The readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak healing words to the heart of the racial divide in our society. Our reaction to the phrase "Black Lives Matter" often depends very much on the color of our skin. However, what we may not realize is that the evil one is using human divisions to win converts for his kingdom of evil.
Let us begin with the rich readings the Church offers us in the liturgy. The first reading from Exodus spells out very clearly God's concern for the oppressed and the disadvantaged. "Thus says the Lord: 'You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.'"
God is simply telling the Israelites that they should recall what slavery in Egypt was really like. He says to them: "The poor in your midst are inviting you to have for them the same compassion I had for you when I brought you out of slavery. Remembering what I did for you should help you to pass along the compassion I showed you."
The Lord continues: "You shall not wrong any widow or orphans. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans."
Stubborn hearts demand strong reminders, and the Lord is willing to offer clarity to their minds so that their hearts will make appropriate choices. The appropriate choices are not the convenient choices, but the challenging choices that will bring them closer to the God who is calling them to love the oppressed as He loved them when they were oppressed in Egypt.
Again, when a neighbor is in need, the Israelites are asked to lend generously, without extortion. "If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate." In a sense, God is telling the Israelites: "The poor man's prayer is a 911 call to me. I always hear the cry of the poor!"
The Gospel is far more powerful than it seems. The Sadducees and the Pharisees hate each other, but here they are united in their hatred of Jesus.
Notice the brilliance of Jesus' response to the lawyer's taunting question: "Which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Jesus gave a two-fold answer. We are to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul and our whole mind, and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus recognized that the evil one was behind this trick question, so He vanquished the evil one by demonstrating toward the lawyer the love God has for all, and the kind of love we are to have for others.
Jesus' answer to the angry and crafty lawyer was a demonstration of God's love for this lawyer. Forgiveness and love are two things Satan cannot stand.
Let us apply this teaching to ourselves when we see a "Black Lives Matter" demonstration. It often seems that there are only two sides to looking at the demonstration: anger toward the demonstrators or anger toward the police. This initial spontaneous reaction, on either side, is an un-redeemed compulsion. It need not become our preferred response, which comes only after we take the issue to prayer, and reflect either on these readings or on similar Scripture passages.
In praying through this issue, we may very well come to realize that the anger and frustration over the treatment of minorities in this country — past and present — is a legitimate concern and work needs to be done to improve the situation. We might gain compassion toward black people who have suffered or who are suffering injustice in this country. Or, after prayerful consideration, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did, we might realize that police officers are men and women doing their best for the public. They are risking their lives for the sake of the common good, which is not to say that their actions are perfect. Praying for both groups with compassion might lead me to have the same tolerance for them as God has. He is our common Father and we are His common children.
In both cases we come to realize the need to prayerfully reflect on the Scriptures so that my heart can be informed by God's word, filled with compassion and forgiveness. We may also realize that the color of one's skin is not the real enemy, but the real enemy is the invisible enemy is the evil one, Satan himself.
There are two things Satan cannot tolerate, and they are forgiveness and intercessory prayer. They remind him too much of his defeat on Calvary when Jesus said: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."
This whole issue of racial division in our society will be greatly mitigated if each of us, every time we are reminded of injustice, repeats in the depths of our hearts Christ's prayer on Calvary: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."