Those who say, “I know him,” but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them. — 1 John 2:1-5
Many of you know that I was the Director of a parish-focused ministry center when I first entered ministry. It was the career change that brought me and my family to Minnesota. In one of the learning sessions we hosted, a priest I valued said to me in his marvelous Irish brogue, “Trish, we can always count on you to tell us the unvarnished truth.” It was an affirmation, not a slam. Not completely acurrate of course, because as a lay woman, speaking the truth in love to 20 priest brothers was no easy task, and I only remember saying something bold a few times. But I thank Tom for underlining the value of doing so.
So it is in honor of Fr. Tom Cahalane that I speak to you today my “unvarnished truth.”
It’s gotta stop. We have got to act boldly on behalf of our friends of Color and do whatever it takes, and I mean WHATEVER it takes, to have law enforcement that is not so racistly animated by brown faces that what happened to Daunte Wright DURING the trial of the officer who suffocated George Floyd 20 minutes away from our city will NEVER happen here again. And here’s why: Because the face of Daunte Wright is the face of Christ. And the face of the immigrants in bad conditions in the Sherburne County Jail are the faces of Christ. And the faces of the people who are disproportionatly incarcerated due to the slippery clause in the 13th ammendment (see below) are the faces of Christ. And guess what: So is the face of Kim Potter, who has to live the rest of her life with the aftermath of shooting a young adult who at the time was on the phone with his mom getting her insurance information. She, too, has to live with the aftermath of being in a racist system with racist legacies.
Months ago, I spoke with the community about my profound concern that the progressive Christian Churches have sold out on the Gospel over the years. In our posture of tolerance, we watched fifty years of spin that included the prosperity Gospel and a shift from social justice to me-ism. For evangelicals and biblical literalists of various types, it ws Jesus and me; if I’m good, all’s good. For Roman Catholics, it was creeping congregationalism. We do it differently here in this community; I can live with what the bigger Church does because I’m going to do my local insulation and isolation.
We put our heads down and watered down the Gospel in countless ways. I cannot count the number of times the well-intentioned male presbyters of my faith community spoke about women in leadership and women’s ordination. To applause at the end of the homily. None of them was ever downtown pushing an archbishop, because they were captives of a system that held their retirement security over their heads like an axe. And because doing more than words jeopardized critical things, like revenue.
They aren’t the only ones who compromised. I did it too. I remember sitting being bullied in LA by one of the Leaven Center’s largest donors, verbally assaulted and demeaned because I corrected a mistake — he had attributed another valued member of Pax’s work to me. He threatened, railed, and personally attacked me, literally standing at his desk red faced and screaming. Did I get up and walk out? No. We needed the money. How pathetic. Fr. Michael O’Connell, who I met with in the aftermath of that episode (and I was really having a hard time shaking it off), told me never to prostitute myself for Jesus Christ. I went on to do so a number of times, because the money was overwhelmingly in the hands of conservatives (liberals had largely shut their wallets in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis) and I wanted to keep the ministry alive. I was a sell out no different from my brothers who spoke one way behind the scenes and another way in front of their communities.
So here’s what I’ve come to, after much prayer and meditation since that dreadful Pentecost Sunday right after George Floyd died. Charis will live or die, but it’s not going to be from us watering down the scriptures. When he says choose for the poor, I’ll exhort us to choose for the poor. When he says love your neighbor, I’ll exhort us to wish our friends a happy Ramadan. When he says pick up your cross, I’m going to do my utmost to do so myself.
This week, the disciples will again have trouble recognizing Jesus. How perfect. We have trouble recognizing him, because to do so is going to make us uncomfortable. It will decenter us. It will demand action, and if you’re like me, there’s a part of you lurking in the background longing to be loved and liked. What will happen if I dissent? If I speak out? If I challenge the status quo? I’m praying constantly lately that I am willing to find out.
Our giving is way down. I don’t have a salary, just a small housing stipend. My speaking may not feel like what Tom appreciated as “the unvarnished truth.” It may seem arrogant and out of line. It may cost us members and donations. I just know that the time for silence and prostitution, for me, has got to be over. Even if this community comes to an end. God will find some use for me, I’m sure, no matter what happens. But I promise you this: I commit to always, always speaking my truth in love.
This Sunday, we will use the readings as a jumping off point for a discussion about how Charis is going to get in the game of undoing the racism in our city and region. There is a major initiative underfoot to take a hard look at this in Eden Prairie, of which I will be a part. Our police were called into Brooklyn Center this week, and I know from the past decade of work, that there have been trainings and changes in the EP Police Department. We have neighbors who are challenging some policies in the schools. We have friends trying to raise awareness. The ECC anti-racism series continues with a discussion about 13th tonight. What can we, as a community and as individuals, be about in the months and years ahead to be part of the solution? It’s a question for every one of us who claim to know and follow the prince of peace.
With gratitude for who you are in the world,
An Ecumenical Catholic Community
cháris Χάρις khar’ece Our name means grace, good will, loving-kindness, favor; of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.