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Dwell In My Love
A Pastoral Letter on Racism
by Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.

3. Envisioning Our Future: How Might We Dwell Together?

The Gospel compels us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to abandon patterns of seeing those who are racially or culturally different from ourselves as strangers and to recognize them as our brothers and sisters. Even those who have suffered at the hands of others, individually or collectively, must pray to overcome hostility, forgiving those who have offended them and asking forgiveness from those whom they have offended. We must embrace one another as formerly estranged neighbors now seeking reconciliation.

You have heard that they were told, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But what I tell you is this: love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so can you be children of your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to rise on good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the innocent and the wicked… There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father's goodness knows no bounds (Matthew 5:43-45; 48 and Luke 6:27-31; 35-36).

Again, when the learned Pharisee asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment of the law, he replied:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with
your entire mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is
like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets
depend on these two great commandments (Matthew 22:34-40 and Luke 10:25-27).

Maintaining current patterns of ethnic, cultural, racial and economic isolation and hostility tarnishes our call as Church to be a universal sacrament of salvation. Consciously changing these patterns returns us to our fundamental identity as a community called to universal communion with God and with one another.18


A. Dwelling with God in Ordinary Life
We meet God in the created, visible, tangible surroundings of the home, the neighborhood and the workplace. We encounter God in and through our spouse, children, brothers and sisters, the family next door, the shopkeeper on the corner, our teachers, the stranger on the street. In short, we meet God in and through people of every color, ethnic background, religion, class and gender. God is active in and through the people, places and circumstances that constitute our ordinary daily life.

This belief places upon us the mission to transform all relationships into instances of love and justice. Our love of God, expressed in prayer, pilgrimages and other acts of devotion, must be made visible in our practice of the love of neighbor, expressed by establishing patterns of right relationships in our daily lives, in our work and everyday encounters. Loving and just relationships are the manifestation of our communion with God.

Ethnic, cultural, and racial diversities are gifts from God to the human race. In Jesus, we are called to a radical love-to love of the stranger as our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). Others may be different from us in every respect except one: each man, woman, or child we encounter is also a child of God, a brother
or sister in the Lord, whom we should welcome as our neighbor. The stranger whom we encounter is really our neighbor in Christ. Through communion with our neighbors who are racially and culturally distinct from ourselves, we begin to live as a community the unity in diversity that is the life of the Triune God. We can learn to live, work and pray in solidarity with the stranger now recognized as our neighbor.


Inclusive Communities: Living with Our Neighbor
Our neighborhood is the first place we encounter those with whom we are to dwell in love. A just neighborhood must be open to all people-black and white, Hispanic and Asian, young and old, wealthy and poor, Christians and people of all faiths. Access to housing in particular, needs to be fair and open. In a society that is still structurally racist, open housing cannot be taken for granted; it must be achieved.

We confront racist patterns in housing sales and rental markets through programs that help establish and maintain diversity throughout a community. To be successful, such programs require collaboration among neighboring communities, towns and villages throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. The goals are clear. Neighborhoods must be safe and free of discrimination and hate crimes; schools must provide a good education for all students; transportation must be accessible. The means to reach the goals involve cooperating across racial and cultural divisions.


Economic Justice: Working with Our Neighbor
Although the phenomenon of racism can exist independent of economic factors, it is bound up with entrenched poverty, which persists despite our national affluence. Most poor people are still white; but blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are disproportionately poor. "Despite measurable progress during the last 20 years, people of color still must negotiate subtle obstacles and overcome covert barriers in their pursuit of employment and/or advancement." 19

"Church teaching on economic justice insists that economic decisions and institutions be judged on whether they protect or undermine the dignity of the human person. We support policies that create jobs with adequate pay and decent working conditions, increase the minimum wage so it becomes a living wage, and overcome barriers to equal pay and employment for women and minorities."20


Supporting Culturally Diverse Social Institutions
Social institutions in a culturally diverse nation benefit from the sharing of the values and skills honed in the various communities of peoples who populate it. In the global context in which we live today, the ability to live and work in a culturally diverse environment equips us to work toward universal peace and justice. Our efforts to encourage judicial and political systems, social and professional organizations, health care facilities, educational institutions, labor unions, small and large businesses, major corporations, the professions, sports teams and the arts to be welcoming will be more credible when the Church truly becomes a model of what she advocates.

Our desire as disciples of Jesus is to support people of every race and ethnic group in enjoying their human rights and freedom. We are called to promote love, justice and what Pope John Paul II has called a "culture of life." Until all are free to live anywhere in the Chicago metropolitan area without fear of reprisal or violence, none of us is completely free. The administration of justice and the institutions of our civic life must be marked by respect for all. These desires shape the goals of the Church as she works for social and economic justice and promotes life.21


B. Dwelling with God in His Church
By baptism in Christ, we have been graced and called into the community, which is his Body. The members of the early Church gathered in the name of Jesus to worship his Father and to continue the mission Jesus left them. Today, as that same Church, we too gather in the name of Jesus and commit ourselves to his mission. Through the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation),
we are given the grace to live in union with God and our neighbor as we follow the way and mission of Jesus.

The Second Vatican Council acknowledged and supported cultural diversity in the Church when it encouraged the "fostering of the qualities and talents of the various races and nations" and the "careful and prudent" admission into the Church's life of "elements from the traditions and cultures of individual peoples."22 The use of vernacular languages and cultural symbols and adapted rituals within the Church's liturgy is a sign of Catholic unity and serves to bring all peoples and cultures into the worship of God, who rejoices in the beauty of everything he has made.

The Second Vatican Council also called the local Churches to bring into their life "the particular social and cultural circumstances" of the local people. This requires that priests, religious women and men and lay ecclesial ministers are called forth from among all the various cultural and racial groups which constitute the Church.23 To speak of oneself as Irish Catholic, German Catholic, Polish Catholic, Hispanic Catholic, African American Catholic, Lithuanian Catholic is not divisive, provided each of these differences is lived and offered as a gift to others rather than designed as an obstacle to keep others out. Catholic universality is marked by the contributions of all cultures. Each cultural group has enriched our Catholic community with its unique gifts. This sharing of differences within the community of one faith is the path to salvation willed by the Triune God, whose love is universal.

Loving only people who are just like ourselves, loving only those who are members of our biological family or who share our own ethnic or cultural background, our own political views or our own class assumptions, does not fulfill the challenge of the Gospel.

If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect, even the tax
collectors do as much as that. If you greet only your brothers, what is there
extraordinary about that? Even the heathen do as much. There must be no
limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father's goodness knows no bounds
(Matthew 5:46-48 and Luke 6:32-34; 36).


Striving to be a witness for Jesus Christ as a good neighbor to all is difficult. "It seems easier to sit in our divisions and our hatreds. It seems easier to ignore the gap between rich and poor; to forget the unborn and unwanted; to block out those who are not free…because they are in prisons; to live tied up in the bonds of personal and institutional racism. But we cannot."24 We cannot, because we are called to dwell together in God's love.

To embrace the vision proclaimed in Jesus' preaching of the reign of God, we need to see new patterns and possibilities. Too often, when decisions about the future of the Archdiocese are being made, the persons around the table do not adequately reflect the rich cultural diversity that shapes our Church, city, nation and world.25 As we continue to struggle against racism within the Archdiocese, we see a time when all of God's children will be contributing to the governance of this local Church. Constructing socially just patterns of relationships within our ecclesiastical institutions presents the same difficulties met in being a good neighbor anywhere; but, as Christians seeking to be true disciples, we can never abandon our efforts to embody the love and justice given us by Christ. Most of all, we can count on his grace to bring power to the vision faith gives us.


The Eucharist as the Sacrament and Means of Communion
We are most ourselves in the celebration of the Eucharist. Our sacramental worship unites us and makes us a community of believers. The Mass calls us to communion with one another in Christ Jesus. The proclamation of God's holy word and reflection on it within the celebration of the Eucharist, which is Christ's life poured out for us, cannot help but deepen our spiritual unity and make our social solidarity possible. Too often, however, the pattern of culturally and racially homogenous parishes, sometimes established in the wake of "white flight," contributes to Catholic parishes being instances of racial and cultural exclusion. Sunday, it has often been noted, is the most segregated day of the week in metropolitan Chicago, as it is elsewhere. "We have preached the Gospel while closing our eyes to the racism it condemns."26 Our failure to live the Gospel of God's unconditional and universal love in culturally and racially inclusive parishes and communities contributes to our society's failure to confront the sin of racism.

The magnificent cultural diversity we witnessed around the Eucharistic table during our Archdiocesan millennium celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi in Soldier Field was just a small glimpse of the possibilities for our future. As a local Church, we gathered as the Body of Christ. We gathered with longing for a time when, wherever we gather, we will do so enriched by our active welcoming of all those whom God loves. Our gathering for Mass is always a gathering in the name of the Father of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. In the Eucharistic assembly we share all the cultural, racial economic and spiritual gifts given us by the Spirit in order to enrich and transform both Church and society.


The Empowering Gifts of the Spirit
From diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds, we accept and embrace in faith the love of God that compels us to dwell together in love. After reflecting on the historical, social and economic dimensions of our complicity with the sin of racism, we ask as Catholics for the grace of conversion from the sin of racism, which has separated us from our neighbor and from God.

The Church was born with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Virgin Mary and the apostles and on the nations gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Since that moment two thousand years ago, the indwelling of the Spirit in the Church and in each of her members pulls us toward dwelling together in love. The gifts the Spirit brings transform all our relationships.

The Church in any society is to be a leaven. The Church is always more than any particular place or society. She finds her identity as Catholic, all embracing. If she is faithful to her Lord, the Savior of the world, the Church will not only proclaim who he is but will herself act to become the womb, the matrix, in which a new world can gestate and be born. Listening and welcoming, the Church is a place of encounter, of racial dialogue and intercultural collaboration. In a context of universal mutual respect born of love, the Church offers the gifts that transform the world and bring salvation in this life and the next.

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