by Shannen Dee Williams, Ph.D.
Our God is God from of old, creator of the ends of the earth.
God does not faint or grow weary, and God’s knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
God gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. (Is 40:28-29)
Today’s reading from Isaiah serves as a powerful reminder of the awesome and strengthening power of faith in the most difficult of times. Founding members of the National Black Sisters’ Conference, who fought tirelessly to rid the Catholic Church of racism and sexism in the late sixties and seventies, used to greet one another with the following exchange:
First Sister: Do you have the strength, Sister?
Second Sister: I do, if you do.
Together in Unison: Then, we’re strong!
Many of these sisters had desegregated the nation’s historically white Catholic sisterhoods as teenagers and endured years of racial isolation and discrimination in their orders. Many had been forced to degrade their racial heritage, and some had even been forced to profess their vows and live separately from their white counterparts during their training years. Many also had their ministries severely limited because their counterparts refused to live with them on an equal basis or because the communities in which their congregations labored fiercely opposed the presence of black nuns.
Yet, the will of God and the call to serve Jesus Christ is always stronger than racism, sexism, and any corruption of Catholic social teaching that seeks to justify oppression and systematically exclude people of color from the full life of the universal Church.
Today, as we continue in our Advent preparations, let us rejoice in the awesome power of God who has brought us all this far!
Do I have the faith and strength to challenge discrimination and oppression wherever I see it, especially within my Church?
Do I trust God’s plan for my life, especially in the most trying times?
*This reflection is from this year’s Pax Christi USA’s Advent reflection booklet, Waking Up to God in Our Midst: Reflections for Advent 2014. The booklet is still available for purchase as a download by clicking here.