Social Justice Corner October 16, 2022

(I am writing a monthly column for my parish bulletin’s Social Justice Ministry, reflecting on the Sunday Readings)

Relentless Prayer

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of a widow who finally receives a favorable decision from a judge because she would not give up. Even though “for a long time the judge was unwilling,” the widow’s persistence caused the judge to finally act. Jesus tells his disciples that so too God will answer people who call out to him and, he will see that justice is done.

When thinking about social issues like poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and incarceration, it can feel overwhelming. But for people who follow Jesus, we are taught not to see issues that need to be solved, but to see the humanity of each and every person experiencing those conditions. We see the person who does not have enough money to feed their children; the family living in their car because they cannot afford rent; the single mom who cannot find a job after being laid off; the person in jail who deserves to be treated humanely. Recognizing the human dignity of every person allows us to see the people who need our compassion, care, and assistance. We no longer want “those people” out of our sight and communities. Instead, we work for justice and like the widow, we do not give up. We continue to advocate for every person to have the necessities and opportunities to live abundant lives.

At the end of the Gospel reading, Jesus asks, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Let all of us, through our love of God and our neighbor, be able to respond, Yes!

Social Justice Corner August 21, 2022

(I am writing a monthly column for my parish bulletin’s Social Justice Ministry, reflecting on the Sunday Readings)

The Narrow Gate

Today’s Gospel reading is a somber reminder that the Christian life is not easy. Jesus was making his way to Jerusalem and someone asked him if only a few people will be saved. Jesus answered by stating, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for may, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Jesus goes on to give an example of even people in the company of the master of the house will be rejected when the time comes and “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Though Silicon Valley is known as the tech capitol of the world, it’s also home to shocking wealth disparity. According to Joint Venture, the top quarter of Silicon Valley earners hold 92% of the region’s wealth; the top 10% of earners hold 75% of the wealth. Though in 2021 the average annual income in Silicon Valley was $170,000, and the median income was $138,000, the average income for service workers in the region was $31,000. Nearly half of children in the Valley live in households struggling to get by. 10,028 people are homeless in Santa Clara County, including youth and families.

As Catholics, it’s not enough for us to attend church on Sunday then close our eyes to the inequality in our midst. In Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI said,

“He who has the goods of this world and sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Everyone knows that the Fathers of the Church laid down the duty of the rich toward the poor in no uncertain terms. As St. Ambrose put it: “You are not making a gift of what is yours to the poor man, but you are giving him back what is his. You have been appropriating things that are meant to be for the common use of everyone. The earth belongs to everyone, not to the rich.”

Therefore, let the Gospel today remind us that when everyone is focused on attaining more money, promotions at work, and social media acceptance; Jesus is asking us to enter through the narrow gate and set our eyes on walking with the “least of these” in our midst.

Social Justice Corner July 17, 2022

(I am writing a monthly column for my parish bulletin’s Social Justice Ministry, reflecting on the Sunday Readings)

Spending Time with Jesus

Today’s Gospel reading tells a familiar story in the Bible when Jesus visits the home of sisters, Mary and Martha. After Martha complains that her sister is not helping her around the house while they are entertaining company because she is sitting and listening to Jesus, Jesus sides with Mary and states she chose the “better part.”

We too who work for social justice need to make sure we are like Mary and spend time listening to Jesus. It’s easy to be busy with work like Martha, which is good and needed. However, we also need to make time to just be with God. One way we can do this is by spending time in Eucharistic Adoration. We believe that Jesus is truly present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. So, when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, we believe we are truly in the presence of Jesus.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque was a French nun who began receiving apparitions of Jesus crowned with thorns in 1673. Over eighteen months, Jesus explained his desire for his heart to be honored in the devotion and image that we now know as the Sacred Heart. Jesus also told the saint: “I have a burning thirst to be honored by men in the Blessed Sacrament.”

Queen of Apostles now has adoration on Saturdays from 3-5pm. It is an opportunity for us to spend time with Jesus, just like Mary had the chance. Whether we spend the time in silence, or reading spiritual books or scripture, adoration helps us grow closer to Jesus and strengthen our faith. Once we are spiritually filled, we are able to share that love with others and have a real zeal for social justice.

Social Justice Corner for June 19, 2022

(I am writing a monthly column for my parish bulletin’s Social Justice Ministry, reflecting on the Sunday Readings)

Food for All

Today on The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, we reflect on Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000 as well as him providing everlasting supernatural food in the form of the Eucharist. The miracle of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes so much so that baskets were left over foreshadowed him giving us his Body and Blood, spiritual food that will never run out.

In the second reading, St. Paul remembers Jesus’s last supper when he instituted the Eucharist. The gospel reading gives the familiar account of the loaves and fishes. In this story, we see Jesus’ care and concern for the bodily needs of those who followed him and listened to his teachings. Sr. Helen Prejean, an internationally known advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, talked about a turning point in her life in her book Dead Man Walking that became a major motion picture in 1995 and subsequently landed on the New York Times Bestsellers list for eight months. In 1980 she attended a talk by Sister Marie Augusta Neal, who presented on the topic of social justice and the message of Jesus:

“The Gospels records that Jesus preached good news to the poor, and an essential part of that good news was that they were to be poor no longer. Which meant they were not to meekly accept their poverty and suffering as God’s will, but instead, struggle to obtain the necessities of life which were rightfully theirs. And Jesus’ challenge to the nonpoor was to relinquish their affluence and to share their resources with the dispossessed.”

This message caused a shift in Sr. Prejean’s heart that led her to dedicate her life to helping people who were poor and from marginalized communities, accompanying those on death row and imprisoned, and advocating for the abolition of the death penalty.

As disciples who follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps, how can we also have a change of heart like Sr. Helen that stirs us to help “the least of these” and create change in our society? How can we be inspired by Jesus’s message in Luke 4:18 to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and liberty to those who are oppressed?

When we receive the Eucharist, we receive spiritual food that helps us become more like Jesus. With this sacrament, we are equipped to answer God’s call and carry out the mission He has for each of us in the world.

Social Justice Corner for May 15, 2022

(I am writing a monthly column for my parish bulletin’s Social Justice Ministry, reflecting on the Sunday Readings)

Loving One Another

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus gives his followers a new commandment: love one another. “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

But what does it mean to love one another? Does it simply mean being kind and generous?

In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis teaches about love: one that proceeds directly from the virtue of charity and is directed to individuals and peoples, and one that that spurs people to create more sound institutions, more just regulations, and more supportive structures. Quoting the Pontifical Counsel for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Francis states “it is an equally indispensable act of love to strive to organize and structure society so that one’s neighbor will not find himself in poverty.”

In Economic Justice for All, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops affirmed this: “The obligation to provide justice for all means that the poor have the single most urgent economic claim on the conscience of the nation.”

Loving one another extends far beyond loving our family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. It means acknowledging those who are poor in our communities and actively working to remedy the causes of their poverty. This means supporting programs that provide financial assistance to the needy, advocating for affordable homes, eliminating barriers for people who are discriminated against due to skin color or a previous criminal record, and ensuring living wages and access to work for all.

Christian love is a verb – not a feeling. As Christ’s disciples, let us go out and love one another.

Social Justice Corner for Easter Sunday

(I am writing a monthly column for my parish bulletin’s Social Justice Ministry, reflecting on the Sunday Readings)

Living the Resurrection (Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Col 3:1-4; Jn 20:1-9)

Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. Alleluia!

When God became incarnate as man, he chose to live as an ethnic Jew in a region under Roman occupation. Consensus of opinions estimate that Jewish people made up seven to ten percent of the Roman Empire at that time. So, Jesus was a minority who in his ministry subverted the status quo and ministered to the marginalized, unclean, outcasts, and sinners. Because Jesus challenged the religious leaders and his popularity threatened the Roman government, he was crucified, which was a brutal form of the death penalty reserved for slaves, insurrectionists, and rebels.

However, when Jesus was resurrected from the dead, the power of sin and death was broken. The ruling political and religious elites did not have the final say. Instead, Jesus Christ reigns triumphant, and he commissions his followers to go to every corner of the world spreading the gospel message. When we abide by Catholic teachings and live a life rooted in faith, charity, and justice, we are building God’s kingdom here on earth.

As we follow in Jesus’ footsteps, we know that advocating for social and racial justice, assisting the poor and unhoused, and aiding the incarcerated, immigrants, and outcasts in society will, at times, be met with opposition and scorn, even from people within our own Church. Yet, Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope and courage that with the power of the Holy Spirit, no injustice is too large to overcome, and we too will succeed in bringing new life to those suffering on the margins. Like Pope John Paul II said, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

Social Justice Corner for 3/20/2022

(I am writing a monthly column for my parish bulletin’s Social Justice Ministry, reflecting on the Sunday Readings)

Hearing God’s Voice (Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk 13:1-9)

In the first reading from Exodus 3 today, Moses is surprised to hear the voice of God speak to him from a burning bush. God tells Moses that he has witnessed the affliction of His people enslaved in Egypt, heard their cries, and He plans to rescue them from oppression. Moses listened to God’s voice and heeded the call to lead God’s people out of slavery.

While today we most likely will not hear God’s voice come from a burning bush, He often still speaks to us in a hidden way and asks us to help those who are oppressed and suffering. How so, you may ask. God can speak to us through the homeless person asking for donations on the street, the sick person with no one to visit them, the refugee with no change of clothes, or the person suffering in our local jails.

In Matthew 25:44, the people answer Jesus, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you? Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells the story of the landowner who searches for fruit from the fig tree in his garden. Likewise, God looks to each of us to see how we are bearing fruit for the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus did not say our lives will be measured by how educated we are, how much money we make in our careers, or how many possessions we accumulate. No, the fruit God wants us to bear is measured by how we treat those in our midst who are suffering and the ways we show our love for God and our neighbor. To listen to God’s voice and be a tree that produces much fruit, we must not look the other way when people are in need. Instead, we must hear God’s voice speaking through them and see Jesus in each and every person who is in need.

Social Justice Corner for 2/6/2022

(I am writing a monthly column for my parish bulletin’s Social Justice Ministry, reflecting on the Sunday Readings)

Following Jesus (Is 6:1-2a, 3-8; 1 Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls Simon Peter, James, and John. The fishermen leave everything and follow Jesus. February is Black History Month, which is the time our nation remembers and celebrates the achievements, contributions, and influence of Black Americans in our country. Although an African-American has yet to be canonized, that does not mean there have not been many faithful Black Americans that have heeded Jesus’ calls and followed him. This month, let us remember the six African-Americans who are on the path to sainthood. Being given the titles ‘Servant of God’ and ‘Venerable’ by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints are the first steps to being canonized as saints.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1766-1853) was born into slavery in Haiti and brought to New York as an apprentice under a popular hairstylist. He gained his freedom when his slaveholder died and quickly succeeded as one of the country’s first Black entrepreneurs. He used his wealth to support the Church and shelter orphans, refugees, and the homeless. Pierre was instrumental in raising funds for the first Catholic orphanage and began the city’s first school for Black children. He also helped provide funds for the Oblate Sisters of Providences and provided vital funds to erect Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Lower Manhattan.

Servant of God Mother Mary Lange (circa 1794-1882) was born to a family of wealth and high social status in Santiago de Cuba. After being provided an excellent education, Mother Mary left Cuba and moved to the United States, eventually settling in Baltimore, Maryland. She opened her home as a free school for Black children. At that time, there were no religious communities that accepted Black men or women. So, Mother Mary, with the permission of her Archbishop, founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence and served as its first Mother Superior. Though she faced constant opposition and injustice, Mother Mary served her community and strove to bring Christ to every individual she encountered.

Venerable Henriette Delille (1813-1862) was born a free Creole Black woman in antebellum New Orleans. She is the first U.S. native born African American whose cause for canonization has been officially opened by the Catholic Church. Henriette and her sisters helped the poor and taught free Black students during the day. They also secretly educated African-Americans who were enslaved when it was against the law to educate them. They opened one of the country’s first Catholic nursing homes. Along with two lifelong friends, Henriette formed the Sisters of the Holy Family. Though they faced discrimination from other religious people and congregations, Henriette and her religious community overcame numerous obstacles and carried out their mandate to care for the sick, help the poor, and instruct the ignorant.

Venerable Augustus Tolton (1854-1897) was born in Bush Creek, Missouri and enslaved by a Catholic family. In 1862, Augustus and his family escaped slavery and settled in Illinois. Augustus, who was raised Catholic, attended a parish school and dedicated his life to serving God. When he desired to enter seminary, no American seminary would accept him because he was Black. Racism did not deter Augustus, and he studied for the priesthood in Rome where he was later ordained. He learned to speak fluent English, German, Italian, Latin, Greek, and African dialects. He was sent back to the United States and became the first openly Black priest in the United States. Fr. Tolton led the development and construction of St. Monica’s Catholic Church as a Black “National Parish Church,” which was completed in 1893. Tolton’s success at ministering to Black Catholics quickly earned him national attention within the Catholic hierarchy. Though he experienced discrimination, Augustus served his community, helped the poor and sick, and won souls for God before he died at the age of 43.

Servant of God Julia Greeley was born into slavery in Hannibal, Missouri sometime between 1833 and 1848. Freed by Missouri’s Emancipation Act in 1865, Julia then earned her keep by serving white families. Despite her own poverty, Julia spent much of her time collecting food, clothing, and other goods for the poor. One writer called her a “one-person St. Vincent de Paul Society. Julia joined the Catholic Church in 1880 and became an enthusiastic parishioner, daily communicant, and active member of the Secular Franciscan Order in 1901. The Jesuits who ran Sacred Heart Parish in Denver considered Julia the most enthusiastic promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus they had ever seen. Julia died on the Feast of the Sacred Heart in 1918.

Servant of God Thea Bowman (1937-1990) was born in Canton, Mississippi to a physician and teacher. She converted to Catholicism as a child while attending Catholic school. At the age of 15, Thea left Mississippi and entered the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Wisconsin. Sr. Thea taught all grade levels of school and eventually earned her doctorate and became a college professor of English and linguistics. Sr. Thea became a highly acclaimed evangelizer, teacher, writer, and singer who shared the joy of the Gospel and her rich African-American cultural heritage. She directed the Office of Intercultural Affairs for the Diocese of Jackson and was a founding faculty member of the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at the only Catholic Historically Black College and University, Xavier University, in New Orleans. After her breast cancer diagnosis, Sr. Thea continued to speak and share the gospel. Less than a year before she passed away in 1990, Thea addressed the U.S. Bishops at their annual meeting and spoke about what it meant to be Black and Catholic, encouraging them to continue to evangelize the African-American community, promote inclusivity and full participation of Black people, and understand the necessity and value of Catholic schools in Black communities.

During the month of February, take time to pray for the canonization causes of the six African-Americans who answered Jesus’ call.

Black Catholics Talk Mental Health

I sit down with fellow Black Catholic and Mental Health Advocate, Christian Bentley, to discuss a topic that is often neglected in both the Black Community and Catholic Community. Though we discuss faith, we also have a broader conversation around mental health issues, diagnosis, stigma, hope, and recovery.

Is the Catholic Church Racist?

This video examines the history of the Catholic Church and its members and asks, is the Catholic Church racist? Can you separate the Church from the scandals, oppression, and racism that it has participated in over the two thousand years since its founding?