1 Kings 11:4-13
This reflection is inspired by what happened to Jesus in today´s gospel. I pray it happens to me. He listened to the Syro-Phoenician woman and was able to go beyond the cultural divide of that experience. Jesus listened beyond the woman´s gender, race and creed and imagined a different reality, one in which he must bring liberation. Through the bold words of this woman and through Jesus’ capacity to listen to her, the Rein of God, now and for all time, extends beyond all boundaries.
My environment has taught me how to avoid Your Voice. Evil can hide behind very gentle and cordial ways. I am a product of my environment. I have learned how to deafen my ears and heart to you as natural and in inconspicuous ways, as if taking a breath.
Unfortunately, yours is not the only voice I ignore. I ignore other voices, especially, those of children, teens, and some adult-males. For the latter, all depends on their race, sexual preference, age, ¨masculinity¨, intellectual capacity and physical ability, class, weight, and even how they dress. I have a problem! Yet, I am committed to learn how to listen to you and those who I unconsciously, and consciously, put in the same category as you, and perpetually mute them in my own little world.
I am a privileged person. Being a heterosexual male and as priest, I can permit this bias to make its home in my heart, and, at times, it has made me refuse to take responsibility over it and seek healing. Yet, I dare commit myself to conversion because Jesus has showed me the way and its benefits. When we learn how to pay attention to you, to listen to you and to let you teach us, then we can imagine things differently. This new imagination can ignite new and powerful ways of being. Ways that are more human, more Christian.
An underlying story in our country’s struggle with the Civil Rights Movement is that of the role of women within that struggle, especially as it pertain to its iconic leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. No doubt one of these women was Ella Baker, a great organizer and a voice of emancipation way ahead of her time. Though one of the founders of SNCC (The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), her direct and powerful ideas- such as her conviction that strong people don´t need strong leaders- pushed her outside the clergy-centered ranking-files of this very organization.
Dr. King´s views on the economy, the war in Vietnam, Militarism, the role of women, and capitalism changed drastically through the influence of these women. Dr. King´s celebrated speech of 1963, "I HAVE A DREAM," in which he imagined a racially integrated USA, could not come to fruition unless our country´s oppressive abuse of capital and military power in the world ceased. Dr. King now understood that our world´s problems were not exclusively about race or class but one of militarism and rampant capitalism, and colonialism, and the center of the world´s greatest evils is the values with which we live and our governments govern.
What Jesus did in today’s Gospel still speaks to us today. Are we listening?
Fr. Hugo Esparza-Pérez, C.P. is a Passionist of Holy Cross Province now working in Mexico with the Province of Cristo Rey.