The world that surrounds us is daunting, too many voices speak truth and prophetic words from false prophets sow division. God cannot be both compassionate and a defense through which morality props up the unjust But the most persuasive voices can tailor the emperor’s clothes to align with God’s will or is it man’s? So that the immigrant is still detained the prisons overflow race is divisive the poor are criminalized the natural world degraded walls are built And weapons are beat not into plowshares, but into proclamations that they alone can make us secure. The drumbeat goes on And then, in stillness the God who is addressed in prayer who is challenged and cursed and loved and condemned responds: Enter into discomfort, dispel rational thought that has normalized hate, and do not tread on the surface, but abandon it for the deep for it is there that the truth will be uncovered revealing that all are created in the image and likeness of God all are made holy and sacred and just. It is a profound truth, if only because the voice that responds is feminine and courageous, as though all of the daughters and sisters and mothers had preached a holy Gospel that for too long had gone unheard in the echo chambers of the ordained and the backroom channels of the elected and the boardroom coffers of an ever-present greed and the people would plead, and the faithful would gather: We must rise from dust and ashes to a sermon on the mount that was once proclaimed not mere allegory or callous refrain but a prophetic truth that has always been that has always been until it wasn’t because we had strayed so far from the road that the Judean was left to rot and decay and Lazarus awoke only to die again and the fishermen did not walk on water but capsized in the storm, their bodies washed to shore not as fishermen, not as disciples, but as refugee children drowned and the rich man walked through the eye of the needle and the mob picked up the pile of stones and the loaves and fishes were hoarded away and the other cheek was not turned to the side, but instead a gun was drawn and the bullets pierced those hands that once held nails And we wept. For so long we wept and cried out: My God, my God why have you forsaken me? And in reply her voice dispelled any rumor or denial: My child, my child it is you who have forsaken me. For in that moment our truth had finally been revealed For we cannot claim a compassionate God if the God we choose is a placeholder to uphold unjust views or whose ears fall deaf to the cries of the poor or who promotes a prosperity that benefits a few and no more. For we cannot claim a compassionate God and proclaim the Gospel as the only truth when that very same God is rejected by us because he or she does not look like us but rather the image that appears reflected in our mirror is the immigrant detained by us the refugee excluded by us the inmate who profits us the detainee tortured by us the gay man shamed by us the child abused by us the woman silenced by us the poor forgotten by us And all of it in my name. So forgive us, we know not what we do. Forgive us, even though we know that it’s not quite true: for we know exactly what we do. Amen.
About the Rabble Rouser
Michael Krueger first met Sister Julia in La Crosse, Wisconsin, while an undergraduate student at Viterbo University and dishwasher at St. Rose Convent. She was the only sister who didn’t leave a generous tip. (All joking aside, the one and only tip he actually received was the priceless call to FSPA affiliation in 2009). He credits that “top-notch Franciscan education” for putting him on a path to La Crosse’s Place of Grace Catholic Worker House (where he lived for two-and-a-half years), SOA peace vigils, work with developmentally disabled adults (inspired by Jean Vanier and L’Arche), commitment to social justice and a chance dinner with Roy Bourgeois. He currently lives near Madison and is a stay-at-home dad to two creative and adventurous kids, and is an active member of the Catholic Worker community there.
Julia, this may be the most important thing I’ve read this year so far. I’m taking this with me. I’m reflecting, repenting, and remaking myself, and consciously not just for myself but for those of this world who need people like me to be remade.
Carol, thanks so much for your kind words! I’d be happy to send you a PDF copy of the poem if interested – which reads a little easier and is slightly better formatted.
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