Good Trouble

by Fr. Dave Kelly, C.PP.S.

Unknown authorUnknown author, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

I heard an audio recording of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at Bethel College some 60 years ago. The word he used over and over was maladjusted.” He never wanted to become adjusted or conform to bigotry and hatred, poverty or racism. 

Rep. John Lewis called it “good trouble”—the kind of trouble you get into because you have chosen to fight for the underdog, the powerless, right over wrong. 

Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and a litany of others followed the example of the one who ultimately choose love over hatred. Jesus was unwilling to conform to the rule of law when it conflicted with the commandments to love with all your heart. Jesus was maladjusted to poverty and racism and hatred; it got him into some “good trouble.”

How do we confront the violence that we are witnesses to? How do we interrupt systems that fail to protect or respect? Have we adjusted to a “that is just the way it is today” mentality? Or do we choose to live maladjusted, even when it gets us into some good trouble? As I reflect on my own life, I am afraid that I have at times allowed myself to become too adjusted, placating myself with phrases such as “That’s just how it is” or “What can I do anyway?” 

We have a volunteer who recently came home from prison. He’s in his 40s and did more time inside than outside. He is about as gentle and kind a person as you can imagine. He cares deeply for the youth here at pbmr and tries to encourage them down a different path than the one he took so many years ago. 

I overheard him speaking to a staff member the other day about how he continually gets stopped by the police. On almost a weekly basis he gets pulled over as he drives from his home to pbmr. Each time the police treat him with suspicion, make him get out of the car, question him as to whether he has any drugs or guns in the car. They often search his car, and when they find nothing, they tell him to “be on his way.” He says this happens weekly—at least. As I heard this, my heart was tired, laden with the countless young men who tell a similar tale—and frankly, I wasn’t surprised. 

But the staff member who listened was deeply troubled by the reality of her talking partner. She shared that in the 12 years she’s been driving, she has never once been pulled over, much less searched or harassed by the police. She could hardly believe that in the 6 months since her talking partner has come home, he has been pulled over upwards of 30 times. She shared about how her driving record is far from perfect—driving a few miles over the speed limit, accidentally turning the wrong way down one-ways, never quite fully stopping at stop signs—yet her weeks go quietly uninterrupted by police. 

Her shock and horror at the daily burden that our volunteer faces due to the condition of driving while black is right and just. It is right and just to balk at the pain, injustice, and inequality that exists in our world. It is right and just to recognize when something is contrary to God’s Kingdom. Like Jesus in the temple, it is right and just to feel anger at the plight of the poor and to be moved to turn over tables of oppression.

As we begin to loosen the shackles of the pandemic, my hope is that we come to value the ability to embrace one another and see that we are all part of the same sacred journey. I pray that we are all maladjusted to the injustices around us, that we not allow ourselves to be fooled in accepting “that is just the way it is.”

This article appeared in the April 2021 edition of the New Wine Press.

Fr. Keith Branson: Third Sunday of Easter 2021

Fr. Keith Branson is the chaplain at Avila University in Kansas City. He is sharing the homilies for the college students’ Masses online.  We are happy to share his reflections for April 18, 2021.

Racism Wounds the Body of Christ

by Alameda, California Companion Maureen Lahiff

protestors against hate and racism

Rally to stop Asian hate, McPherson Square, D.C. 3/21/21

I’m weary of the challenges of trying to be an anti-racist. But the increasingly large number of verbal and physical attacks on Asian immigrants and Americans of Asian heritage (almost 4,000 incidents in the last year alone) leave me no choice but to pray and look for ways to act.

In the past 50 years, way before the covid pandemic caused by a virus that first infected humans in Wuhan, China, Asian countries have been blamed for many of the economic problems in the U.S. In the 1970s, American consumers increasingly came to prefer high-quality, energy efficient cars from manufacturers based in Japan. They were largely ignored by U.S. car companies. Because I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and went to college in Detroit, I was very aware of these changes. As my sisters and I gradually purchased our first cars, we all chose used cars from manufacturers like Honda and Toyota. Our parents were horrified. They felt strongly that we should “buy American,” even though it made no sense to us to do that.

During this time, individuals of Asian heritage, Chinese as well as Japanese (as someone from my parents’ generation said, “Who could tell them apart?”) were attacked. American auto companies and American steel companies had antiquated equipment and did not invest in modernization, prioritizing the short-term interests of stockholders over the quality of their products and the long-term health of their companies and workers. As globalization took its toll on workers and their families, the growing anti-union climate certainly did not help. In addition, the Vietnam W sar, its ignominious conclusion, the plight of refugees, and the situation of veterans all contributed to anti-Asian feeling.

The so-called “model minority” myth or universal success is not really about admiration of the intelligence and hard work of Asian Americans. It serves as an excuse for ignoring the still-present effects of the enslavement of African Americans, Jim Crow laws, the exclusion of African american veterans from GI Bill benefits, and differential investment in public schools and discriminatory mortgage programs. It is also exploited to arouse fear and uncertainty among lower and middle-class whites, to create feelings of exclusion from the American dream.

Stereotypes and assumptions about immigrants from China and Americans of Chinese heritage, the largest Asian ethnic group in the U.S., are woven into the fabric of our culture. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was the only instance of barring immigrants from a certain country until the Trump Muslim Ban, though non-white immigrants were not able to become citizens. (In 1940, people from China, the Philippines, and India were able to become citizens; it was not until the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 that all restrictions were removed.)  

Over the decades, people of Asian heritage have largely kept quiet in response to verbal abuse, hostility from neighbors, denial of opportunities, and attacks on their businesses. “Keep your head down and work hard” was the usual response. The way Japanese immigrants and American citizens of Japanese descent showed up when ordered to leave their homes and got in line to board buses to desert concentration camps early in 1942 sums up the usual approach. This has contributed to the invisibility of anti-Asian racism, even here in California. 

Asian cultures are not all the same, but it is true that in general, people have different ways of expressing feelings. But that does not mean that they do not feel deeply. Often it seems that we acknowledge the scientific and technical skills of people of Asian heritage, but do not consider them capable of artistic creativity or executive leadership.  

I think Dr. Michael C. Lu, dean of the University of California, Berkeley where I work, puts it very well when he says, “We are treated like perpetual foreigners no matter how many years or generations we have been in this country.” It is long past time to treat Asian-Americans as our brothers and sisters, equal members of the American family. 

Gather, Send calls Precious Blood Companions to speak clearly, to stand up, and to step out on behalf of our Asian and Asian-American neighbors. We need to speak out and stand in solidarity with them and speaking out against violence and the attitudes that allows violence to happen. 

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Find out what is going on in your location and diocese. Think about what your parish could do to get to know Asian and Pacific Islanders in your community, to hear about their stories and strengths. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church has a subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Island Affairs, chaired by Bishop Oscar Solis of Salt Lake City. For those of you who find official church documents helpful, the usccb approved a message called Encountering Christ in Harmony in 2018. It is a bit tricky to find; start here: https://www.usccb.org/committees/cultural-diversity-church. The Committee is presently working on another statement in light of the recent incidents of violence against the aapi community.

The Stop AAPI Hate website is currently off-line, but many of their materials can be accessed through Chinese for Affirmative Action’s website.

Although I am weary, I will continue to respond to the Cry of the Blood, with the support of this community.

This article appeared in the April 2021 issue of the New Wine Press.

Fr. Keith Branson: Second Sunday of Easter 2021

Fr. Keith Branson is the chaplain at Avila University in Kansas City. He is sharing the homilies for the college students’ Masses online.  We are happy to share his reflections for April 11, 2021.

Tapping the Wine Cellar-April 8, 2021

Please join Fr. Keith, Vicky, Tim, and Precious Blood Volunteer Thomas Weiss for April 8th’s Tapping the Wine Cellar! We hope you can take some time to explore the readings for Sunday using this video as a jumping-off point.

Take Action For Common Sense Laws

from Gabino Zavala, Justice and Peace Director
This week we entered Holy Week, the days leading to the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. As we reflect on the Paschal Mystery, especially the Cross of Jesus, we should recognize that in our midst there are many of our sisters and brothers who live their own stories of the passion. The immigrant mother who was inconsolable at the death of her 9-year-old daughter who drowned on March 20th while they were attempting to cross the Rio Grande into the United States. The Asian woman in New York, who was beaten, kicked and stomped while onlookers watched and did nothing and eventually closed their doors while she lay on the sidewalk. Families who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19. And in recent weeks, families who have lost loved ones to gun violence.
Without a doubt we know that there is a proliferation of guns in the United States. We have more guns in the hands of private citizens in this country and we have more violence due to guns as well. Anxiety and anger enflamed because of the pandemic, reactions to last summer’s racial justice protests, and the recent presidential election are suggested as reasons why 8.5 million previously unarmed people purchased a weapon in 2020.
The statistics show that 393 million guns are in the hands of private citizens in our country. As has been said, it is easier to buy a gun than to vote! And if you don’t know anyone personally who owns a gun, the average gun owner owns five weapons. Fourteen percent of gun owners have an arsenal of eight or more guns.
Many proponents of unfettered gun ownership don’t see this as problem. The Second Amendment, they say, gives them the right to own guns. It is also their right to protect themselves and defend their families. The reality is that the use of weapons for self-defense is exceedingly rare while, unfortunately, it is much more common that these weapons be used for homicide and suicide.
I believe it is time to look at common sense gun law reform, which does not mean doing away with the Second Amendment. The Boulder shooter used an AR-15, semi-automatic military style rifle that he was able to purchase legally. Why can anyone purchase such a weapon? Anger, bigotry, hate, mental illness, and depression, plus guns are not a good combination.
In their latest newsletter, the Franciscan Action Network provided links to the Newtown Action Alliance petition to President Bident and Congress saying, “We know a federal ban on assault weapons is possible because we’ve done it before, in 1994. However, political pressure and hefty campaign contributions from the NRA caused the ban to expire in 2004 at which point mass shooting deaths increased by 347%. We must renew the national ban on weapons of war.
Thoughts and prayers are useless without good works and we must urge President Biden and the 117th Congress to ban weapons of war. With a President and a Congress that support gun reform, now is the time to build bipartisan support for legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Take action today and urge your member of Congress to pass legislation banning assault weapons.”
As Members of the Precious Blood family let us continue to advocate for the dignity of each human being. Let us continue to promote life in every way including the promotion of common-sense reform of our gun laws.

Fr. Joe Nassal: Easter Sunday You Can’t Bury Hope

Fr. Joe wasn’t able to make a video for Easter, but he shared a printed version of his homily.

Easter Sunday
April 4, 2021

You Can’t Bury Hope

Last year Easter Sunday was on April 12 and I wrote in my journal, the death toll from the coronavirus had surpassed 20,000 in the United States and 100,000 around the world. A year later, the death toll in the U.S. is more than 550,000; with almost three million worldwide. Last year, the churches were closed on Easter Sunday. At least this year, churches are welcoming a limited number of people to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Certainly, after more than a year of living in this pandemic and seeing so many die it would be easy to keep hope buried; to keep the stone in front of the tomb. But as Pope Francis implored in his homily at the Easter Vigil two years ago, “Do not bury hope!” He called us “to rediscover in the Risen Christ the one who rolls back from our heart the heaviest of stones.” He quoted one of Emily Dickinson’s poems where she wrote, ““We never know how high we are/Till we are called to rise.”

One day soon we will all rise from this shelter in place, take off our masks, and be able to close the distance between us. But until it is safe to do so, what do the Easter Sunday Scriptures teach us so we do not bury hope again but rather rise to new heights of hope and holiness?

In gospel for Easter Sunday, Mary did not go to the tomb to look around. According to John, Mary came by herself to the tomb, not with the other women, but alone. The gospel doesn’t say whether she was bringing spices to anoint the body or simply to sit by the grave to pray, to remember, to grieve. Perhaps she brought flowers. But if she did, when she saw the stone removed for the tomb, she dropped the flowers in fear and ran for help.

Not that Peter would be much help. He was locked away, hiding in fear, and sulking in his guilt for running away as he grieved the death of his friend, mentor, and savior. Once upon a time, he had said it: “You are the Christ.” Jesus responded by giving Peter the nickname, “Rock.” But when Jesus needed him most, the Rock crumbled.

Now Mary, breathless, races into the room where they are hiding in fear and screams, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him!” They probably thought Mary was hysterical, delusional, out of her mind with grief. But she was so insistent, that they left their fear inside the upper room and ran to the tomb.

Free at Last

John was younger and faster than Peter. He had not spent the journey with Jesus as his friend Peter had—constantly putting his foot in his mouth. Chewing on one’s foot can slow one down. Peter was slow. Oh, he was quick once upon a time as when he proclaimed, “You are the Christ” and got rewarded with the keys to the kingdom. But this time, Peter’s feet were sore, blistered, and bitten. And he didn’t have a clue where he put the keys to the kingdom.

Why did John who arrived first at the tomb not go in? Out of respect for his elder friend, Peter? Or out of fear? No one knows what one may find roaming around inside an empty tomb. Of course, the tomb was not completely empty. John saw the burial cloths that he had helped to wrap Jesus’ bruised, tortured, and naked body in when they took him down from the cross.

He knew something was up but didn’t know what.

John, more than most, would have remembered. After all, he was there at the cross, holding on to Jesus’ mother for dear life. He promised his dying friend that he would take care of Mary. But what would his mother think now that the body of her beloved son is missing? He didn’t know what to think, but his wandering mind was distracted when Peter, huffing, puffing, limping, finally arrives at the tomb.

Right on cue and in character, Peter barges right in to look around. He sees the same thing John saw from the entrance to the grave. Peter did not know what to think either but when John followed him in, it all made sense now: “He saw and believed.”

Though they did not understand “that he had to rise from the dead,” John saw the circumstantial evidence and believed in his heart that Jesus was alive. The evidence was slim but John knew what Jesus had been buried in and these cloths were the ones. The Risen One was gone. He was free of the tomb. Free at last.

Sincerity and Truth

What did John see that stirred his belief? He saw the burial cloths and “the cloth that covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.” Was this what sparked John’s belief? Since he was there at the death of his friend, promising Jesus that he would take care of his Mom after he died, I wonder if John was the one who had covered his friend’s face with burial cloth after they took him down from the cross? He saw the burial cloth rolled up and neatly placed off to the side. This was Jesus’ way of telling his friend it was true. What he had been telling them about all those years—that he would suffer greatly and die but he would rise again. John didn’t know until that moment what his friend meant by that phrase, “rise again.” But now he did. Now he saw and believed.

A new day has dawned. Hope no longer is buried in a borrowed tomb. As Paul says in the second reading, “Let us celebrate the feast not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” The Easter Season offers us fifty days to nibble on the bread of sincerity and truth.

That’s the thing about bread, this Easter Bread: it never goes stale. No need to put it in the freezer to keep it fresh—that would only result in freezer burn. No, sincerity and truth are always fresh and taste like Grandma’s homemade bread. This isn’t store bought. This is baked in the oven of an empty tomb and rises like no bread ever did before. For this is the Bread of Life that fills the senses with the aromas of grace.

So, this becomes our Easter challenge: though there is more than enough evidence in our world to keep hope buried deep in the ground, God will not allow it. Spring has come! The flowers are blooming and life is bursting all over the place. Yes, there are problems and pains and violence and fear in the world. Yes, the obstacles of yesterday remain today. But we will not bury hope again! Hope is rising to new heights!

Are you ready to hope again? Are you ready to rise from the year-long pandemic with the promise of new life that never ends? Then, let’s get on with it! Let’s live with sincerity and truth! For we have seen and we believe: we will never bury hope again!

 

 

Tapping the Wine Cellar-April 1, 2021

Please join Fr. Keith, Vicky, and Tim, for April 1st’s Tapping the Wine Cellar! We hope you can take some time to explore the readings for Sunday using this video as a jumping-off point.

Lenten Lecture Series Video 6, Finding Hope With Mary at the Foot of the Cross

Fr. Keith Branson, C.PP.S. Finding Hope With Mary at the Foot of the Cross

Join the discussion on March 30, 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT by registering below (if you registered for last week’s session, no need to re-register).

The Zoom reflection sessions will be available on Tuesday evenings at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. ST. To participate in those, please register below.