In the Gospel Jesus drives out a demon who has made a man mute. We don’t know how the man had become possessed. We don’t know if he participated in evil or cultivated it. Jesus doesn’t berate him for any of those things. We must then, presume the man’s innocence. He’s was a victim of a demons–Demons who represents all the things that are not of God—fear, hatred, abandonment, neglect.
Jesus lived his life on earth always in the present moment, attentive to God and the people at hand. Of course, he drives out the demon—no questions asked because he is establishing a Kingdom of the Now and of the Future. In brief, something was wrong, someone was suffering. Jesus addressed it.
Our times are a ‘changing. The wrongs and the sufferings of the African American community are more evident than they have been for decades (although the injustices go back much farther). Happily, there are signs of true Christianity emerging; Signs that resonate with Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. Americans who are labeled “white” – me included–are starting to pay attention; listening and learning in ways most of our Baby Boomer generation and subsequent generations have not. This is grace in action. The Kingdom of God comes when we open our minds to Jesus who insisted on the Cross that no one who suffers suffer in silence, no victim remains mute. Why else would he have spoken Seven Last Sentences to us from the Cross?
As disciples we pledge to listen to Jesus and so we must pledge to hold back any defensiveness, refrain from excuses and listen, listen to the African American Experience, just as we have been listening to the women of the ME-TOO EXPERIENCE. Both are in our midst but the life and death reality is certainly greatest in the Black community right now.
Matthew literally writes of Jesus’ “Pity for the crowds.” When we get angry and upset, don’t we want people to “have pity on us?” Don’t we? We want to be heard and understood, don’t we? We get angry all the time in our homes, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods. And what do we expect? We want a listening ear, an opened heart, someone with patience, willing to understand?
Who hasn’t experiences in his or her own home, angry voices even physical anger evidenced by holes in our walls –fist-punched plaster; plates crashed upon the floor? We all know this just doesn’t happen in the movies. And haven’t we learned by now that when we focused on the broken materials we never got to the cause of the anger, never got to the root of the dysfunctions displayed? If we cooperated with grace, we learned that only by Listening and/or seeking outside help –objective listeners, concerned, caring listeners—would we / could we prove we loved one another –assuring that mother/ brother/ father/ sister/ didn’t suffer in silence. No one should.
If we have these expectations within our families and recognize the sources of our own angers come from being neglected, disrespected, put-upon, oppressed—then we must offer what we expect, what we need from our family to others: Listening hearts, open minds.
We’ve been deaf to the sufferings of the Black communities for too long. We sequestered ourselves, gated ourselves, segregated ourselves –how few of us have Black Americans among our families and friends, live in our neighborhoods? It’s time we listen and find out WHY and HOW this came to be? There’s no one easy or single answer, which is we have to listen and, like Jesus, be part of the healing power that can foster the Kingdom of God. As Catholic we need to ask, how can we expect Jesus to listen to our prayers when we negate or avoid the prayers of others? Jesus calls us to an all-inclusive communion. The time for communion is now.