Hi, my name is Michael Bachmeier, and I am with The Jesuit Post. This is the 12th and final day of Know Justice, Know Peace: a Jesuit Antiracism Retreat. Let us begin with a prayer:
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Lord, we beg for the gift of an intimate knowledge of all the goods which you lovingly share with us. Filled with gratitude, we desire to be empowered to respond just as totally in our love and service. Amen.
As the Black Lives Matter movement was reignited this summer in the wake of the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police, I was stuck in bed recovering from knee surgery. In the wake of such horrific news my first reaction, like others have mentioned in previous weeks, was to try to avoid it. I did not want to think about the lynching of George Floyd, about the heinous murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others that began to gain national attention. I did not want to think about the unending suffering of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the U.S. due to systematic racism. I did not want to think about my own white privilege and participation in systems of white supremacy.
However, since all I could really do as I lay in bed recovering was watch videos, read, and pray, I could not avoid what was going on in the world for very long. Certainly, I witnessed the wounds of racism and the suffering of the cross. But I was also able to see the victory of the Resurrection!
During the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises, the retreatant prays the Contemplatio, or Contemplation on the Love of God. St. Ignatius provides us with different focal points for coming to a deeper understanding and gratitude of how God loves us. One of these points is to contemplate how God labors for us. The retreatant is invited to consider how “God loves [us] so much, even entering into the very struggle of life. Like a potter with clay, like a mother in childbirth, or like a mighty force blowing life into dead bones, God labors to share divine life and love. God’s labors are writ large in Jesus’s passion and death on a cross in order to bring forth the life of the Resurrection.”
When I finally started paying attention to what was happening in the world in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, I witnessed God laboring in the world. I saw God laboring for justice, consoling the oppressed, and opening the minds of the privileged.
The victories of the movement are victories of the Resurrection, for example: the arrests of those complicit in the murder of Floyd, the spread of the Black Lives Matter movement throughout the entire country and across the whole world, the beginnings of police reform, the elimination of the team name “Redskins” from the NFL, the expansion of Medicaid in Missouri, the removal of the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag of Mississippi, so many organizations and institutions committing to analyze their racism, and the promotion of Black artists and Black-owned businesses. There is still much work to be done, of course. But the hope of the Resurrection reminds us that God is laboring for us and for our world, laboring for justice and the end of racism. And we can see God’s laboring through the countless activists in the streets who are waking this country up. We should rejoice in this!
As we continue our journey together to a deeper awareness of how racism and white supremacy operate in our lives, and how we are called to be antiracist, we must ask ourselves how God is inviting us to be co-laborers with him in the world. In the Contemplation of God’s Love during the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius invites us to respond in gratitude to God’s immense and unconditional love for us and the world by praying the Suscipe, a prayer that goes as follows:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.
Through this prayer, we respond gratefully to the love of God by surrendering our entire selves to co-laboring with God however God wills.
For many of us allies, or people who are not a member of a particular marginalized community but seek to help end the oppression of that community, the Suscipe must be lived quite literally. We must be willing to surrender our liberty, memory, and understanding in order for others to have liberty and so that we can listen and learn from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We must be willing to stand by quietly in support, allowing the voices of the oppressed to be heard and lifting these voices up. We must trust the experiences of other people. We must be willing to accept that our knowledge and understanding is incomplete. We need to allow the words and experiences of marginalized communities to challenge and change how we see the world. These are gifts from God and we need to be willing to receive them as such.
Most of all, we need to commit to choosing God’s will over our own, seeing the world through God’s eyes, approaching difficult realities in the way God would.
While in college in Los Angeles, I was riding in a car with a few friends back to campus after dinner. I was the only white person in the car. When a police car came up behind us each of my friends got quiet and visibly tense. I stated that there was no reason to worry—it’s not like we had been doing anything wrong or were speeding. My friends explained that that did not matter. I continued to insist there was nothing to worry about. It was not until each of them shared a personal account of a family member or themselves experiencing racial prejudice at the hands of the police that I was willing to accept their fear.
I could think of this encounter as an unfortunate and difficult one, and it was. But I could also receive it as a gift and be grateful for what my friends taught me. Out of this gratitude, then, I am called to make a return of myself, to join the labors of God that are charging through the world right now to produce more love, more justice, more peace.
Here are some points to pray with in the coming days and as you go forth from this retreat:
How is God calling me to be a co-laborer in the fight against racism? What am I going to do differently after this retreat?
I invite you to pray with Matthew 28:16-20 where Jesus missions the disciples before his Ascension to “make disciples of all the nations” and reassures them that he will be with them always. Imagine Jesus missioning you from this retreat. Is there something specific Jesus is sending you to do?
Perhaps ask yourself, How can I be a better ally? Whose voices do I need to listen to? Do I trust the experiences of people from BIPOC communities?
Now as a final prayer for this retreat, after having journeyed together through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, we will pray the Suscipe together, a prayer that is much easier to recite than to live. But as we conclude, we place everything in Jesus’s hands and commit ourselves to being co-laborers with Christ in the world.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
Now, go and set the world on fire!