This First Sunday of February we begin Black history Month. It is clear that the impact of the African American experience has had a lasting effect on our nation from its inception this year’s theme recognizes our past yet calls us to be present to current realities and impels us all to create a future filled with hope and new possibilities for all Americans, and all person around our world.
I want to begin this week with the invitation, call and demand to “Press on” to Jesus. The rock, the foundation the one thing that enabled oppressed, degraded and suffering peoples to overcome adversity and great odds was to first hold on to a strong faith rooted in Jesus and His words. I begin with Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind pressing on to what lies ahead,” phil 3:13
In today’s Gospel we find Jesus teaching the crowds by the seashore and they were pressing in on Him. What was this pressing? What is happening here is something new that has never occurred to them before, someone speaking to them with such authority and identification to their lives that they can’t but help to be drawn into to Jesus. The words spoken from His mouth are like honey and they must enjoy the sweetness of His words. This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. In order better address the people he boards the boat of Simon so that he might speak with them more clearly.
Like the people of Jesus’ time, we too are drawn into God’s Word finding within it the words for living and pressing on to what lies ahead. “We’ve Come this Far by Faith” leaning on the Lord, are the words to the great Gospel hymn. This posture and positioning must be one that leans toward and presses to hear, listen and understand God speaking to us through His Word and for our times. Black History month can have meaning when the stories of our past that we remember, honor and share become a source for nurturing us to create a future filled with hope. Both in our past and present the words of Jesus proclaimed by the church standing with our people who for so long have been on the peripheries of our society, remains the prophetic witness that calls us back toward Jesus so like Simon we might be invited out to deeper waters. Somebody say, AMEN!
From the intimate union with Christ through His word proclaimed and enlivened with us, calling us, pushing us, thrusting us beyond ourselves outward toward our sister or brother, we too must head out to deeper waters. You see when one is truly impacted by Christ speaking to the very depth and soul of ones being we must trust that God is the one speaking, beckoning us to trust Him to go into the deeper waters. Simon at first questions Jesus, recalling that they had already tried and caught nothing, but Jesus still encourages him and requires him to trust Him and lower the nets for catch in deep water.
What are these deeper waters that we must go out into? These waters are the deep-rooted desires in our society and world to subjugate persons of color. Institutions that inhibit instead of elevating African Americans and other persons of color. The notion that one’s color of skin is the factor by which one should be judged, chosen or valued, and not the content of their character. To keep many persons of color disenfranchised and flooded by ideals of inequality, degradation and subjugation. The deep waters that seek to quiet or voices at the ballot box. The deep waters of lies that mislead, falsehoods that misrepresent, untruths that cover up the despicable behavior and disregard for the God given right to become whole persons fully alive, fully realized, and actualized with the same access to resources for the betterment of not only our people but the nation as a whole.
We can find within the call by Pope Francis to be a Synodal Church. A Church that recognizes that the voice, concerns and needs of all must be heard and valued. That we take time to listen to one another and see one another the possibility of a “great catch”. That great catch being a new insight and understanding of who we are to one another, new relationships that are built, a transformation of hearts and minds that begin to see the condition of our sisters and brothers that move us to change. The Synodal church on a journey take hold when we recognize the unity and oneness that we have with others like us journey toward a deeper encounter with Christ. A journey that takes us even to the peripheries and allows us to see even on the peripheries our brothers and sisters and are deeply united to us and with us. That race, economic status, unequal access to resources, walls and boundaries that separate are torn down, and new roads are built, bridges forged that link us together as a people, a church, a world that walks together in recognition of the value of each person.
The synodal process will be a journey that involves “a dynamism of mutual listening, conducted at all levels of the church, involving the whole people of God.” Pope Francis