In the past two weeks, we’ve been subjected to multiple videos revealing grave injustice, with the death in Georgia of Ahmaud Arbery, the attempt to frame Christian Cooper as a predator in Central Park, and the chilling video of George Floyd’s last minutes alive.
On social media, there have been countless articles and sincere questions raised: What should we as Catholics do to address these injustices and prevent further ones? We are being asked to get to work, in the little moments right in front of us. Where do we begin? What do we do?
We’d all love to believe that in the moment of history, we’d be on the side of angels. We’d fight against slavery. We’d speak up against the slaughter of the innocent. We’d work to stop the trains. We’d rescue people and hide them from the persecutors. We’d march proudly to the lions.
The reality is, most of us are asked simply to be kind and good to those around us, to serve those we see day in and day out, in a way that reveals God’s love not in a glossy impressive panoramic shot, but in all its microscopic and tedious detail. History is made up of those little moments that reveal the bigger picture. The ones who made history better – whenever it revealed light and kindness, courage and truth – were the ones who recognized not that it was a big moment, but that they needed to act in that little moment with love towards someone else.
How do we know if we are serving others or serving our own desire to feel good about ourselves? St. Teresa of Calcutta told us that if we wanted peace, to go home and love our families. She told us to look and find the Calcutta before us, not because there aren’t big communities of need out there, but because the big communities of need are right in front of us. We need to recognize Christ is offering us His friendship in every encounter.
If we want to be part of history – the part that reveals the love of Christ to the world – this is all we need to do. Start doing the microscopic with great love and we will find more to do as we go. You’ll know you’re not serving yourself if it requires you sacrifice. You’ll know you’re not serving your own desires to look good if it is tedious and inconvenient, and if the results aren’t a rescue but the growth of a community, not a project but a friendship, and not a solution but an accompaniment.
We start by recognizing. Not being part of the crowd doing the scourging isn’t enough. If we want peace in the bigger world, we needed to be about the business bringing peace to the smaller one. We couldn’t simply not contribute to the pain, we’d have to actively engage in healing. It doesn’t mean we cure everything. It means we start healing someone, someone nearby, someone whose needs we’ve not yet seen because we’ve not allowed ourselves to see.
God always calls us to love more than we planned, to do more than we thought possible, and to love those we did not think we had to love because for God, there is no one we should not love. God’s plans always extend beyond our timeline, and always beyond our own souls’ limitations. Just as a soul begins as a single cell and becomes fully grown over time, so also the microgoods we do, work against the microaggressions, slivers, thorns and sins we commit in our lives. What we want to do is build a body of work not to justify ourselves, but to reveal our love of Christ.
We were always called to be part of the bigger picture, part of the story of salvation of the world, from the moment God imagined us into being. He created us to be saints, to be people who brought salt and light to the world, who did corporeal and spiritual acts of mercy, who did little things with great love, and spoke truth in charity. He created us to be luminous witnesses to all who encountered us, with our words, with what we did not do, and what we did not say and what we did do and what we dared to say.
The alternative, is to be one who ignored Lazarus at the gates, who did not stop and treat with kindness the man beaten by robbers, who did not go to work in the vineyard, who prefers to stay perpetually locked in the upper room, confining themselves to a life that does not include feeding or tending the sheep, and will catch no fish. It will be a life without miracles seen, with stillborn prayers.
We cannot be Catholic and safe. We cannot be Catholic if we withhold ourselves from others. We are people of the Eucharist, called to bring the Eucharist to the world by our lives. God created us to be part of how He heals and saves the world, to participate in the healing and salvation of the world by how we respond to suffering, both ours and others. God invites us to be glorious. What must we do? Today and every day, whatever Jesus instructs us to, and there will be abundant better wine and baskets brimming and left over from the efforts. That’s how we’ll know, not that we’re right, but that we’re loving the Christ before us well.
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