By Jocelyn A. Sideco
Originally published on National Catholic Reporter’s Young Voices blog.
A political outsider. A political insider.
A man. A woman.
As I contemplate this new reality, I am unsettled. Our United States of America looks to be a Divided States of America as a brutal campaign for power comes to an end and initiates a new moment of anxiety and hope.
Both candidates represent American ideals of individual prowess: Donald Trump a “self-made” man with money, fame and power who wags his finger to make America great again, and Hillary Clinton a hard-working, consistent through the years, punching bag of society’s male gaze. Both have fallen victim to a society and a rule of government that has lost its moral authority as determined by the votes of the people.
This is no different from the lack of moral authority much of our church hierarchy has suffered since the sex abuse scandals stunned us into disbelief.
Apparently, we can divorce a person from an institution. We can love a person and hate an institution.
We are all hurting. We are un/under-employed. We are judged by our outfits — whether pantsuits or hijabs. We are attacked when we are unarmed. We live in the anxiety of insecurity. We pay more to be housed. We rely on health insurance to medicate ourselves with myriad pills. We look to church but cannot find it because we are not there.
Trump’s rhetoric brought us there. Trump spoke to the darkness where “nation will rise against nation.” His campaign amplified the parts of our lives that are unsettled and willing to say yes to what seems to be an instant fix. Can we come to terms with the fact that we fell for temptation?
This week’s Gospel reads as a prophecy. “There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place” keeps ringing in my ears as I watch videos of protests, fire and disruption.
God will disrupt and overcome suffering, death and destruction.
A friend of mine and I were consoled by Wednesday’s Gospel. In the famous scene where Jesus’ anger was recorded, my heart grew in a deep call to witness to the truth. Like Jesus, I must grow in the deep knowledge of purpose, mission and sense of relationship as priority, where human beings are treated as human beings and not as commodities to be sold and traded.
I followed his rage as he dramatically scattered animals, overturned tables, and money was spilled onto the floor. Jesus was disgusted. Jesus disrupted the lethargic consumer culture that seeped into his Father’s house. And he continued to disrupt the hopeless status quo each time he invited a tax collector to dinner or actually dines in their home, as with Zacchaeus.
Disruption for Jesus is finely tuned to the idea of being in right relationship. Remember the widow’s offering? Jesus was in the Temple with his disciples. He watched as person after person gave out of their wealth. He whispered to get his disciples’ attention, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest.”
Clearly, her two coins were not “worth” more than the rest of the offerings, but relative to what she had, she did put in more than the rest. Her sacrifice demonstrates her trust in God’s providence. Her primary relationship is putting her trust in God, not in others, not in idols.
Being in right relationship may be difficult today. For some, we will be judged for our choices. For others, we will judge others for theirs.
The simplest yet real opportunity we have today is to reach out to one another. We need to disrupt this growing explosion of pain and suffering with our very sacrifice. Do we need to sacrifice the temptation to doubt, the desire for an easy solution, the need to just take care of myself? We all are invited to grow into a deeper relationship of trust in God, in God’s ways, in the mystery of living, dying and rising — together.
This Sunday’s Gospel continues with this twisted hopefulness:
Before all this happens, however,
they will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.
What will be your testimony today? What is God trying to get you to see that runs much deeper than political discourse, controversy and hyperbole? What or whose experiences are you invited to witness?
Disrupting the system of consistently not choosing right relationships will require something of us. We will have to let our old ideas, our old affiliations, our old titles die. And it’s there, where sadness and anger meet and intersect with purpose, mission, vocation, that we become emboldened by the Spirit and rise.
I’m not at the hope yet. I’m at sadness and anger. But this weekend, my vocation will be fed as I join 1,800 youth and young adults from Jesuit and other Catholic schools around North America to learn, pray, discern and act on our very belief that we are here to live out right relationships and when there is temptation we confront it with disruption.
Join us at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice. While we will take our bodies and voices to Capitol Hill, we invite you to participate in our livestream. And, perhaps together, we can grow in right relationship and serve as a disruption where relationships are not dignified or respected.
Jocelyn A. Sideco is a retreat leader, spiritual director and innovative minister who specializes in mission-centered ministry. She directs the Community Service and Social Justice office at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. Visit her online ecumenical ministry, In Good Company, at ingoodcompany.net.co or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.