by Joseph Nangle, OFM
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
The following is a homily I gave this past Sunday, June 21. I hesitated to reprint it here, as that might imply something akin to “it’s all about me.” However, I do think that the homily offers a helpful reflection as the Laudato Si’ Year unfolds and the announcement this week of a seven-week implementation plan. So, with your indulgence, here it is—somewhat adapted for a Pax Christi USA audience.
In the past several weeks our entire human family has found ourselves in a totally new moment haven’t we.
First, this unexpected and monstrous pandemic has shut down the ways of life we have always taken for granted. Who would even have entertained the possibility as the year 2020 arrived just six months ago that the American Empire, this towering global economic power with its trillions of dollars spent on overkill of military, including nuclear, weapons would be brought so completely to its knees in such a short time?
And now in the middle of that fearful, destructive reality, another global event is with us: the Black Lives Matter movement. Not only African Americans but people of color all over the world have said “no more”—no more of the racism that has forever shown itself in demeaning personal acts of discrimination and systemically in economies, political realities, educational opportunities, housing, law enforcement and, yes, in our churches.
No more! The BLM is saying.
In a totally paradoxical and terrifying way the pandemic has forced us to a Kairos moment, the opportunity to reassess and revolutionize all human interactions—if humanity has the willingness to seize the moment and not slide back into the “old normal” that was a disastrous global reality.
Pope Francis has pointed to such a new era with a prophetic call for a totally new normal. Just this week under the direction of the Holy Father, the Vatican section for promoting human development rolled out a seven-year action plan called “Laudato Si’ Goals for Total Sustainability”.
The plan is wrapped around the word “ecological” in its original meaning: household—home (as in our common home, the earth), and calls for serious and ongoing study, planning and action on a series of interconnected “ecological” issues:
- the cry of the earth
- the cry of the poor
- ecological economics
- simple lifestyles
- ecological education
- ecological spirituality
The emphasis in all of these challenges is on community involvement and practical participatory action.
Pope Francis sets out a simple but revolutionary process for all of this: that we consider these issues through the eyes of the poor—how the victims see them and how oppressed peoples point to a new era.
Providentially, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement demonstrates one concrete way in which the Pope’s vision can work in practice. BLM challenges, urges, drives us to look at our personal discriminatory attitudes and more broadly the way racist national and global structures have worked for centuries. A reversal can happen on the part of humanity, and especially those of us who have lived privileged lives uncritically, if we look at all these realities through the eyes of the oppressed. They are showing us a pathway toward a new way of being human.
This is more than a historic opportunity. It is cosmic overturn of the current (dis)order that opens our eyes to every type of discrimination and oppression and demands a global revolution.
Today’s First Reading points to a prophetic declaration that underscores this dramatic opportunity. Jeremiah declares: “Our God has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked.”
Some people say that the pandemic is God’s way of punishing humanity for our sins. That is blasphemy! But we do know that the Holy One never fails to draw good—even out of evil. Hence the words of Jeremiah.
In the Gospel, Jesus urges us to proclaim from the housetops what we have heard—in this case the cry of the earth and the cry of the oppressed.
Pax Christi has striven for decades to proclaim from every housetop, “Enough! No more” global injustice and inequality! We will continue as faithfully as possible to sound that prophetic cry again and again, now thanks to these opportunities—the pandemic and Black Lives Matter with Pope Francis’s vision for a human family free of all shackles.
Joe Nangle OFM is a Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace. As a member of the Assisi Community in Washington, D.C., he is dedicated to simple living and social change. Joe also serves as the Pastoral Associate for the Latino community at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Arlington, Virginia.