By Fr. John T. Judie June 20-23, 2022
Fr. John Judie is a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville. He serves as chair of the AUSCP Working Group on Anti-Racism. The AUSCP Assembly accepted the three-year plan from the working group at the 2022 meeting in Baltimore. Details of the plan, along with a schedule of activities, will be published on the Anti-Racism page as they become available. Following is a video excerpt of Fr. Judie’s presentation, along with his text.
IT CANNOT BE THIS WAY WITH US! MARK 10: 35-45
In the 10th Chapter of the Gospel of Mark, we have the familiar scene when the disciples, James and John, approach Jesus with a certain request. They ask to sit at Jesus’ right and at his left in his glory. Jesus responded with the question: “Can you drink the cup that I drink?” They responded: “Yes, we can.” Then, Jesus explains: “To sit at my right and at my left is not mine to give but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Then, we get to the most critical teaching Jesus gives all his disciples in this scenario. He says: “Those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. It cannot be this way with you!” Let us hear clearly what Jesus is saying and how he is saying it. He is not saying: “It should not be this way!” He is not saying: “It ought not be this way!” He is saying: “It cannot be this way with you!” In other words, Jesus is saying: “If it is this way with you, then you are not about following me! If it is this way with you, then do not even claim to know me—because I will not claim to know you! You see, this way is not my way—never was my way—and never will be my way! So, with me, you are either on the way or you are in the way! If you are truly going to follow me, then it cannot be this way with you!”
Jesus is teaching this to his disciples in a world where alienation, marginalization and injustice ran rampant—more so within their own Jewish religious culture than outside of it. These disciples were raised in a society that was deeply structured and designed to keep certain ones “in” and everybody else “out”—the acceptable and the unacceptable ones. Thus, we have Jews and Gentiles, i.e. anybody who is not a Jew. We see (within their own religious culture) that the ones recognized with dignity and given due respect—being Jewish, male and healthy—represent only a small portion of their entire community. (I guess we can easily figure out who put those laws in place.) We see religious laws that not only allowed but also enabled the “respectable” Jew to ostracize and alienate the poor, the disabled, the sick and the suffering, as well as those labeled as sinners. Jesus is addressing clearly the picture of his own Jewish society that does not render justice to all and his Jewish religious culture that is severely lacking in righteousness.
Let us be clear about the fact that justice is not intellectual but instinctual—not theoretical but theological. I say that justice is instinctual because we must face the humanizing realization that the other person is another “self”, just like us—not a mere appendage to our own ego but a person endowed with inalienable rights identical to our own. Because of this equation that exists between human beings, if one profits duly it means that someone else has to pay duly. I say that justice is theological because we are made by God to be servants to one another—neither lords nor lackeys but peers of the kingdom, in service to the King and to everyone else we meet.
There is, however, a basic misconception about justice: that justice and righteousness have something to do with religion. This is not necessarily true. As a matter of fact, it would be more to the point to ask if religion has anything to do with justice and righteousness! Whether religion chooses to get involved or not, justice and righteousness has to do with what we owe to one another as fellow human beings— equal to each other in every respect. You see, we have atheists, sinners and “backsliders” who are, in some cases, more just and moral in how they treat others than some of our church going folk. Justice and righteousness are what we need to keep our web of relationships intact. Justice is the ideal to which we strive. Righteousness brings that ideal into a present reality.
Justice is the standard—the norm—the criterion we set to insure peace and harmony in life for everyone. It is righteousness living, however, which guarantees this justice for all.
Justice alone limits us to the most we, as human beings, can do for ourselves. Justice with righteousness opens us up to the greater possibilities of what God can and will do for all of us.
Justice alone would push us to peace and harmony in this life. Justice with righteousness calls us to seek a holiness in this life that will allow us to take up residence in the eternal kingdom.
Justice alone is limited to the human laws that define, describe and enforce what it is. Justice with righteousness takes us beyond the limits of the law because it compels us to challenge and correct anything and everything that is morally wrong in the law.
Each person in our human family has a right as a human being to “fullness” of life. Each and every one of us has a right to those things which afford us the quality of life which upholds for us the dignity of life. For this reason, it becomes unacceptable
—to know the rightness and wrongness of a situation and continually ignore it because we tell ourselves that it is “none of our business”.
—to automatically become suspicious of individuals because of our own stereotyped images of them which we have refused to let go of.
—to remain politically silent in the face of serious difficulty because the heated controversy might spoil our image as a public figure or cause us to lose some of our friends.
—to be comfortable with the oppression we allow to happen all around us, while we abdicate any personal responsibility for working to correct the systems which cause this oppression, especially if we see ourselves as benefitting for personal comfort at the cost of someone else’s pain.
—to let other persons (and their systems) dictate and control the lives of
other peoples—never affording them the fullness of human dignity which God has given each and every one of us.
Anything that we are doing—or we are allowing to be done—which diminishes the quality of human life and degrades the dignity of that life is unacceptable, if we are to seek justice and do righteousness. In terms of this society in which we live, G. K. Chesterton once said: “You’ve got to hate society enough to want it changed, and love it enough to pitch in and help save it.” Jesus says: “It cannot be this way with you!” We need to say today: “It cannot be this way with us!’
My dear brothers and sisters, I stand before you today and present the three- year strategic plan on anti-racism for our AUSCP membership. Any serious change that needs to happen in our Church—in our society—in our country—has to begin with a serious change within ourselves—within our hearts! Why? Because any failure on our part to do this will betray the fact that it, still, is that way with us! The anti-racism team has put together this plan as the initial and necessary steps for us to secure justice and bring righteous living to all aspects of human living.
Year One calls all of us to understand the fact that change has to begin within ourselves. We are not talking about our being here and doing all this just because it is a good idea—or because it is the right thing to do. The answer is found in the question: “Where is your passion?” You see, it is your passion that will impel you to take action. The passion I am talking about—the passion Jesus is calling his disciples to find within themselves—will cause us to say: “I could not look away or stay away if I wanted to. There is too much of me in this—and too much of this in me. I have to come out of anything and everything that is not right—and move into anything and everything that is right—because Jesus said: “It cannot be this way with me!”
Year Two charges us to acknowledge and address the sin of racism in our Church. Jesus began his ministry by calling together and forming a community of disciples. When we take an honest look at the structural and system practices of racism, i.e. decision making and regulations that continue to marginalize and alienate others within our Church community, we cannot (in all honesty) claim to be the community of disciples Jesus called together and formed two centuries ago. Consider the rising number of Catholics (particularly, young Catholics) who admit that they do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Maybe some of their conclusion is drawn from the fact that they don’t see the real presence of Jesus in us who regularly receive the Eucharist! I know (for myself) that many fail to see what difference receiving the Eucharist makes in the kind of decisions made and actions taken by those in positions of authority. For those of us especially in positions of leadership and influence in our Church, we must know: “It cannot be this way with us!”
Year Three calls forth our active participation in the priesthood of Jesus Christ which we received through Baptism, i.e. to be prophetic by word and by action, to help renew the face of the earth. As ugly as some of it is, we must dig deep enough into how this American society was founded and assess honestly the pillars on which it was founded. We have been taught that this country was founded on the principle of “liberty and justice for all”. Really? The truth is found in knowing the mass slaughter of most of the indigenous people of this land—and it is not a pretty picture. In present times, there is much focus and concern about stopping the horrors of human trafficking. Let us look at how human trafficking got started—as far back as 1619: the capture and transporting of
12 million people from Africa to enslave them in the Americas. Can we honestly sing about America as the“land of the free and home of the brave”? Shouldn’t we admit that the only true “Americans” are the indigenous people of this land and those who are blessed to share their heritage? Although the majority of us originated in some other country, we have even taken the identity of the indigenous people—calling them “Indians” and calling ourselves “Americans”.
At first glance, this three-year strategic plan may seem overloaded and (maybe) overwhelming. We must consider, however, the extensive history of racial injustice that is ours in these United States of America. There is no neatly packaged plan or process that will clean up and correct the structural and systemic components of racial injustice that is alive and well in our Church and in our society today. Jesus is saying to all of us today: “It cannot be this way with you!”
Let us decide and commit ourselves to the fact that it will no longer be this way with us! You see, I must
—examine and correct any wrong notions and ideas of others that I have within myself, regardless of how these notions were fed into my mind and my heart through news and entertainment media, an education system that purposefully covered up the truth with half-truths and, in some cases, blatant lies and whatever prejudicial and racist comments I got from family members and friends.
—learn more of the truth that the economic posture of this country was based on 250 years of the enslavement of Africans and African Americans. This means letting go of the notion of the U. S. being a “first world” country and so many other nations being labeled as “third world” countries. By the way, I have yet to find anyone who can tell me where to find this “second world”!
—face and speak the truth of our history: that the Europeans who came this way were not settlers—because this land had already been settled for thousands of years. The truth of our history is that the incoming Europeans were not immigrants but invaders.
—not allow anyone to say to me that Africa is “one big country” when I know that it is a continent three times the size of this country.
—make sure that I do not put anything down about seeking racial justice and protecting human rights on paper before I commit to putting it into action. —actively seek out and form meaningful relationships with my brothers and sisters of any and all racial identities—because this is how I will learn to seek justice and do righteousness in my own life.
I must have not only a passion for the kingdom but also a compassion for God’s people. I must do whatever I can to make sure that no child of God is left behind in slavery to the forces of greed, control and fear in this world.
My brothers and sisters, if we want to be with Jesus (like James and John) in his glory up there, then let us make sure that we are being with Jesus in his glory down here! What we are called to do is not easy and certainly not comfortable—but neither has it been for too many who have been marginalized and alienated by the way we have been doing business—in so many cases, for our gain at their expense. Jesus says: “It cannot be this way with you!” Well, I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be in this way—so I will work at being on the way with Jesus—because I want to make it all the way with him!
One closing comment: Verna Dozier, an African American theologian of the Episcopal Church, wrote a book entitled: “The Dream of God”. She defines the dream of God as “a good creation of a friendly world of friendly folk beneath a friendly sky”. In her book, she poses the notion that the Church in the modern world has missed her calling. This is how she states it: “Jesus asked us to follow him but we decided to worship him instead.” For the sake of this Church in the modern world—for the promise of the Church entering into its new tomorrow—for the sake of the Kingdom of God, let us dare to dream together—to dream God’s dream together! Jesus says: “It cannot be this way with you!” Let us remember what else he said: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” Let this be the right way—the only way for us! Amen.
IT CANNOT BE THIS WAY WITH US! Mark 10: 35-45
ASSOCIATION OF UNITED STATES CATHOLIC PRIESTS ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Fr. John T. Judie June 20-23, 2022