I asked myself, “as a baptized Christian, what is God requiring of me in 2023?” I decided to reflect on the Catechism of the Catholic Church for an understanding of the unique relationship between myself and Jesus Christ through the sacrament of Baptism.
Section 1241 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC, 1241) states, “The anointing with sacred chrism, perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized, who has become a Christian, that is one “anointed” by the Holy Spirit, incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet, and king.” Do we understand the special graces and commissions God has blessed us with in our anointing as priests, prophets, and kings?
As priests, we are called to make sacrifices in our personal lives. I am not speaking of the sacrifice you make when trying to save money for a vacation, a new suit, or pair of Air Jordan tennis shoes. I am speaking of the sacrifice you make in the service of God that, includes your time, talents, and treasures.
As prophets, we are called to love God first and then all of God’s creation. The highest of which are people. We are to love all people, especially the ones that are a thorn in our side. We are called to evangelize and give testimonies of the presence of Jesus in our lives. We are also called to teach people about God’s Agape love for us by sharing Jesus's birth, death, and resurrection.
As kings, we are called to rule over our bodies, to keep them clean from corruption, addiction, and other vices. We are to treat our body as God’s holy temple because He dwells within us. By doing so, we can discern God’s presence in our lives and the path he directs us to take.
God constantly equips us with grace and unique gifts to help us with our work in His vineyard. During confirmation, we received the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord). The question is, do you know which gifts God has blessed you with at this time in your life, and how are you using your gifts to build up His kingdom in your family and church community? My gifts of the Holy Spirit have not been a topic of conversation until recently when I was asked the question during a class I took at Loyola Marymount University. The class is titled “Sharing Our Gifts of Blackness with the Catholic Church.”
A focus of the class was students being able to discern their gifts of the Holy Spirit and how their gifts were being used. We learned about the scriptures and how to apply them scriptures in our daily life to strengthen us. The scriptures have confirmed that I am following the path God wants me to take. Students learned what it means to be Black and Catholic in the words of Sr. Thea Bowman. This class has helped me to understand the history of the Catholic church in terms of its racism towards the African American people dating back to his Papal Bull Dum Diversas (1452), Nicholas V. He granted apostolic permission for the kings of Spain and Portugal to buy and sell Africans, setting the stage for the slave trade. The Catholic church is guilty of the sin of racism through omission or direct involvement as slave owners.
Both Bishop Braxton and Bishop Cherie referenced how the United States Bishops have drafted several Pastoral Letters over the years to address evangelization and racism in the church; however, the Pastoral Letters have failed at achieving the desired outcome.
Bishop Fernand J. Cheri III’s article, “Let the Church Roll On,” was written soon after the death of George Floyd. I recall Bishop Cheri’s story of Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector who was transformed by being in proximity and responding to Jesus’ invitation to dine with him. Zacchaeus responded by accepting Jesus’ invitation and, in gratitude, gave up half of his possessions to the poor and agreed to pay back four times the amount to anyone that he had cheated. Jesus said to him: Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:8-10).
It was very compelling and profound when Bishop Cheri shared his firsthand experience with racism in the Catholic church. Using the story of Zacchaeus, Bishop Cheri reached out to his fellow brethren, asking them to come out of the sycamore tree. He tells them to “Stand up, confess your complicity with systemic racism. Speak up about your conversion, your repentance. Offer restoration and reparation. The Church on the street is calling you.” He said, “All Catholics need to recognize the virus (racism) in our church.” If clergy/church leaders take Bishop Cheri’s recommendations seriously, the Catholic church will see a significant decrease in racism.
As baptized Christians, everyone has to call out injustice and racism. James 1:22 states, “Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” We cannot settle to be one in the crowd or perched up in the sycamore tree. We are called to be change agents utilizing our blessings, our time, talents, and treasures, so others will come to know, love, and serve God. We must put on the full armor of God “so that [you and I] will be able to stand up against the Devil’s evil tricks” (Ep. 6:11).
The course offered by Loyola Marymount University (LMU) entitled “Sharing our Gifts of Blackness With the Catholic Church,”(Link to LMU: Black Catholic Spirituality - Loyola Marymount University (lmu.edu) is necessary for anyone wanting to know about the history of Black Spirituality and racism in the Catholic Church. You will read articles written by prominent Black Catholic Theologians during the course. The book entitled, Leveling the Praying Field: Can the Church We Love, Love Us Back by Dr. Ansel Augustine will be discussed. This course will be a part of your armor as you work to address and eradicate the Catholic Church of the sin of racism. Professor Michael Howard and Loyola Marymount University have created a class containing a plethora of history on racism in the Church. It also includes the writings of Pope Paul VI and Pope St John Paul II regarding the Catholic Church being inclusive to the cultures and gifts of our African and African American brothers and sisters if she is to be genuinely a “Universal” Church.
The class format encouraged participation and open dialog between the students and guest presenters from the United States. The Zoom meetings, discussion topics, and personal journals enhanced my learning experience.
Author: Marla Clark-Sanders, Knights of Peter Claver, Inc. Ellen Marie Jackson, Ch 13
Meritorious 4th Degree Ladies of Grace Los Angeles
KPC- Our Lady of Fatima, Court 128
Ascension Church, Los Angeles