Editor’s note: This column was based on Bishop Ricken’s homily for the televised Mass for Trinity Sunday, June 7, 2020.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all of you daughters and sons of God in northeast Wisconsin, I simply must speak to you about the current situation in our country with regard to the horrible event that happened recently in Minneapolis and the tremendous outcry this has caused in our nation, all on top of the pandemic. What was done to George Floyd was a heinous act, a horrible brutal act crushing out the life of one of our fellow citizens, who from reports desired peace and unity among peoples.
This racial hatred must end and this national wound must be healed. Each of us must take responsibility for any hatred which lurks around in our minds and hearts. Scapegoating and blaming others who are different from us, in our appearance or beliefs must stop. We must show the self-restraint to listen deeply to one another and to engage in honest and respectful dialogue with genuine positive regard for the other.
In the Gospel today for Trinity Sunday we see and hear that clarion call of Jesus in the famous passage from John 3:16-18: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
This week the Holy Father, Pope Francis, issued a special message to all of the people of the United States, writing: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life. At the same time, we have to recognize that the violence of recent nights is self-destructive and self-defeating. Nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.”
It is clear to me that we must listen deeply to those who have been aggrieved, no matter their skin color or language or cultural background, and especially now to our black brothers and sisters.
In order to listen deeply, we must repent of our sins. In the Book of Daniel, 9:9-10, the prophet tells us: “Yours, O Lord our God, are compassion and forgiveness. Yet we rebelled against you and paid no heed to your command.” We need to repent every day, like the prophet Daniel, in prayer to our God for mercy upon us all. We must act more like God’s people and humble ourselves and pray. We must beg God’s forgiveness for ignoring him, for ostracizing him from our personal lives, from our communal lives, from our national lives.
It seems to me that we have been on the present “march of folly” toward independence from God for the last five or six decades. We are having to face now the consequences of our cultural decisions after not respecting the dignity of the human person, the role of God in our lives, the protection of life in all of its stages. Life has become expendable and will be controlled by the strongest and most powerful.
Brothers and sisters, we may be moving into a very delicate place. I do not want to seem alarmist, but the present situation is not sustainable. We must humble ourselves and pray and fast for a miraculous outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We must pray to the Lord who is full of mercy. As St. Faustina describes in her “Diary on Divine Mercy,” the capacity of the supply of God’s mercy is bountiful. She describes his merciful love as being like oceans of Divine Mercy.
Brothers and sisters, I am preaching to myself as much as I am to you. I know through experience what evil a person in a position of trust can do to an innocent victim and how its effects can last for years. I know how the crimes of a very few can taint the goodness and hard work of the majority who every day give their best to the mission.
Sometimes a culture must be corrected, reformed and set right, but let us not lose sight of the fact that most personnel in law enforcement are good men and women trying to do their level best to serve. The crimes of a few should not be generalized into condemnation of the many good servants of the common good who continually rise to the call of duty.
We must pray and call upon our national leaders and our state and local leaders to put the common good of the country ahead of their own political interests. But we can only promote the common good if we are willing to pursue the good in our individual lives. It has been said, “America is great because she is good. She will cease to be great if she ceases to be good.”
Let’s pray and fast and call ourselves to a higher standard of practice: to repentance and to forgiveness of those who have aggrieved us. Let us fast by giving up something to which we are accustomed for the sake of love of others so that the generous mercy of Jesus might be poured out upon our diocese, our state, our nation and the world. Jesus does not call us to live this life of discipleship and then not give us the power to live it.
Finally, let us pray for a massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit will pour out the spiritual ointment of his healing in miraculous ways, wherein people will suddenly be able to let go of past hurts and be almost instantaneously made whole. Let us pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to teach us to walk the paths of justice and peace, and to love and serve God by loving and serving one another.
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.