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'A Time to Act' - Reflection

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Racial Justice Sunday 2021

At the beginning of his public ministry Jesus outlines his Mission in the synagogue in Nazareth:

‘He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour’

His ministry was one of compassionate involvement, concern for the disadvantaged. Aware of obstacles, including those of the Law, which limited joy and fulfilment Jesus acted. He confronted, sometimes angrily, what undermined a person’s dignity.

The theme of Racial Justice Sunday 2021 is A Time to Act.

Racial issues and inequalities were identified nationally and internationally in 2020 generating awareness, emotion and outrage.  In light of this Racial Justice Sunday 2021 is particularly significant.

Action is needed

Action is needed to further the cause of racial justice. What can we do?

In recent years Pope Francis has repeatedly used four verbs encouraging positive and direct action in relation to migrants and refugees, ‘Welcome, Protect, Promote and Integrate’. These same words are essential to advancing the cause of racial justice. None can be omitted, it is as necessary to have plans to Promote and Integrate as it is to Welcome.

Mark 1:21-28

Gospel reading on Racial Justice Sunday

Jesus’ sermon in the synagogue in Capernaum triggered a reaction from a member of the congregation. (It is always unnerving to have your sermon interrupted by someone who disagrees with your words). ‘What do you want with us?’ ‘Have you come to destroy us?’

The duty of the Prophet in speaking God’s words and so bringing God’s light into lives and situations is to enlighten, to encourage, sometimes to warn. To identify what action is needed to ensure that all God’s people know they are equally valued by society and the Church.

The plea of the psalmist today is ‘ …listen to his voice, harden not your hearts’.

Racial Justice Sunday is a time to absorb fully this scriptural request.

Listening to the voice of God and the voice of the Church we learn of equal love for all:

Voices that discriminate unjustly, attitudes that undermine on the grounds of race must be opposed.

Voices of those who feel rejected or perpetually in second place must be listened to.

The dignity of all must be respected and promoted.

In the Church we proclaim that everyone of whatever racial origin should be Welcomed, Protected, Promoted and Integrated.

We need to challenge ourselves to act now so that this may be achieved.

Bishop’s Message for RJS 2021

Bishop Paul McAleenan, Lead Bishop for Racial Justice says in his message: "It's not enough to simply denounce racism. This is a time to act. In the words of Pope Francis: 'God asks us to dare to create something new.'”

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Ethnic minorities have suffered disproportionately from the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating a systemic problem with racial injustice in our society.

This was dramatically brought home with the brutal killing of George Floyd and the reaction it provoked. As Pope Francis reflects: “instances of racism continue to shame us, for they show that our supposed social progress is not as real or definitive as we think.”

Dismantle structures of injustice

These shameful reminders of racism demand meaningful action to confront and dismantle sinful structures of injustice. Our brother Bishops in the USA remind us that: “all of us are in need of personal, ongoing conversion. Our churches and our civic and social institutions are in need of ongoing reform. If racism is confronted by addressing its causes and the injustice it produces, then healing can occur.”

Racism is a sin and a violation of human dignity in which we are all complicit. As Catholics we need to acknowledge and confront our own failings, as individuals and as a Church.

Every single one of our parishes, schools and organisations has a responsibility to actively practise anti-racism in all aspects of our mission.

We need to address the lack of visible diversity at every level, so that people can see themselves, their race, their culture and their history in the Church’s life.

We need to engage suppliers and businesses from all parts of the community, seeking out those which promote diversity and inclusivity.

Most importantly we need to actively invite people from different ethnic communities to share their experiences and genuinely listen to their voices, however challenging this may be.

A Time to Act

It is not enough to simply denounce racism. This is a time to act. In the words of the Holy Father: “This is a moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities — what we value, what we want, what we seek — and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of. God asks us to dare to create something new.”

Bishop Paul McAleenan
Lead Bishop for Racial Justice