As I write this column, my heart is very heavy. We started the new year with much optimism, but 2020 has proven to be a nightmare of sorts. First the pandemic of COVID-19 makes its way around the globe taking lives, jobs, and economic vitality from affected nations. Then, seeing that the Coronavirus’s devastation was bad enough, I asked: How could it get worse? It did. The horrible sin of racism has once again reared its ugly head.
We have all recently witnessed some violence involving law enforcement officials against unarmed individuals, most notably, George Floyd, who was pronounced dead after a Minneapolis police officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes. What followed was civil unrest that included looting and rioting in several parts of the country.
Brought Back Memories
This brought back memories from my own youth, growing up in the Los Angeles area. I was twelve years old when Rodney King was brutally beaten by LAPD officers. A trial commenced and the officers were found not guilty. I have a vivid memory of riding my bike to baseball practice when all of sudden two men started chasing me.
I was unharmed, but the event illuminated something in my mind. Racism is still a problem. It was so in 1992 during the time of the Los Angeles riots, and it is now. Please don’t misunderstand me. Rioting is also wrong, and I am not excusing it. However, the events show that our nation needs racial reconciliation and healing.
Racism still being an issue was something I would run into during my time in the Army. At the place where I was stationed, my roommate was African American, and we would travel around the state on the weekends. This led us to some very small towns, and unfortunately, some of the looks we got were alarming. We were given seats in the backs of cafes so we wouldn’t be seen. Some stopped to stare, and I even remember our tires being slashed in one town. We are all made in the image of God. Racism is one thing that greatly upsets and saddens me.
What Does The Church Say About Racism?
Obviously racism is nothing new in our country or in our world. It has been around since the Fall. Over the centuries, however, the Church has spoken out many times about the evils of racism. The Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spes goes to great length to speak of its evils. The following are some quotes from the document:“But any kind of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language or religion, must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design” (GS, 29).
“God, Who has fatherly concern for everyone, has willed that all men should constitute one family and treat one another in a spirit of brotherhood. For having been created in the image of God, Who “from one man has created the whole human race and made them live all over the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26), all men are called to one and the same goal, namely God Himself” (GS, 24).
“For this reason, the Church admonishes her own sons, but also humanity as a whole, to overcome all strife between nations and race in this family spirit of God’s children, an in the same way, to give internal strength to human associations which are just” (GS, 42).
“By virtue of her mission to shed on the whole world the radiance of the Gospel message, and to unify under one Spirit all men of whatever nation, race or culture, the Church stands forth as a sign of that brotherhood which allows honest dialogue and gives it vigor” (GS, 92).
We Need Jesus
The Church is universal in that it embraces people from every nation, language and race. As Catholics, we must remember that all are created in the image of God. Again, I am not excusing those who are rioting, but we need to stick up for the equality of all races. Jesus came into this world, born of the Virgin Mary, was beaten, crucified, and resurrected on the third day for ALL of us.
At the end of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus commands the Apostles to go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to all creatures (Matthew 28:19). The world is hurting and there is only one cure. The cure is Jesus. His life comes to us through His Church and His sacraments. If we can’t see Jesus in every person, then we will have a hard time seeing Him anywhere.
Pray for our nation and our world. Pray for an end to the Coronavirus and the violence. Pray also that we all can do better at treating every person we encounter as precious and created in the image of God. Racism must be eradicated.
Pictures courtesy of Pixabay.