Tuesday, August 13, 2019


     Years ago when I was doing my doctoral studies in Rome I met an American missionary priest who's order ministered in Africa.  One day I said to him, "So, you are going to bring Christ to Africa."  He said, "No.  We don't have to bring Christ to Africa.  He is already there.  And he is black."

     He was of course not referring to the Jewish Jesus, who was not black.  He was referring to the global Christ Reality, who is Divinity present in every person of every color, gender, nationality, creed, social standing, economic standing, or sexual orientation.  In particular, my friend was preparing to minister to the black Christ whom he found in the native Africans.  

     At the Second Vatican Council the Africans made it clear that they indeed had a Black African Christ and a Black African Catholicism.  They had Masses at which they beat drums, chanted in their own language and danced in their own way to express the joy of Africa at having received the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The Council confirmed the validity of Africa's Black Christ, along with the validity of every ethnic expression of Christ throughout the world.

    So we can ask, "What color is the American Christ?"  Given the collapsed condition of our society, many of us would say--even insist--that the American Christ is white.  No!  "Christ" means "The anointed One."  Every individual, every ethnic group is Christ-ed, i.e., anointed with divinity.  So to Catholic eyes, the American Christ is European white, African black, Latino and Mid-eastern brown, Oriental yellow, and Native America red.   All expressions of the American Christ are blessed with equal dignity, respect and the right to strive toward a full life in peace, justice and love.  In the American Christ, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is enjoyed by all!

   Our fallen society requires us to be the everyday mystics that we are, and to act upon what we see with prophetic vigor.  To be a mystic is simply to see what is hidden from the unbeliever's eyes.  Each of us has the mystical gift to open our eyes and see the one sacred humanity that we share with everyone without exception.  With this gift comes the responsibility to never see anyone as an "other" whom we can treat as less than human.  

    Clearly, the victims of El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, and elsewhere were our brothers and sisters in Christ.  And not so obviously to too many of us, so are the shooters.  But today's social atmosphere tends to separate us to a dangerous degree.  I am old enough to remember the old neighborhood where my mother knew what I had done wrong before I got home.          

    Today, we are dangerously separated from one another.  We break up the one, sacred body of Christ into lifeless pieces. For example, when ICE took away 680 undocumented immigrants from their families, they inhumanly left little children behind crying in agony.  The photo of the devastated little girl seared our very souls.  Their leader said that ICE is a law enforcement agency, not a social service agency.  If he had recognized the American Christ, he would have said, "ICE is an agency that enforces the law.  But we will not not act until there are people who can take care of the children who will suffer because of what we are about to do."  That of course did not happen, and we were left with a heart-wrenching experience of inhumanity.  At that raid, Christ bled on the Cross and some of our fellow Americans did not care.

   In a very dangerous way, America is now an arid spiritual desert.  Our American brothers and sisters who say they are Christians and who are white supremacists, or those who would attack or even kill a gay person, or who say nothing when immigrant children are pulled from their parent's arms, worship a false Christ, an ugly Christ, a Christ who is dangerous and to be feared.

   This is not a time to be shallow or weak.  We must hear anew the ancient prophet Isiah calling from the desert to, "Prepare the way of the Lord.  Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God." (Is. 40:3)  Centuries later, St. John the Baptist confirmed that Isiah was calling for us to prepare the way for Jesus, the Christ. (Mt. 3:3)

   Today the call is going out again.  Far too many of us have fallen into a swamp of self-serving spiritual shallowness.  It is time to shout, "No!  We will not accept the status quo!"

   It is time for us to repair our torn social fabric so that we can be true neighbors again.  We must rethink and re-pray our severely corrupt politics and economics that are producing ever more profits for the few privileged ones to the deep detriment of the rest of us.  

    It is time to rethink our educational system so that it will graduate truly educated and humanized students who see themselves as Americans committed to cooperating with and caring for their American brothers and sisters even as they compete fairly with one another for prestige and wealth.  It is time to demand in the name of the American Christ of many colors and ethnicities that we have justice for all with special care for the poor, sick, vulnerable and outcast.

   We must awaken to and welcome the American Christ in all his glorious colors and ethnicities. The need is so great that for anyone to call him or herself a Christian and then reject any of our American brothers and sisters in Christ, including legitimate immigrants and refugees, is to work to destroy our society and our country in a most anti-Christian, even hellish way.



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