Worship At Home
Small Group Reflection of 07-05-20

 

In these days of social distancing we have endeavored to provide a Corpus Christi online worship experience. The Worship At Home web page has been our attempt to provide that. One of the ways our community has used this resource has been to gather virtually in real time using video conferencing software like FaceTime, Skype, Messenger, and Zoom. In an effort to hold onto our deep liturgical roots, one virtual group has gone to the point of having rotating presiders, lectors, and even homilists. The reflections provided by the members of this group have often been very inspiring. In an effort to share these reflections with the larger community several of them have been collected and published here on the CC website.

Reflection from 07-05-20, provided by Bill Brady.

 


I’ve spent a lot of time in my life exploring religion and spirituality. In my youth, my exploration often took the form of … “Is God THIS, or is God THAT?” My questions seemed to take that binary, either/or form. But the older I get, the more I believe the answers are “both/and.”

I’ll give you an example. Among my favorite sacred songs, I have two that on the surface seem to contradict each other, yet both stir my heart and hold the same ring of truth to me.

One is a song I believe we sang a few weeks ago, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” And in particular that stanza, “No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging.” God as the secure rock, always there, always loving, always protecting. Who among us hasn’t needed that rock in our lives, especially in times of turmoil?

But sometimes I believe that God is nudging us away from that rock, pushing us out of our comfort zone, urging us out into UNcomfortable spaces, toward asking questions whose answers might scare us, to embark on journeys whose destination isn’t clear. As the old saying goes, Jesus is not just about comforting the afflicted. He’s also about inflicting the comfortable. That sentiment is reflected in another song, not as well-known but just as meaningful to me.

God is a river. Not just a stone.
God is a wild, raging rapids
and a slow, meandering flow.
God is a deep and narrow passage.
And a peaceful, sandy shoal.
God is the River, swimmer. So let go. [1]

The point is that we can hold both of these images at the same time, and both are true.

Last Sunday’s service contained a similar dichotomy-that-really-isn’t. There was Sarah’s observation that the relative silence forced upon us by the COVID quarantine may have been what allowed us to “hear” the cry of injustice that sprang from George Floyd’s murder, in a way we haven’t heard similar cries before. This struck me instantly as true. it reminded me  of the importance of silence, of being still in order to hear what God may be saying to us. As Annie Dillard said, “Whenever there is stillness, there is the still small voice, God speaking from the whirlwind.”

But contrast that with last week’s opening hymn, which emphatically stated I will NOT be silent. “How CAN we be silent when we know that God is near? How can we be silent and ignore the poor and broken who lie bleeding in the street?” The song is a stark reminder that in the face of injustice, in the face of evil, we MUST not be silent. Silence is accommodation.

Of course, both are true — the call to silence, AND the call to action. Because, as it says in Ecclesiastes, “There is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot,” etc. etc., until finally in verse 7: “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.”

Perhaps for us, the onset of COVID was our time to keep silence, and now, in the wake of George Floyd, it is our time to speak.

The Jesuit writer James Martin asked, “Do you feel sadness, frustration, confusion and rage over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others? That is your Pentecost. That’s the Holy Spirit moving through you. How else would God get you to move?”

And he goes on to admonish us toward our twin responsibilities of listening and action. “Listen to that Spirit moving within you;” he says. “Listen to what your African-American brothers and sisters have to say. Let the Spirit working through them teach you, and then act.”

But just what should that action look like? That’s different for each of us, for we each have different gifts to offer. But African-American priest and Fordham professor Bryan Massingale offers some suggestions at how we might approach the coming weeks and months.

First, he says, understand that there is no way to tell the truth about race in this country without white people becoming uncomfortable. Because the plain truth is that the only reason for racism’s persistence is that white people continue to benefit from it. Avoiding and sugarcoating this truth is killing people of color. Silence for the sake of making white people comfortable is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Next, Father Massingale tells us, be silent, and Sit in the discomfort this hard truth brings. Let it become agonizing.  Only when a critical mass of white folks are outraged, grieved and pained over the status quo will real change begin.

Third, admit your ignorance and do something about it. Understand that there is a lot about our history we’re going to have to unlearn. We’ve been taught a sanitized version of America that masks our terrible racial history. Did you know that between 1885-1915, on average every third day a black person was savagely and publicly murdered by white mobs? Did you know that during the Civil War, Irish Catholics in New York City and other places lynched free blacks and burned down their neighborhoods out of resentment over being drafted?  This is uncomfortable history, hard to hear, but we need to know the truth. Only the truth will make us truly free.

Fourth: Fourth, have the courage to confront your family and friends. Until white people call out white people, there will always be safe places for racial ugliness to fester.

And finally Father Massingale says: (QUOTE) “Demand that your parish sponsor not just an evening on race, but a series. Tell your priests and religious education directors to make anti-racism a staple feature of religious formation. ” This is something that our Social Justice Committee has taken to heart. We’re going to start at the end of this month, with a Zoominar on How Catholics Can Be Agents for Racial Justice. We’re inviting outside experts as well as speakers from within our community to share with us. The event is happening Wednesday, July 29, at 7 p.m. You can find the link to register in next week’s bulletin. We hope you’ll join us.

[1] Peter Mayer, “God is a River”