I’ve been functioning in two different worlds these past days: the incredible anger, sadness and subsequent chaos that the senseless killing of two men of color and five police officers has initiated as well as the living out of the final chapters of my mom’s life – her postlude as it were. And there is a connection.
By accident of timing, family gathered again at my Aunt’s 80th birthday, and I listened to many (until now, unknown to me) stories about my mom and what seems to have been a tempestuous and volatile relationship with her own parents. There are periods of her life that no one can account for, and the point I am making is that, suddenly, for all my education and knowledge and alleged powers of observation, I find that I really did not know her. We think we understand others. We assume that we know what another experiences. I presume that I understand what you have lived through and what the words that define your life’s journey mean to you as well as to another. What hubris!
If there is anything we should be learning about the continued legacy of the sins of our forbearers in their legitimizing the abomination of slavery and its continued effects throughout generations, it is that no one should presume to know exactly what another has experienced or felt. I know this nation of ours has desperately needed serious conversations (and actions) to undo the stains of racism. We need to understand each other’s experiences with regard to law enforcement not to be told “you are right” but rather we are at the time when we must make what is broken right! We need to face the complexities about gun violence in this country because I still weep for the little ones murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School but my eyes also fill with tears of sadness and rage at the murders of little children of our inner cities who are victims of gang violence or simply sitting (or sleeping) in the wrong place at the wrong time on the receiving end of the wrong bullet.
I write this reflection not as a person with any political agenda but as a priest. I want to storm heaven with prayer for us as a nation – divided and seemingly not wanting to listen to the Lord (or each other). I pray the Lord allows us to learn to truly listen to each other. If we listen, and learn from one another, and pray with and for each other, reconciliation is a possibility.
Ironic isn’t it! What a thriving parish always needs: the ability to pray together and to learn from each other is exactly what our nation needs. Because we really do not know as much about each other as we think we do!