In our own world, the Bethesda story reminds us of the fact that social and economic systems meant to assist the needy often keep them in poverty. Our story suggests that the 40 million Americans who live in poverty will need to doubt and challenge the system, and to look for help outside of it. Further, our sermons will need to speak life into death as a reminder that there is life beyond the system.
The familiar standards of “innocent until proven guilty” and “beyond a reasonable doubt” are meant to protect people from false accusations, but also contribute to the assumption that should doubt the stories of victims of assault and harassment, even when we know these crimes are depressingly common. The Christian preferential option for the poor, however, means that we should have a preferential option for victims, meaning that our presumption is to believe in and side with the victims of assault and harassment in the church and the public arena.
Since the arrival of the first African slaves at Jamestown in 1619, Eurocentric racist ideals and practices have been embedded in the culture of the United States. The Church must learn from the history of racism in the United States if it is to dismantle systemic racism.
The innate ambiguity of the political themes raised by this week’s first lectionary text should lead us to hold together both our desire for cohesion as the “people of God” and that same desire’s potential for exclusion—exclusion that we must diligently recognize and actively hold in check.
The United States Catholic bishops’ recent pastoral letter on racism shows how racism has been woven into the history of the US, and is honest about the Church’s past complicity in that racism. It says less about how Catholics today can combat systemic racism, but offers hope for fruitful dialogues throughout the country.
The transfiguration reveals the implicit grammar of Jesus’ politics and political identity. This identity did not require a retreat to heaven, but confrontation and crucifixion in Jerusalem.
In Open Wide Our Hearts, the US Catholic bishops successfully describe how racism has historically been at the heart of American life, but the pastoral letter emphasizes personal conversion at the expense of structural transformation.
The US Catholic bishops’ pastoral letter Open Wide Our Hearts seeks to assuage white guilt rather than inspire a courageous stand against white supremacy.
God’s prophets are those who call us to recognize our limitations before the sovereignty of God. Indeed, Jeremiah reminds us of the relativity of human politics and that in God alone does the individual and human society find meaning and security.