Maybe I was more upset than usual because I live with a priest from Nigeria, but I was dismayed at recent news of disparaging comments coming out of Washington that spoke badly of third world countries and people who come from there . And I was even more distressed to find that some people in my own community didn’t find those comments inappropriate. Even when I applied the “Is that what Jesus would say?” test, or my late mother’s “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” test, some people still defended that unkindness from our nation’s capital.
As a religious leader I was tempted to do a rant against racism, especially as our nation commemorated Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King with an annual holiday. The problem with such ranting is that while it galvanizes the people who share the same opinion, it also can push those who disagree deeper into prisons of prejudice.
It would be all too easy to point out the faults of others, but I struggled with this because I realize how prejudice even lives deep in me. Since I’m honest with myself, I recognize the ways I have deformed notions of people who are different from me. I work hard to overcome my prejudices in how I treat people and what I say in my daily life, but truth be told, I’m the product of a privileged culture that hardly understands what the rest of the world experiences.
So instead of preaching about all this, I chose to pray about all this. I picked a prayer from our missal and prayed it at Mass with my congregation. Afterwards, quite a few people asked, “what prayer was that?” I had certainly prayed it many times before, but it connected this time in a new and powerful way. Maybe you would like to read this prayer and see how it resonates with you. Here are the main excerpts of the Second Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation:
“[Almighty Father], though the human race is divided by dissension and discord, yet we know that by testing us you change our hearts to prepare them for reconciliation. Even more, by your Spirit you move human hearts that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries may join hands, and peoples seek to meet together. By the working of your power it comes about, O Lord, that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is changed to mutual respect….
“[Jesus Christ your Son] He himself is the Word that brings salvation, the hand you extend to sinners, the way by which your peace is offered to us. When we ourselves had turned away from you on account of our sins, you brought us back to be reconciled, O Lord, so that, converted at last to you, we might love one another through your Son, whom for our sake you handed over to death….
“Holy Father, we humbly beseech you to accept us also, together with your Son, and in this saving banquet graciously to endow us with his very Spirit, who takes away everything that estranges us from one another. May he make your Church a sign of unity and an instrument of your peace among all people….
“Just as you have gathered us now at the table of your Son, so also bring us together, with the glorious Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with your blessed Apostles and all the Saints, with our brothers and sisters and those of every race and tongue who have died in your friendship. Bring us to share with them the unending banquet of unity in a new heaven and a new earth, where the fullness of your peace will shine forth in Christ Jesus our Lord.”