By Deacon John Degano
Sitting at a packed Riverside City Council meeting last month, I couldn’t get over the similarity of the dialogue spewing from certain overtly vocal members in the audience to the Passion Sunday/Good Friday readings about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the sneering crowds shouting for his execution.
“Seems like a good day for a crucifixion,” I thought.
The topic under discussion was a city resolution favoring the humanitarian treatment of all, including those recently publicized Central American refugees, some of whom came through our Diocese of San Bernardino.
The council, citing the tradition of non-involvement on issues outside their purview as local government, rejected the resolution by a vote of 3-1. The lone favorable vote being the author and presenter of the resolution.
Again, I thought, didn’t Jesus set the example for us to live by bucking unjust tradition and the status quo in favor of the poor, the lame and the blind?
The preferential option for the poor, as it is called in Catholic Social Teaching, has long been a stumbling block for Christians (and others) who know what is right in their minds but are uncomfortable in their hearts… We are our brothers’ (and sisters’) keeper. We have to speak for the voiceless, whether they be mute, powerless or oppressed. We must be willing to have less so others may just survive. And we must do so with love, peace, joy and hope so that as we ‘do unto others,’ God will do unto us…
It is foundational to our faith.
As are the words of the ‘Our Father’ prayer, “forgive us… as we forgive…”
And Jesus’ admonition, “let the one without sin cast the first stone.”
Or, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the kingdom of God.”
These words tumbled through my brain like so many wet clothes in a commercial dryer, pausing occasionally to intertwine, but then separating and recombining with other words and quotes until the dryer cycle ended and the jumble of words came to rest on the warm vented floor.
How do we reconcile our faith with our actions? Especially in public?
St. James writing in his letter reminds us that faith without action is useless.
We must serve.
And more specifically, we must serve our God.
Are we doing this?
Do we try our best to live the life Jesus calls us to or are we content to confine God to one hour a week (or even less often if we can justify our actions) and then complain if Mass runs longer than that and impinges upon our other 167 hours where we can forget God and not treat our neighbors as we would ourselves?
How strong then is our faith and our commitment if we aren’t willing to stand up for what is right and just, even if it causes us personal discomfort? Or to perspire?
We are responsible for our own spiritual laundry. To sort and fold our beliefs like we do our socks to fit neatly in our (mind’s) drawer ready for recall when needed. And we must always remember to clean the lint trap, remove the fuzz and extraneous diversions and distractions that would keep us from committing ourselves to full, active and conscious practice of our faith.
Only when these steps become ingrained, can we ever hope to become dry behind the ears, comfortable in our own shoes and live a mature faith life.
John De Gano is a deacon serving at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.