At this time of Pentecost, we are reminded of the story of the resurrected Jesus breathing the Spirit on his disciples giving them the power to forgive sins. It was the inception of the Christian movement when He breathed the Spirit into the early Christians and to all of us to go forth preaching the Good News of the Kingdom of God. At the same time, we remember the last words of George Floyd: “I can’t breathe.” His modern-day crucifixion is his breathing the Spirit into all of us to speak out and take action. His inability to breath has breathed life into people all around the globe. Everywhere we turn, we are hearing an outcry being heard and reacted to around the world. We condemn the three officers who stood by and watched, who did nothing to stop the killing. But are we no different?
We stand by and do nothing about all too many injustices: We stand by and watch racism continue for decades, for centuries, and we who are white – perhaps unconsciously – benefit from the privilege this brings us. We stand by and do nothing about the LGBT community treated with indignity while we who are straight – perhaps unconsciously – benefit from the privilege this brings us. We watch women treated as second-and-third-class citizens for decades, for centuries, while men stand by and do little or nothing. Why? Perhaps unconsciously because of the privileges this brings them. We stand by and watch the immigrants run from the terrorism of their own governments but stand by and do nothing. We stand by and watch their children being locked up in cages, but do nothing. We stand by and watch corporations invade some of the most beautiful parts of our earth, doing so for profit while destroying the lives and environment of its inhabitants. We stand by and watch people starving to death while we eat sumptuous meals. We stand by and watch school shootings one after another and do nothing to stop gun violence.
But all this indifference doesn’t stop there. Catholic Bishops stand by and hear the cry of the people begging to have a voice in the governance of their Church. But these members of the clergy do nothing. Why? It is nearly impossible to say: “perhaps unconsciously.” They do nothing because they benefit from the privilege that comes with being a member of the hierarchy. And we the people, conditioned for decades, for centuries, continue to attend church, looking up to the priest, to the pastor, to the bishop waiting for them to tell us what God wants us to do. We the people stand by and do nothing but go along with what we’ve always done.
Will the experience of this global pandemic and the adjustments we’ve made to find our way change anything? Pope Francis characterized this worldwide trauma as: “God’s call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on.” How will we choose to behave as, state by state and country by country, we transition back into a more interactive society? We readily recognize in others that to stand by, watch injustices, and do nothing is complicity. But can we look inward and recognize this in ourselves? It is time for us to move from silence and passivity to speaking out and taking action about all the injustices in the world. It is beginning to happen, not always perfectly or orderly, but people are outraged. How will we choose to turn this justified rage into action that will result in a better world? The moment is now. What will we do with it?