June 28, 2020 - Pastor Message07/09/2020
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that all who believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The racial tension and violence that have gripped our country for the past month in response to the death of George Floyd, together with the blatant disrespect for police and government officials as well as the vandalism, theft, and destruction of both public and private property, have raised serious questions in the minds of many Americans, including Catholic Americans. What does our faith teach us about these issues? With so many different voices calling for our attention, how can we sift through the chaos to find the way forward toward our ultimate goal, the kingdom of God? What does the kingdom of God have to do with the problems of this world, particularly our troubled civic life right now? I will attempt to offer some answers to these questions and others like them in this column over the next few weeks, beginning this week with what our faith teaches us about race relations. Please note that the limits of this column do not allow for an exhaustive study of these complex issues, and so I will limit myself to focusing on the basic principles in which we believe. It will be up to each of us to then apply these principles when seeking our own answers to the pressing questions of our time.
The fundamental principles involved in the question of race relations are the dignity of every human person, rooted in creation, and the universal call to salvation in Christ. Every human being, regardless of race, is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:2627). This is the biblical way of stressing the unique relationship that human beings have with God, who has planted in our souls his own divine spark. This spark is what makes us human and puts us in a unique relationship with other human beings too, investing every human being with the same, inalienable rights and placing the responsibility on every other human being to respect those rights. It is our shared humanity, directly connecting us to God and one another, that transcends racial differences and compels us to treat people of all races with the same, fundamental dignity and respect, leaving no room in the Catholic heart for racism or prejudice, and, if we find social structures and institutions that deny people their rights because of their race, as slavery and segregation did for so many years in our country, we have a moral obligation to work to change those institutions and to restore those who have been deprived to their full, equal rights.
All human beings are not only created by God in his own image, they are all destined by him for salvation in his Son, Jesus Christ. As we read in the passage above from John, God sent his Son so that “all” can believe in him and be saved. Christ, the Lamb of God, gives his life for people of all races, as we read in Revelation: “Worthy are you to receive the scroll and to break open its seals, for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation” (5:9). Salvation is not a matter of race or ethnicity or any external factors; it is a matter of faith in the only name under heaven by which we are saved (Acts 4:12). No one is excluded from Christ’s saving grace, and he sends his disciples, including us, out to carry this saving message to the “whole world” (Mark 16:15) until heaven resounds with the glorious hymn of those whom Christ saves “from every nation, race, people, and tongue” (Revelation 7:9). May we remember that in these tumultuous times and never cease to carry out our mission by reaching out in faith to all people, regardless of race.
Fr. Marc Stockton