Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Listening Beyond the Noise

    I have not gone on the road to preach in over 3 months and I don't anticipate going out any time soon.  As a result of this I have had a lot of quiet time.  I have asked what God is asking of me in this time of pandemic and in this time of racial protests.

   I have concluded that for me it is important to listen beyond the noise.  There is all kinds of chatter and over-reaction from both the left and the right whether it's about our racial tensions or about the COVID-19 pandemic.

   The first thing that I realize is important is taking the challenge of listening to points of view that challenge me.  I don't mean listening to everything.  Some things are just preposterous conspiracy theories.  As a white person I might be tempted to be complacent, to say "I'm OK, not a racist, etc" but I am discovering for myself the need to confront the fact that I benefit from white privilege.  No, I am not feeling guilty for being white but as I listen to black and other minority voices I am moved to do what I can to eliminate the opportunity gap between whites like myself and people of color..  I would stress that this white privilege issue is not only about the disparities in the police and legal system but touches many levels of society.  A suggestion--take a deep breath, resist the temptation to get defensive and see how this applies in your life.

    The other thing that I discern is that the virus is real and it's not going away any time soon.  I am listening to the health experts and not so much the politicians who are politicizing the issue. The real challenge here, as I have mentioned in previous blog posts, is the American tendency to favor individual rights over the common good.  This, as well as general impatience.  I hear things like, "I'm so done with this virus."  You may feel that way but guess what, the virus is not done with us. I am grateful for the leadership in my Franciscan province in this matter.  My community here is composed of elder men, like myself.  Several men are taking chemo treatments.  Happy to say not one of us has yet been afflicted with COVID-19.

   Where is this all headed? I don't know.  I do believe that the world will be different.  I would like to think that racism will go away.  That is unrealistic but there will be a better attitude among most people and there will be reform (not De-funding) of police structures.  I think that the court system needs an overhaul as well.

   Lastly, what will be the state of the Church, not only our Catholic Church, but all of them.  I see people making that point that liquor stores and tattoo parlors, among other things cannot be more important than the Church.  Of course, they are not.  That, however, misses the point. I believe that terms such as essential businesses miss the pointThe issue is rather when is it safe to gather in a prticular kind of location.  Churches are enclosed spaces.  I have no problem with opening with social distance and other limitations but wide open, anything goes with large crowds is just not safe.  Good pastors know that.  Also, remember that for us Catholics Church is not just the building.  We are the living Body of Christ, the people of God.  The Eucharist is the High point and the deepest expression of Christ's presence, but not the only one.  We can gather in our families and encounter Him in serving the poor.  A deeper sense of this aspect of Chhurch must grow even after all restrictions are lifted.

   These are the things that I hear in the silence of these days.  I invote you not to run from the silence but to embrace it, to listen, to discern and to act.

Moving Out and Moving Ahead Cautiosly