The Distress, the Kingdom, the Endurance|A Homily after the Jamar Clark Verdict

Officers cleared in Jamar Clark Case - KSTP news report

Officers cleared in Jamar Clark Case – KSTP news report

by Fr. Dale Korogi, Church of the Ascension

“I John, share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus.” – Rev. 1:9

The distress, the kingdom, the endurance: from today’s reading from the Book of Revelation.

I. THE DISTRESS

There is a serious racial divide in our neighborhood, our city, and our society. How differently we, with our different histories and different ethnicities, see and interpret the world. Who do we trust? “Black men are thugs.” “The cops are thugs.” We have deeply embedded perceptions and presumptions and prejudices. All of us have blind spots that result in racial profiling: the demonization of individuals and classes of people. We need to recognize and challenge our conscious and unconscious biases.

One of the most haunting facts in the report on the death of Jamar Clark were Mr. Clark’s words, “I’m ready to die.” He was 24 years old. What led him to so disvalue his life and dignity? He, like all of us, like it or not, was shaped to a greater or lesser degree, by the experience of his ancestors many generations removed. African-Americans live with the legacy of families who suffered the legalized discrimination and segregation in so-called modern times, and the history of their forebears who first came to this country in chains and shackles. Fear, hopelessness. No wonder we see the world differently.

II. THE KINGDOM

As a white male, I don’t see my privilege because I’m too close to it, habituated to it. There’s so much I don’t yet get. We need to work on this together. In our multicultural parish and school, we have the rich and uncommon opportunity to know what it really means to be Catholic, to be really Catholic: that is, a diversity of people united around one Lord, a broad and inclusive collective. While it’s nice to all be in the same room getting along, we need to move beyond superficial relationships and our sketchy knowledge of one another’s histories.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1603 by Caravaggio.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, 1603 by Caravaggio.

The apostle Thomas is forever saddled with the title, “Doubting Thomas.” He gets a bum rap for his behavior, but it’s understandable and even commendable. He’s not content with what everybody is saying about somebody else. He’s not content with hearsay. Thomas wants to get Jesus’ story from Jesus himself.

Like Thomas, we need not rely on what others say about others. We have to listen to and hear the stories, in particular, from our brown and black brothers and sisters themselves, and come to know the challenges that they face every day because of the color of their skin. We need to put our fingers into their wounds, our hands into their sides. That’s risky. Because once we know their suffering, we must help to absorb their suffering. We need to be more fully engaged as an intercultural parish, and more integrated into our multicultural neighborhood. We need to be willing to go out and stand with others and act to bridge racial divisions and disparities—because that’s what Baptism and Christian discipleship require.

III. THE ENDURANCE

The spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, points out that, even though Thomas didn’t share the faith of the others in the room, he was there with them, nevertheless: he stayed among the community of believers. Nouwen says,

I find this a very profound and consoling thought. In times of doubt or unbelief, the community can “carry you along”; it can offer on your behalf what you yourself overlook, and can be the context in which you may recognize the Lord again.

Let’s commit to staying among the believers, working together, loving one another for the long haul, united in Easter faith that there is no despair, no division, no evil, no death that is beyond God’s power to repair. Let’s share the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus.

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Hat tip to Edward Braxton. Bishop Braxton Writes a Letter on Racial Divide in the United States

Fr dale

Fr. Dale Korogi is Pastor at Church of the Ascension in North Minneapolis and says mass at the Visitation Monastery most Wednesday and Friday mornings at 8am. This homily is reprinted with his permission.

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