The local universal Church gathered to pray for racial reconciliation and healing Nov. 3 during a special Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
The Mass was the first of what will be an annual event organized by the newly-formed Archdiocesan Committee for Racial Equity and Justice. Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila celebrated the Mass for an ethnically diverse congregation, who were all united in prayer for a common reason.
The celebration fell on the feast day of St. Martin de Porres, the patron saint of mixed-race people and racial harmony; a fitting patron for a world sadly marred by racial unrest and division, as exemplified during last year’s riots in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death and other similar incidents that have occurred.
Archbishop Aquila’s stirring homily focused on the first two commandments — to love the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul, and to love your neighbor as yourself — and how the rest of the 10 Commandment can be summed up in these two commandments, in which we are called to live the virtue of charity.
“How then does that speak to us today, and especially in the context of this liturgy, in terms of healing and reconciliation with the African-American community?” the archbishop exhorted. “How do we live the love of God and the love of neighbor out as Christians? We must examine that within ourselves first. The question that we must ask ourselves is, “who truly forms my heart and my mind?” What is the lens or the view that I look through the world out? Is it the lens of the love of God and the love of neighbor? Or is it the lens of the world or of some ideology, some political party … Who is the one who truly forms me?”
The Church proclaims belief in Jesus Christ at each Mass during the Nicene Creed, and during the Our Father, we claim to seek the will of the Father, the archbishop said. But has the Church truly allowed Christ to form the hearts, minds and wills of her people? In not doing so, “racism comes about, bitterness and resentment comes about, seeing others as less. We fail to see people through the lens of God,” Archbishop Aquila said. In turn, our minds and hearts are often formed by external, worldly influences rather than Christ.
‘We have allowed ourselves to be formed too often by the world or by a political party or by an ideology, and not by Jesus Christ,” Archbishop Aquila submitted. “We have given only lip service to Jesus Christ in the gospel. Because if we truly believed, our world would be a much different place. There would be no racism, there would be no abortion. There would be no hoarding of wealth. That is why Jesus is so clear in the gospel, that the love of God must come first. Because when we do not obey God, it leads to catastrophe.”
As such, it is imperative that Christians seek the will of God first and foremost and ask for the grace to see his people as he sees them, especially when it comes to love of neighbor, Archbishop Aquila urged..
“We must be those who live the gospel and open our hearts to Jesus Christ and ask him, “Lord, form my heart and mind. Father, help me to see the world through your lens and your eyes, and not that of the world. Help me to love my neighbor as myself and follow the second commandment. Whether that neighbor is black, or yellow or white or brown, whatever the nationality is, whether that neighbor is the unborn child in the womb. Let me love Lord, as you love. Open my heart to that,’” Archbishop Aquila said. “And it may mean that I have to repent. It may mean seeing where I have embraced an ideology, rather than living the gospel.”
Returning to the first two commandments, Archbishop Aquila encouraged those present in the congregation to reflect upon each of them and ask the questions: “Do I truly believe in them? And do I truly live them? And do I love others with the love of Jesus? No matter what color their skin. And do I, as Martin De Porres did, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta did, see in every human being, no matter what their condition, do I see the face of Jesus? And do I treat others with that love?
“Pray for the courage,” the archbishop concluded, “to follow the two great commandments and to be faithful to the gospel, and seeing in every human being, regardless of the color of their skin, the face of Jesus Christ.”