The Weeds of Racism

Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
Readings from:

In the past week or so, we’ve heard about the wheat and weeds a couple of times in the gospels. Jesus usually just tells the parable and lets us figure it out, but today we get a rare glimpse into Jesus interpreting it for us.  Hearing Jesus talk about the weeds being burned at the end of the harvest makes us feel more than uneasy when we know he’s talking about how we’ll be judged at the end of time.

The weeds represent what’s evil among us, what chokes and destroys life.  For the past 4 weeks, I’ve been part of a parish group that has had the unique opportunity to look deeply at one of those “weeds” that has been lethal in our society for a long time.  I’m referring to what Pope Francis calls “the sin of racism”. He said:  "My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”  Our group studied the Bishops pastoral letter on racism called “Open Wide Your Hearts”, and if you haven’t had the chance to read it, I’d encourage you to do so.

I have no doubt there’s not a soul here who would disagree that racism is wrong, that life is devalued, and many suffer still because of it.  What I had the chance to do during this group study experience was realize how much personal honesty I needed before any change to happen.  It isn’t a comfortable thing to do, but then again, if we find it easy to discuss race, little change will probably happen. I did a lot of soul searching about my own real unawareness of racism beyond the surface level.  I had to ask myself: “How did I, and the color of my skin, contribute in any way to this problem, even unintentionally?”  “Did I really listen recently to my own brother-in-law who is Afro-American, when he shared with me his difficult experiences of growing up, being in the military, and having a professional life as a black man?” How grateful I was for our conversation, a conversation I admit, I should have had years ago.

The hopeful news is, together we can stop this ‘weed’ of racism, and the Bishops make it very clear how the church can contribute:  “We ask our parish staffs and all the faithful…to fight the evil of racism by educating themselves, reflecting on their personal thoughts and actions, listening to the experience of those who have been affected by racism, and by developing and supporting programs that help repair the damages caused by racial discrimination.”  In the near future, you will be hearing more about actions we can and will take as a parish.

Our hope in all this is Jesus, the sower, who continues to bring forth new life and growth in us.  In Him, may we become the wheat of reconciliation and healing in our divided society.