Staging a Listen-in

The following reflection for the 6th Sunday of Easter is by Rhett Engelking

This reflection was originally published in our May 4th newsletter

“Self-love is the source of all our other loves.” -Pierre Corneille 

Jesus’ martyrdom is a clear symptom of the violence inherent in the Roman occupation of Israel. For Cornelius the Centurion to kneel before the apostle Peter in this week’s Gospel, might have been viewed as a real triumph if not for the widespread suspicion of Gentiles. While some might have responded, “Finally, we have brought the agents of Rome to their knees!” Peter’s response revealed something altogether revolutionary in the Christian sense of identity: “Get up. I myself am also a human being.” Even though Cornelius likely had a different national identity, class identity, and racial identity, Peter identified one common, shared identity worthy of baptism. This new Christian identity is summed up well in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “There is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Unfortunately, the United States of America continues to show signs that we have not yet realized the possibilities inherent in such a transcendent identity.

With the deaths of young black men in areas like Ferguson, Staten Island and more recently Baltimore, persistent violent racial tensions have been exposed. “Black lives matter,” has become a rallying cry for American communities of color who have recently increased their level of unrest through powerful public demonstrations that seem poised to bring law enforcement officials to their knees. The acts of vandalism or other violence that sometimes accompany those protests are singled out by the media, and the protestors are then confronted with an increasingly militarized law enforcement response. When the National Guard and out of state police officers are called in, places like Baltimore can feel like the biblical Roman occupation. “Black lives matter” meets head on with “Blue Lives matter” and America is left to endlessly debate the question, “Whose lives matter more?” Is “All lives matter” the right response, or does it altogether dismiss the original point of the “Black lives matter” movement, namely that there is a mistaken impression that we are living in a post-racial America?

While our law enforcement officials certainly aspire to be the kind of professionals who lay down their life for their friends, the broken relationship between white law enforcement and young black males is undeniable. The casualties of this broken relationship must all be acknowledged and a just reconciliation will likely require sincere apologies and serious reforms. However, the question that we must ponder as Christians is whether a just reconciliation is possible without first acknowledging one common shared identity. While individual and tribal narcissism says that some identities or lives are more important that other lives, Jesus’ command to love one another tells us that each life is as important as every other life. To realize our shared identity with the victims of violence is to love and through that love we are begotten by God and we know God. Therefore, how to reconcile the broken relationship begins with our willingness to appreciate the plight of lives we might otherwise ignore. When such tragedies occur, above all we must listen in to how Christ is speaking through the suffering. We must seek to truly understand what it must see our neighbor as our self.

Rhett Engelking
FAN Director of Franciscan Earth Corps

Published in: on May 5, 2015 at 9:25 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Rhettt, this is so well said! Recognizing that all are related as sister and brother, as Francis did, is essential in our efforts to combat violence in our society. We must heal and restore relationships as a prerequisite in promoting peace.
    Thank you for your reflection.

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