By Christine Haider-Winnett, CTA Communications Manager
“I will journey with my God in the land of the living”
(Adapted from Psalm 116:9)
“We know that you have no pleasure in the death of anyone, so we boldly come to the throne of grace today dear Lord, seeking your wisdom as we create strategies that provide pathways and lifelines to hope and healing. Help us to remember we are all your children, created in your image, and we are connected by a single garment of mutuality and destiny. Cause us to never forget how our needs are the same and our calling to address these needs are the same. Reveal to us Lord, that the pain felt in Newtown is the same pain felt in Chicago. The tears shed in Oak Creek are the same tears shed in Oakland. The lives lost in Tucson are the same lives lost in Camden. The children being buried in Aurora are the same children being buried in Detroit.
We cry out to you, heal our souls from this scourge of violence. Endow us with the courage to step down from the pulpits and out from behind our desks to seek the peace of the city. In the coming days and weeks as our leaders debate solutions, Lord we ask that you grant us the voice to speak truth power and demonstrate sacrificial compassion to the hurting.”
(Excerpt from A Christian Prayer to End Gun Violence, PICO National Network)
In today’s reading from Hebrew scripture, Abraham takes his beloved son, Isaac, up the hill to Moriah to be sacrificed to God. Right before he slits Isaac’s throat, an angel (or messenger) rushes to intervene telling Abraham not to harm Isaac. God knows Abraham’s faithfulness and would not require him to make such a terrible sacrifice. God wants abundant life for Abraham’s descendants—not death and suffering.
Last week, on Ash Wednesday, 17 high school students and teachers were gunned down in Parkland, Florida, by a young man who had been their classmate. Many of the students and others who knew the young man reported that he was a white supremacist who had said hateful things about African Americans, immigrants, Jews and others.
On the day when Christians across the globe fast, wear ashes and are told to “repent and believe in the Gospel” our country was once again reminded that we have much to repent for: the sin of gun violence, and of a culture seeped in white supremacy and toxic masculinity. How can we unroot this seed of hatred that seems to be turning so many young, white men to violence? How do we address our country’s overwhelming addiction to weaponry and violence—an addiction that we seem to be choosing over our need to protect our own children? How can we teach our children to build beloved community while our leaders threaten to build walls that would cut us off from our neighbors?
But, even amidst this Lenten sense of fear and loss we have small reminders that death never has the final word. I was reminded of that a few days ago as I watched the powerful organizing that was coming out of the students in Parkland who are working to make sure that, in high school senior Emma Gonzalez’s words, they’re “the last mass shooting.”
This is not the first time that young people have spoken out and reminded us that the hatred and violence in our culture isn’t inevitable. When Michael Brown was murdered by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, young people in Ferguson were among the first to rise up and demand justice—not just for Michael—but for all people impacted by racist police violence. They made sure that Michael’s memory would be honored, and that the town of Ferguson would be remembered not simply as a place of tragedy, but as a place of resistance.
In both of these examples, young people were able to take tragedy and death and transform it into the promise of hope and new life. This is a reminder that, like with Abraham and Isaac, God does not want death for us. God wants joy and life and an ability for each one of us to reach the fullness of our potential. God wants us to journey with Her into the “land of the living,” as the Psalmist wrote (Psalm 116:9). Will we follow the young leaders trying to take us there?
Questions for Discussion:
- How is our culture called to repent from the sins of racism and violence this Lenten season? How are you being called to participate in that repentance?
- How is God calling you to journey into the Land of the Living—a land free of racism, violence and hatred? How can you live into that call this Lenten season?
Call To Action’s 20/30 Project for Mentoring and Leadership will train the next generation of Catholic social justice activists by pairing them with an experienced mentor that can help them explore how their Catholic faith and personal gifts intersect with the social needs around them. Applications for both 20/30 Young Leaders and Mentors are now open. Consider applying, pass this information along to someone in your network, or make a gift in honor of this and CTA’s other programmatic work.
Christine Haider-Winnett is Communications Manager for Call To Action and an ordained deacon in Roman Catholic Womanpriests. She lives in Berkeley, California, with her husband and young child.