Dwell In My Love
A Pastoral Letter on Racism
by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
Our Future: How Might We Dwell Together?
The Gospel compels us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to abandon
patterns of seeing those who are racially or culturally different
from ourselves as strangers and to recognize them as our brothers
and sisters. Even those who have suffered at the hands of others,
individually or collectively, must pray to overcome hostility,
forgiving those who have offended them and asking forgiveness
from those whom they have offended. We must embrace one another
as formerly estranged neighbors now seeking reconciliation.
You have heard
that they were told, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But
what I tell you is this: love your enemies and pray for your persecutors;
only so can you be children of your heavenly Father, who causes
the sun to rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the
innocent and the wicked
There must be no limit to your goodness,
as your heavenly Father's goodness knows no bounds (Matthew 5:43-45;
48 and Luke 6:27-31; 35-36).
Again, when the learned Pharisee asked Jesus what was the greatest
commandment of the law, he replied:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all
your soul and with
your entire mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is
like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law
and the prophets
depend on these two great commandments (Matthew 22:34-40 and Luke
Maintaining current patterns of ethnic, cultural, racial and
economic isolation and hostility tarnishes our call as Church
to be a universal sacrament of salvation. Consciously changing
these patterns returns us to our fundamental identity as a community
called to universal communion with God and with one another.18
A. Dwelling with God in Ordinary Life
We meet God in the created, visible, tangible surroundings
of the home, the neighborhood and the workplace. We encounter
God in and through our spouse, children, brothers and sisters,
the family next door, the shopkeeper on the corner, our teachers,
the stranger on the street. In short, we meet God in and through
people of every color, ethnic background, religion, class and
gender. God is active in and through the people, places and circumstances
that constitute our ordinary daily life.
This belief places upon us the mission to transform all relationships
into instances of love and justice. Our love of God, expressed
in prayer, pilgrimages and other acts of devotion, must be made
visible in our practice of the love of neighbor, expressed by
establishing patterns of right relationships in our daily lives,
in our work and everyday encounters. Loving and just relationships
are the manifestation of our communion with God.
Ethnic, cultural, and racial diversities are gifts from God to
the human race. In Jesus, we are called to a radical love-to love
of the stranger as our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). Others may be
different from us in every respect except one: each man, woman,
or child we encounter is also a child of God, a brother
or sister in the Lord, whom we should welcome as our neighbor.
The stranger whom we encounter is really our neighbor in Christ.
Through communion with our neighbors who are racially and culturally
distinct from ourselves, we begin to live as a community the unity
in diversity that is the life of the Triune God. We can learn
to live, work and pray in solidarity with the stranger now recognized
as our neighbor.
Inclusive Communities: Living with Our Neighbor
Our neighborhood is the first place we encounter those with
whom we are to dwell in love. A just neighborhood must be open
to all people-black and white, Hispanic and Asian, young and old,
wealthy and poor, Christians and people of all faiths. Access
to housing in particular, needs to be fair and open. In a society
that is still structurally racist, open housing cannot be taken
for granted; it must be achieved.
We confront racist patterns in housing sales and rental markets
through programs that help establish and maintain diversity throughout
a community. To be successful, such programs require collaboration
among neighboring communities, towns and villages throughout the
Chicago metropolitan area. The goals are clear. Neighborhoods
must be safe and free of discrimination and hate crimes; schools
must provide a good education for all students; transportation
must be accessible. The means to reach the goals involve cooperating
across racial and cultural divisions.
Economic Justice: Working with Our Neighbor
Although the phenomenon of racism can exist independent of
economic factors, it is bound up with entrenched poverty, which
persists despite our national affluence. Most poor people are
still white; but blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are disproportionately
poor. "Despite measurable progress during the last 20 years,
people of color still must negotiate subtle obstacles and overcome
covert barriers in their pursuit of employment and/or advancement."
"Church teaching on economic justice insists that economic
decisions and institutions be judged on whether they protect or
undermine the dignity of the human person. We support policies
that create jobs with adequate pay and decent working conditions,
increase the minimum wage so it becomes a living wage, and overcome
barriers to equal pay and employment for women and minorities."20
Supporting Culturally Diverse Social Institutions
Social institutions in a culturally diverse nation benefit
from the sharing of the values and skills honed in the various
communities of peoples who populate it. In the global context
in which we live today, the ability to live and work in a culturally
diverse environment equips us to work toward universal peace and
justice. Our efforts to encourage judicial and political systems,
social and professional organizations, health care facilities,
educational institutions, labor unions, small and large businesses,
major corporations, the professions, sports teams and the arts
to be welcoming will be more credible when the Church truly becomes
a model of what she advocates.
Our desire as disciples of Jesus is to support people of every
race and ethnic group in enjoying their human rights and freedom.
We are called to promote love, justice and what Pope John Paul
II has called a "culture of life." Until all are free
to live anywhere in the Chicago metropolitan area without fear
of reprisal or violence, none of us is completely free. The administration
of justice and the institutions of our civic life must be marked
by respect for all. These desires shape the goals of the Church
as she works for social and economic justice and promotes life.21
B. Dwelling with God in His Church
By baptism in Christ, we have been graced and called into
the community, which is his Body. The members of the early Church
gathered in the name of Jesus to worship his Father and to continue
the mission Jesus left them. Today, as that same Church, we too
gather in the name of Jesus and commit ourselves to his mission.
Through the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation),
we are given the grace to live in union with God and our neighbor
as we follow the way and mission of Jesus.
The Second Vatican Council acknowledged and supported cultural
diversity in the Church when it encouraged the "fostering
of the qualities and talents of the various races and nations"
and the "careful and prudent" admission into the Church's
life of "elements from the traditions and cultures of individual
peoples."22 The use of vernacular languages and cultural
symbols and adapted rituals within the Church's liturgy is a sign
of Catholic unity and serves to bring all peoples and cultures
into the worship of God, who rejoices in the beauty of everything
he has made.
The Second Vatican Council also called the local Churches to
bring into their life "the particular social and cultural
circumstances" of the local people. This requires that priests,
religious women and men and lay ecclesial ministers are called
forth from among all the various cultural and racial groups which
constitute the Church.23 To speak of oneself as Irish Catholic,
German Catholic, Polish Catholic, Hispanic Catholic, African American
Catholic, Lithuanian Catholic is not divisive, provided each of
these differences is lived and offered as a gift to others rather
than designed as an obstacle to keep others out. Catholic universality
is marked by the contributions of all cultures. Each cultural
group has enriched our Catholic community with its unique gifts.
This sharing of differences within the community of one faith
is the path to salvation willed by the Triune God, whose love
Loving only people who are just like ourselves, loving only those
who are members of our biological family or who share our own
ethnic or cultural background, our own political views or our
own class assumptions, does not fulfill the challenge of the Gospel.
If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect,
even the tax
collectors do as much as that. If you greet only your brothers,
what is there
extraordinary about that? Even the heathen do as much. There must
limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father's goodness knows
(Matthew 5:46-48 and Luke 6:32-34; 36).
Striving to be a witness for Jesus Christ as a good neighbor to
all is difficult. "It seems easier to sit in our divisions
and our hatreds. It seems easier to ignore the gap between rich
and poor; to forget the unborn and unwanted; to block out those
who are not free
because they are in prisons; to live tied
up in the bonds of personal and institutional racism. But we cannot."24
We cannot, because we are called to dwell together in God's love.
To embrace the vision proclaimed in Jesus' preaching of the reign
of God, we need to see new patterns and possibilities. Too often,
when decisions about the future of the Archdiocese are being made,
the persons around the table do not adequately reflect the rich
cultural diversity that shapes our Church, city, nation and world.25
As we continue to struggle against racism within the Archdiocese,
we see a time when all of God's children will be contributing
to the governance of this local Church. Constructing socially
just patterns of relationships within our ecclesiastical institutions
presents the same difficulties met in being a good neighbor anywhere;
but, as Christians seeking to be true disciples, we can never
abandon our efforts to embody the love and justice given us by
Christ. Most of all, we can count on his grace to bring power
to the vision faith gives us.
The Eucharist as the Sacrament and Means of Communion
We are most ourselves in the celebration of the Eucharist.
Our sacramental worship unites us and makes us a community of
believers. The Mass calls us to communion with one another in
Christ Jesus. The proclamation of God's holy word and reflection
on it within the celebration of the Eucharist, which is Christ's
life poured out for us, cannot help but deepen our spiritual unity
and make our social solidarity possible. Too often, however, the
pattern of culturally and racially homogenous parishes, sometimes
established in the wake of "white flight," contributes
to Catholic parishes being instances of racial and cultural exclusion.
Sunday, it has often been noted, is the most segregated day of
the week in metropolitan Chicago, as it is elsewhere. "We
have preached the Gospel while closing our eyes to the racism
it condemns."26 Our failure to live the Gospel of God's unconditional
and universal love in culturally and racially inclusive parishes
and communities contributes to our society's failure to confront
the sin of racism.
The magnificent cultural diversity we witnessed around the Eucharistic
table during our Archdiocesan millennium celebration of the feast
of Corpus Christi in Soldier Field was just a small glimpse of
the possibilities for our future. As a local Church, we gathered
as the Body of Christ. We gathered with longing for a time when,
wherever we gather, we will do so enriched by our active welcoming
of all those whom God loves. Our gathering for Mass is always
a gathering in the name of the Father of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In the Eucharistic assembly we share all the cultural, racial
economic and spiritual gifts given us by the Spirit in order to
enrich and transform both Church and society.
The Empowering Gifts of the Spirit
From diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, we accept and
embrace in faith the love of God that compels us to dwell together
in love. After reflecting on the historical, social and economic
dimensions of our complicity with the sin of racism, we ask as
Catholics for the grace of conversion from the sin of racism,
which has separated us from our neighbor and from God.
The Church was born with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the
Virgin Mary and the apostles and on the nations gathered in Jerusalem
for Pentecost. Since that moment two thousand years ago, the indwelling
of the Spirit in the Church and in each of her members pulls us
toward dwelling together in love. The gifts the Spirit brings
transform all our relationships.
The Church in any society is to be a leaven. The Church is always
more than any particular place or society. She finds her identity
as Catholic, all embracing. If she is faithful to her Lord, the
Savior of the world, the Church will not only proclaim who he
is but will herself act to become the womb, the matrix, in which
a new world can gestate and be born. Listening and welcoming,
the Church is a place of encounter, of racial dialogue and intercultural
collaboration. In a context of universal mutual respect born of
love, the Church offers the gifts that transform the world and
bring salvation in this life and the next.
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