The Special Inheritance that Can Unite

[If I could preach this Sunday, I would say this…]

Birmingham 1963 Charles Moore, Life Magazine
Birmingham, Alabama, 1963. Peaceful civil-rights protesters fire-hosed to keep them out of downtown. (photo by Charles Moore, Life Magazine)

The Son of God suffered a cruel and unjust execution. The Roman officers brutalized Him without regard for life. They acted with depraved minds. [Spanish]

We would convict them of murder, in a court of law. Government should prevent what happened to Jesus of Nazareth. Yet, in this case, the officers did the evil.

Which means: In the flesh of His Son, God Almighty has shared in this kind of death.

Death always bothers us human beings. But Satan shows all his hatred for humanity in a case like this, when government officers take part in a cruel and wrongful death. In Christ, God Himself died this way.

My dear, departed father tried to teach me something, thirty years ago, when I was a cheeky college student. Dad tried to explain to me that black Americans have a special privilege in identifying with the Sacred Scriptures. He told me: centuries of slavery formed the community into a kind of new Israel. The black-American experience united itself with the Bible’s story of liberation from slavery, in a unique way. I needed to respect that, my dad told me.

J. Kirkwood White

Now, when he tried to teach me this, I argued with my father. Hold on, I said. We’re all sinners. We all need a Savior to liberate us. The Lord Jesus unites us in one Church–black, white, and brown—all on equal footing, all united with God through humble faith and the sacraments.

God has loved us all, in His unjustly crucified Son. He prepared rooms for us all, in the Father’s house, when He died for us.

I made some good arguments with my father, I think. But the truth is, my dad had memories that I did not have.

He remembered the non-violent Civil Rights Movement. My dad had seen with his own eyes the peaceful protests led by Dr. King. How they marched unarmed, like lambs led to slaughter, to stir the conscience of the nation.

One of the ancient centurions experienced that stirring of conscience. He had played his part in the brutal crucifixion squad. He had the innocent rabbi’s blood on his hands.

But seeing the Lamb of God suffer and die with such serenity, offering Himself to the Father with zealous love for the world’s salvation; hearing Jesus pray for everyone who persecuted, tortured, and killed Him; then the signs of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice—the experience moved the centurion’s conscience. Truly this was the Son of God.

Things seems pretty hopeless in our country right now. I have grown older than my dad was, when he tried to teach me respect for the special holiness of black-American Christianity. I’m old enough to remember the sleepless nights of the Rodney-King riots of 1992.

Almost thirty years have passed since then. The length of a generation, spent talking about a problem, without making much progress. Thirty years of 1,000 black babies aborted every day, triple the per-capita percentage for whites.

(John Wayne cameo in the The Greatest Story Ever Told)

Where can the conversation even start now? How about these two ideas:

1. Due process and the rule of law. Criminal prosecution, based on clear evidence. This can, and does, bring about justice, when you take cronyism out of the mix.

I find myself languishing in the ecclesiastical gulag right now for this fundamental idea: A priest or bishop who abuses a minor should face criminal prosecution just like anyone else, without any cover-up.

Same goes for police officers. We can have due process and the rule of law, applying the rules to everyone fairly. We can do that, in the USA. We must do that,

2. God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.

Looking back, when I argued with my dad, I think I misunderstood him. I thought he was arguing for two “levels” of American Christian. First, the JV team: white Christians. Then, the varsity: black-American Christians who could relate to the Bible better.

But I don’t think my dad had that in mind, to separate the teams like that. I think he meant only to help me focus on… The Answer. The common ground that makes enemies brothers.

Jesus Christ, though innocent, suffered. He submitted Himself to wrongful death, by officers of the state, in order to help the unrighteous and unjust. Divine light shone from the bloodied Holy Face, to cleanse consciences. To reconcile and bring peace. The serene suffering of Christ crucified opens up a new future.

Christ crucified remains our Savior. We must behold Him where He can be seen. He remains with us, drawing us through honest tears to the mystery of divine peace.

We all have to gaze at the horrible suffering. Then we can find hope and an honest step forward. Because Jesus lives.

The Kind Beginning of the Culture of Life

The Lord Jesus worked His first miracle in Cana, a small town in Galilee, near Nazareth.

Two months ago, I was in the town of Cana. All the couples in our pilgrim group renewed their wedding vows in the church built on the spot where the Lord turned water into wine.

Church of the Miracle at Cana

Then we went on to the Sea of Galilee, where we spent the day. In the evening, we got on the bus to head back to Nazareth, where we were staying. On the way, the perfect thing happened.

We had to pass through Cana on the way back. The region of Galilee is rural countryside. There are not a lot of roads, and the roads are narrow. The only way from the Sea of Galilee to Nazareth is through Cana.

So we drove back into Cana, and, like I said, the perfect thing happened: We got stuck in a traffic jam.

It took us 40 minutes to get through two traffic lights. There were just too many cars and not enough road. Rush hour in Cana of Galilee.

This was the perfect thing to happen. The miracles of Christ are things that really took place, in this very world of ours, where traffic also occurs. The world where Jesus worked miracles, and the world where you and I get stuck in traffic: It is the same world.

Alveda King

In the town where we sat at a red light for half an hour, the God-man went to a wedding of poor people.

The family had done everything within their means to provide for their guests. Now they were confronted with an embarrassing situation.

What Christ did for them is very revealing.

Let us first take note of what He did not do. He did not say, “It’s just as well the wine ran out, because these people have already had more than enough fun.”

No. He did not frown. He smiled. He turned water for ritual purification into an enormous amount of choice table wine. The joy and revelry did not end. The Son of God kept it going.

The fact that our Lord did this is revealing for two reasons. First: It reveals the kind of human heart He has. His Heart is generous. He does not measure His kindness. He does not give with one hand and take with the other. He just loves.

Bl. Columba Marmion, O.S.B.

The second thing His action reveals is even more profound. The loving kindness of Christ the man reveals to us the infinite divine love of Christ our God.

We can neither perceive nor imagine the love of God. God’s qualities are altogether beyond the capacities of our little minds. But the human love of Christ give us a glimpse of the ineffable divine love. One of the saints put it like this:

Nothing so much attracts our poor hearts as to contemplate Jesus Christ, true God as well as true man, translating the eternal goodness into human deeds.

In Christ, the unknowable eternal goodness turned water into wine for a poor family in the little town where we sat in traffic. We cannot know God by ourselves, dear brothers and sisters. But Jesus reveals Him. And we see the sweet truth: God is kind.

Now, it is no accident that this revelation took place at a wedding.

The Lord Jesus was not destined to marry on earth. He came to die for the sins of all the children of Adam and Eve.

But He worked His first miracle at a wedding to show us this: God loves marriage and child-bearing. Yes, when we are born, we are born sinners. But it is still a good thing to be born. The human race is meant to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth. Christ came to save everyone ever born.

The miracle at Cana, then, was the beginning of what we call the “Culture of Life.” Christ showed us that day: God wants babies to be born.

This is what the March for Life is about. It is a continuation of the wedding at Cana.

Speaking of births, yesterday would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 81st birthday. Dr. King has a niece named Alveda. She recently wrote the following message to us:

I work in the civil rights movement of our century — the right of every one of every race to live.

I am asking you to join me. Let me tell you why. Abortion and racism are evil twins, born of the same lie…

Racism springs from the lie that certain human beings are less than fully human…So it is with abortion.

Racism oppresses its victims, but also binds the oppressors, who sear their consciences with more and more lies until they become prisoners of those lies. They cannot face the truth of human equality because it reveals the horror of the injustices they commit…So it is with abortion.

Racism is a way to gain economic advantage at the expense of others. Slavery and plantations may be gone, but racism still allows us to regard those who may keep us from financial gain as less than equals. So it is with abortion.

Listen: Dr. King was killed before Roe v. Wade made abortion legal on January 22, 1973. But you know that if he were still alive, he would be marching on Friday.

If any of us think that the pro-life cause is not our problem, not our fight to fight, we need to think again.

Dr. King would be yelling at us right now. He yelled a lot louder in the pulpit than I ever do.

He would yell, “Get yourself up! Stand up for what you know is right! Every little baby in the womb—every black one, every white, yellow, or red one—every last one has the right to be born!”

Imagine My Amazement

postI have no choice but to admit that in the past two days, I have witnessed not one, but two miracles of liberal journalism.

Don’t know if you heard how a professor at Harvard was arrested in his own house. He claims to be the victim of police racism.

The first thing that occurred to me when I read the conflicting accounts of what happened: Wasn’t the police officer probably trying to secure the house after having received a burglary report? Why would Dr. Gates refuse to comply with the officer’s request that he step outside? Isn’t it reasonable to think that the officer asked Dr. Gates to step outside for his own safety, in the event that there was an intruder in the house?

Dr. GatesImagine my amazement when I read something in the Washington Post to the effect that the officer may in fact NOT be a racist goon, and Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was probably acting like a defensive jerk.

Don’t know if you have heard that there will soon be a new justice on the Supreme Court.

Imagine my amazement when I read something in the Washington Post to the effect that Sonia Sotomayor is a woefully uninspiring Supreme-Court nominee.

My brother used to write for the Washington Post. Of course I would always be glad to buy my brother a beer. But other than that, I have never wanted to buy beers for Washington Post writers.

But the Omnipresent Specter is full of surprises.