First Reading: Jeremiah 20: 10-13
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 69: 8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
Second Reading: Romans 5: 12-15
Gospel: Matthew 10: 26-33
Today’s readings seem acutely relevant to the historic moment we are living. The sickness and deaths of the pandemic are revealing existing disparities across color lines. The magnitude of the protests in response to Mr. George Floyd’s unjust death is giving voice across color lines and across the world. It is a call to recognize and denounce the racial trauma and terror endured by Black Americans and to dismantle overt racism, a call for transformative change, both personal and systemic.
The psalmist calls out “Pull me out of this swamp; let me sink no further” and I hear Mr. George Floyd’s plea for mercy amidst the swamp of racism. “In your loving kindness, answer me, Yahweh, in your great tenderness turn to me” echoes his calling out for his mother, who had passed away two years ago. The Hebrew words for womb (rehem) and mercy or compassion (rahamin) stem from the same root. Our mother’s womb is our first home, deep in the memory of all humanity. The person in the street, academics, leaders, and organizers – many interviewed shared that they wept upon hearing his calling out for his mother, which moved their hearts and feet to respond. “Yahweh will always hear those who are in need.” Can we be God-Yahweh’s ears, eyes, hands, and feet on earth?
Scripture scholar Lai Ling Elizabeth Ngan in her article “Bitter Melon, Bitter Delight” emphasizes the impact of the divine pathos on Jeremiah’s mind and heart and how he was a passionate participant in the anguish and pathos of God. As a Chinese American, she calls Asian Americans to know their history that has involved the harm of prejudice and in justice and to take a lead in bringing about a more just society for all. She writes “No one should have to suffer the indignities of being considered as a less citizen – not white, black, brown, [red] or yellow.” A listening to suffering, not to wall yourself up in pain and memories as if in a prison but to know the wisdom that suffering must open us up to others, in empathy and solidarity.
How do we recognize the trauma and losses involved in our histories? This inevitably raises the need for appropriate emotional response, understanding, and how this entails developing a political culture that promotes the conditions of emotional well-being. In other words, emotional well-being is not limited to positive feelings but also how energy for good is released from negative or difficult emotions. How are difficult emotions honored and given a chance to teach us what it is we need to know? It is important to reframe mourning as an act of courage rather than humiliation. “Do not be afraid” calls out from Matthew’s gospel reading. In some ways, the protests are a courageous act of mourning, releasing energy for goodness to come about injustice, change, and MLK’s Beloved Community of all peoples. The reading from Romans gives support with the certainty of Jesus and unconditional love as the abundant free gift for all, which guarantees the unconditional grace for life abundant for all. As my friend and colleague Rev. Deborah Lee, executive director of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HI), recently preached: “Black Lives are Beloved,” created by a loving God. Let us be about creating a common home for all on our common home of earth.
Sr. Joanne Jaruko Doi, MM
Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies and Ministry