It’s hard to keep in mind these days
that the reign of God is at hand, among us, here and now.
It seems that all we hear these days
is quarreling and hostility and division.
We heard it all through that long, long election campaign:
I’m for Hillary. I’m for Trump. Well, I’m not voting.
Welcome to refugees. No, America first.
This past week we heard even more contention:
I’m going to the Inauguration.
No, I’m boycotting it.
The same kind of discord, the polarization,
is evident inside our church:
I’m for restoration; let’s go back to the way it was.
No, I’m for reform; let’s go forward.
In the Presidential election, the pollsters tell us,
52% of Catholics voted for Trump
and 48% for someone else.
We’re split apart, like those Corinthians Paul writes to,
quarreling with each other
because we’ve committed ourselves
to someone or something other than Jesus.
We have to ask ourselves, when we begin to break into factions,
whether we’re motivated by our own wants
or by the common good.
Even here in Toledo, this Compassionate Community,
this big blue zone on the red map of Ohio,
we hear loud, angry arguments.
We see signs of hate.
But we also see signs of hope.
The State of Ohio had set January 12
as the date to kill Ronald Phillips
in the name of the people of Ohio, kill a man in our name.
The execution has been delayed until February 15,
and a hundred people showed up at the Unitarian Church—
some of you were there—
in an effort to stop Ohio’s death penalty for good,
because, as our Catholic Social Teaching tells us,
every person has the right to life.
A week ago Tuesday
the front page of the Blade showed the garage door
at the home of an Arab-American family in suburban Sylvania,
a door that vandals spray-painted with obscene graffiti, including a
But well over a hundred people gathered around—
some of you were there, too—
to cover the hate up with love.
Then Friday evening a pretty big crowd
showed up on the Martin Luther King Bridge
to march for unity with the vulnerable.
They sang, they prayed, they smiled.
They carried signs of love for everyone.
Again, some of you were there.
For many people, a light is dawning… the light of justice.
They’re NOT doing it to call attention to themselves—
it’s not a selfie—
but they’re lifting a light
so others can find a way through the darkness.
It’s NOT giant actions, not big events,
but individual people, each doing the right thing,
planting a seed of hope.
When we show up and speak out, it’s what we’re called to do.
In the late 1930s
when the Nazis began purging the opposition, group by group,
German Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller
wrote several versions of a now-famous statement.
You’ll recognize it:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.
We all can easily fill in the groups that are being singled out today:
Muslims, immigrants, people with disabilities,
refugees, migrants, Syrians, LGBTs, the media…
the list goes on and on.
Rabbi Abraham Skorka tells it like it is.
He say’s it’s evil “when a demagogue or a despot threatens
or speaks in terms of destruction,
in terms of denying or demonizing another."
The Rabbi says we have to “strive for a different world,
in spite of everything that happens.”
That’s where we are now in this country.
In spite of what happens, because of what’s happening,
we have to work to make the world different.
We have to speak up.
It’s our prayer, our striving, our work,
that builds the city of God right here.
Because of what we do,
the reign of God is at hand.
Holy Spirit Catholic Community
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m./Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
at 3925 West Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor
Mailing address: 3156 Doyle Street, Toledo, OH 43608-2006