21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? (Jn. 6:60-69)
Recently, U.S. Catholic News magazine published this article, "Black Catholics are leaving the Church. Why? Despite high levels of religious commitment, Black Catholics are abandoning the Church."
The author, Black Catholic theologian Father Bryan Massingale, stated, "The Black exodus from the Catholic Church is due to the fundamental disconnect between what the vast majority of Black Catholics (and other Black Americans) see as essential for understanding faith and the concerns being addressed in most white congregations." Consequently, Black Catholics see failure in some White parishes that avoid addressing racial inequality. Unfortunately, one must also avoid assuming that a discussion on racism in a Black Catholic parish is automatic. Racism is not an essential topic for the Catholic Church.
Fr. Massingale addressed this issue in his book Racial Justice in the Catholic Church. He declared that for the Catholic Church, there is nothing more critical for Catholic identity than abortion. Fr. Massingale stated that abortion "is a position held repeatedly, forcefully and uncompromisingly. It is a position held fervently and passionately, even in the face of significant opposition and disagreement." Therefore, many Black Catholics feel ignored at times by the Church they love. I, too, struggle at times maintaining a love for my Church as it continually misses the mark in meeting my social and cultural needs. Sadly, I asked myself, "Do I want to leave the Catholic Church, too?"
However, for me, like Peter, I ponder, "Where could I go?" What Church is without a spot or wrinkle? If I should go, I will stain that Church's walls with gossip, the seats with lust, and be judgemental towards the preacher's words. What I am saying is that every church family got some mess. Read Jesus' lineage. Jesus had killers, rapists, tricksters, immigrants, and harlots in his ancestry.
Therefore, I will stay in this messed-up church and bloom while praying to One God, Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and Earth. Why? Because God still blessed me in this mess, in this church. Repeatedly I encountered the One and only true God, Light from Light, Jesus the Living Bread that descended from heaven for this Church. Jesus gives us eternal life. He promised, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever" (Jn. 6:51). Where else can I go and find Bread from heaven that opens locked doors? Let us, by faith, trust in Jesus and give others a reason to stay; Jesus gives life to all cultures. We need to share our stories openly.
"... do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God" (2 Tim. 1:8).
Author: Evangelist Michael Howard, MACS
Father Bryan Massingale is a theological and social ethics professor at Fordham University in New York. Author of Racial Justice in the Catholic Church p. 77.