We Must Seize Opportunities
Rarely is there a news report without some mention of protests, riots, hate crimes and various forms of violence. There seems to be a growing preoccupation with what people are against, more so than what they support. There is a lot of blaming and shaming going on, with little evidence of personal accountability. Civility is severely lacking in both rhetoric and behavior. Amid such tension and anger, rather than contribute to the problem, Christians must be instruments of the peace and the healing grace of Jesus Christ. Where others might be overwhelmed by challenges, we must seize opportunities. When others seek to harm or desire retribution, we must be willing to counter injustice with mercy. In essence, we must witness to the ultimate meaning of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Rather than stand on the sidelines, we must be ambassadors of hope.
This Easter Season is a special time of grace to be realized in this very moment. Belief in the Risen Jesus Christ is not merely something nostalgic (i.e. looking back) or futuristic (i.e. looking to the end of time). Authentic believers must proclaim the effects of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the here and now. The presence, grace and effects of the resurrection are meant to be experienced in every age. As ambassadors of hope, believers in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, we must point to the beauty, truth and goodness in our midst…within the Church, society and among humanity.
The first U.S. regional World Meeting of Popular Movements was held in Modesto, Calif., Feb. 16-19, 2017, stemming from an initiative of Pope Francis to create an “encounter” between Church leaders and grassroots organizations towards effecting changes that promote social, economic and racial justice. Bishop Robert W. McElroy, of San Diego, sparked great attention when he spoke of a call for the Church to “disrupt” and “rebuild.” As he noted, both are necessary for agents of change and justice. However, he cautioned that both actions—disrupting and rebuilding—must be founded in the fullness of empirical truth. He emphasized the need for courage and integrity in our willingness to speak the truth, adding: “This is an especially important anchor for us, in an age in which truth itself is under attack.” He pointed out that one of the primary elements for agents of justice must be “to help our society as a whole become more attuned to this reality of humanized truth, through narrative and witness, listening and solidarity.” While calling on people of faith to “become disruptors,” standing up against all forms of injustice, he made clear the ultimate end of any authentic witness in action: “But we, as people of faith, as disciples of Jesus Christ, as children of Abraham, as followers of the Prophet Mohammad, as people of all faiths and no faith, we cannot merely be disruptors, we also have to be rebuilders.” He especially mentioned the need to rebuild in such a way as to place the dignity of the human person at the heart of service. He spoke of the need to rebuild in solidarity, cohesiveness and embrace of all peoples.
Bishop McElroy’s comments follow along the message that Pope Francis has made clear about the need of faithful witness seeking to build bridges rather than walls. Even persons of faith, including Christians, have a right to defend themselves against injustice and harm. The right to protect oneself, however, may not infringe upon the rights and dignity of others. The pursuit and defense of truth, as Bishop McElroy has pointed out, is imperative. Truth is essential, if the common good is to be realized amid any seeming conflict of individual rights and responsibilities.
In all things, we look to Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. This Easter Season, may we witness to the power and grace of the Risen Lord in an effort to disrupt injustice while rebuilding true and lasting peace. We must dare to witness to the sacredness of human life, the dignity of all persons, the option for the poor and vulnerable, protection of marriage and family, upholding the dignity of work and rights of workers, the indispensable value of solidarity among all peoples, and caring for creation. May we ever celebrate the universal richness of cultures, customs and languages in our Catholic faith in such a way that influences our relationship with other Christians as well as people of all faith traditions. As Pope Francis has exhorted us on numerous occasions, we are called to cultivate a culture of encounter and accompaniment with one another by promoting dialogue, mutual respect and compassion. As ambassadors of hope, drawing from the Word of God and Sacraments of the Church, we have much to offer a wounded world. Any authentic encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ necessarily leads to transformation. May we be instruments of divine grace, in both word and deed, disrupting walls of fear and hate while building bridges that lead to healing, reconciliation, justice, mercy and peace.