Prayer service calls people of faith into action

“Who is my neighbor?”

This question was central to the vigil held Sept. 24 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

A ‘Prayer Service for Racial Healing in our Land’ was held to acknowledge the wounds of racism, pray for healing and call the faithful to action. The evening featured prayers, African-American spirituals, scripture readings and an examination of conscience in light of the sin of racism. About 45 people were in attendance, with a number of others virtually attending via livestream.

In his homily during the prayer service, Bishop James Johnston reflected on the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

“As we heard in this gospel reading, the question is posed: ‘who is my neighbor?’…Jesus gives parables to shed light, to bring new insights to people, to open minds and provoke a change of heart in his listeners.”

Johnston paraphrased the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “’So often we say the priest and the Levite were in a big hurry to get to some ecclesiastical meeting, so they did not have time…[but] I could imagine that they were quite afraid…You see the Jericho road is a dangerous road, and the same thing that happened to the man that was robbed and beaten could have happened to them. I imagine the first question that the priest and Levite in the parable asked was this: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” Then the good Samaritan came by, and by the very nature of his concern, reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”… This man was great, because he had the mental equipment for a dangerous altruism. He was great because he could surround the length of his life with the breadth of life.’”

Continuing to restate the words of King: “’We are all somehow caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Therefore, whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.’”

Johnston went on in his own words, “Keeping this in mind tonight, the timing of our prayer service—which was planned weeks ago—has even more significance given the events of the last 24 hours [with the acquittal of the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ken.]. Consider the scenario we are witnessing as racism persists in our communities and, yes, even in our churches…Today’s continuing disparities in education, housing, employment, economic wellbeing and leadership at all levels are not disconnected from the shameful part of our country’s history of slavery and systems of racism.”

“The failure to act to end systemic racism which is often embedded and animated in our laws, policies and structures, hurts those who are victimized and denies all of us the opportunity to benefit from the diverse gifts that God has given each and every person…Jesus’ parable calls us to our obligation as Christians: to be a good neighbor, to be the one who stops and helps anyone who is injured, the one who shows mercy, the one who does not hesitate to accept the responsibility of healing.”

“The United States [Conference of] Catholic Bishops teach racism is a sin, and I would add it’s a serious sin,” Johnston continued. “Racism is a mortal sin, because it’s a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father.”

“The sin of racism is evil and needs to be wiped out—too many times apathy and comfort have hindered the road to racial healing. People of faith are called to attend to the wounds of racism in prayer and action, to move out of pain to healing by transforming systems and structures that perpetuate injustice,” the bishop concluded.

“May God help us. May God help us. And may God help our nation down a path of healing that begins when we each have the courage and compassion to overcome apathy and fear, and ask: ‘If I don’t help this man, what will happen to him?’”

Following the service, members of the St. Elizabeth parish EmbRACE Justice Ministry stood outside the church distributing ‘Black Lives Are Sacred’ signs.

Watch a recording of the event livestream (link).

Prayer to Overcome Racism (© USCCB)

Mary, friend and mother to all,

through your Son, God has found a way

to unite himself to every human being,

called to be one people,

sisters and brothers to each other.

We ask for your help in calling on your Son,

seeking forgiveness for the times when

we have failed to love and respect one another.

We ask for your help in obtaining from your Son

the grace we need to overcome the evil of racism

and to build a just society.

We ask for your help in following your Son,

so that prejudice and animosity

will no longer infect our minds or hearts

but will be replaced with a love

that respects the dignity of each person.

Mother of the Church,

the Spirit of your Son Jesus

warms our hearts:

pray for us. Amen.

October 27, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph