I have felt called to play close attention to how the Holy Spirit is moving in my particular life-turned-upside-down circumstances. Three and a half months ago, I was into my 11th year of working at a Jesuit parish I loved in Los Angeles. Then in early March my Tsunami God suddenly whisks my brother to heaven, leaving my family with our jaws dropped. Wow, can Reality just take one of our favorite people away without a moment’s notice? Then the pandemic happens, taking the lives of thousands and plunging millions into unemployment. Then George Floyd’s brutal death and an outpouring of protests for Black Lives Matters.
In the midst of all this as I shelter in place with my elderly dad and niece in Miami, I am painfully aware of how our Catholic Church as an institution is struggling to keep central what Jesus kept central – standing for and with those on the margins, creating a community of radical inclusivity, and showing the pathway to generous forgiveness, healing and wholeness. We are a church that is painfully divided, family by family. While some want the church to prioritize ending racism towards black people and undocumented Latinx, others maintain that abortion is the single issue on which Catholics must vote in the upcoming presidential election. My restless self wonders if the complex abortion issue has become a cover for some Catholics not wanting to wrestle with and face the impact of sexism, racism, homophobia and widespread poverty and social inequality on people’s lives in our church and in our country.
This week’s Monday reflection on dry bones pointed me to the dry bones of my own discouragement with extended family members. I put aside my discouragement long enough to imagine the world-wide church of my dreams and to write that down for our Week 3 Prompt. I can glimpse that far-off destination across a hot desert of dry bones.
Earlier this week I signed an open letter by Latinx leaders titled, “Somos for Black Lives”. What does it mean for me to engage in the promises of this letter as a middle-class, Cuban-American, Catholic female? What is God asking of me? What is mine to do? How can I be a catalyst for new life to emerge out of dry bones?
In the comments, Jenny Ocegueda asked me if some of the fears and behaviors of my extended family members might be connected to their image of God. If so, how could I help them to “expand” their image and understanding of who God is?
Then as if God wanted to confirm Jenny’s question, I watched a dispute unfold on facebook between two aunts. One affirmed Gay Pride month and her love for her GLBTQ+ family and friends. The other aunt criticized her and said: “You do not understand, you can love the sinner but hate the sin. Do not glorify an act that will gain them eternal damnation unless they repent.”
Wow, there it was – a scared aunt’s terrifying image of God. It seems like a leftover distorted image of God from the time of the Inquisition, and yet apparently the damage of the Inquisition still resides in our Catholic bones in 2020.
While Jenny’s question is difficult and complex, I do feel a spark of direction. Look here, it says. See the image of God your scared aunt is holding in her tired arms. Speak to that.
I hear God asking me to engage in crucial conversations. I hear God asking me to build the safety for others to speak. I hear God asking me to care about how healing happens in people bearing multi-generational wounds. I hear God asking me to speak restorative justice. I hear God asking me to bring awareness to conflict styles. I hear God asking me to be vulnerable, to show myself, to share I care about others with whom I disagree, and to step into my deepest beliefs without any guarantees of success. I hear the possibility of a tiny piece of dry bone mending.