, and it corrupts the souls of those who harbor racist or prejudicial thoughts. The persistence of the evil of racism is why we are writing this letter now. People are still being harmed, so action is still needed” (Open Wide Our Hearts, p 6-7)
The above quote is from “Open Wide Our Heart: A pastoral letter against racism”. This letter to the faithful was written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2018. My heart breaks and it pains me to know that our society was still being affected by racism in 2018 and 2 years later it continues to still be affected by it today.
There is no doubt that these past two weeks, since the killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day, different feelings and emotions have come up. I personally have felt and gone through them all. These past two weeks have been challenging in so many ways. I was having a hard time figuring out how to respond, how to advocate, what to say! One thing I knew for sure…I did NOT want my response to be influenced by social media…I wanted my response to be powered and led by the love of God for all his sons and daughters. I wanted to make sure that my response to advocate for my African American brothers and sisters, who are hurting and in pain, was based on the fundamental truth that “because all humans share a common origin, they are all brothers and sisters, all equally made in the image of God” (Open Wide Our Hearts, p 4).
I decided that I was going to take the “Open Wide Our Hearts” document to prayer. See how God is challenging me or what he is calling me to do. Here is what came to me in prayer:
“As Christians, we are called to listen and know the stories of our brothers and sisters” (Open Wide Our Hearts, p 10). Am I allowing and creating opportunities to hear the stories of my African American brothers and sisters? Am I listening with an open heart so that with empathy I can be moved to advocate for them and promote justice? I am challenging myself to, in a very intentional way, listen to the stories with an open heart and respect and give value to the experiences of those who have been harmed by the evil of racism.
Transform Your Heart
“Racism is a moral problem that requires a moral remedy – a transformation of the human heart – that impels us to act” (Open Wide Our Heart, p. 20) Conversion is a long and oftentimes, a painful road. But I know that in Christ we can find the strength to make the journey. I’m going to rely on Jesus’ example and PRAY! That is my commitment! To listen to others with an open heart and take their life experiences to prayer. Allow for my heart to be humbly transformed through their story so I can “walk humbly with God in rebuilding our relationships, healing our communities, and working to shape our policies and institutions toward the good of all, as missionary disciples” (Open Wide Our Heart, p 20).
I have already bought a couple of books and audiobooks to expand my knowledge of racism. I have prayed with the Bishop’s document “Open Wide Our Hearts”, and I will continue to find material that both enlightens me and grounds me in Catholic Social Teaching. There is power in informing yourself. I want to learn more so that through prayer and discernment I can identify how I can use my faith to make a change. “A missionary disciple is one who willingly meets every problem and every sinful attitude with the confidence that comes from a deep love of Jesus” (Open Wide Our Hearts, p 22)
“Our individual efforts to encounter, grow, and witness, to change our hearts about racism, must also find their way into our families” (Open Wide Our Hearts, p 26). I was reflecting on conversations that I had as a kid with my parents about our situation as an immigrant family. I have not had that type of conversation with my kids. They know that we love and treat people with respect. But I want my kids to know that their voice can be used to advocate for those who’s voices are not heard. I want them to know, believe, understand and “make it clear that God dwells in the equal dignity of each person” (Open Wide Our Hearts, p. 26) So my commitment is to start at home. To make it my mission to raise kids that truly understand that the injustice and hurt that racism causes are an attack on human life.
St. Paul teaches us that all people are united together through the love and life of Jesus Christ. We are the Body of Christ; when one of us hurts, the whole body does too (1 Corinthians 12:26). We are called to ensure the well-being of each of its parts. Let use this time to listen, to transform our hearts, to learn and to act for justice! Let us adopt Pope Francis words “let no one think that this invitation is not meant for him or her” (Evangelii Gaudium, no 3).