In the Fall of 2019, when I was still the Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and before COVID-19 created havoc and disruption in our world, I led a series of in-person rural roundtables around the country to learn of the reality of rural communities. It was an attempt to understand better the rural reality that often pits rural communities against “city folks.” One of the 19 gatherings that we held was in Poetry Texas in a Methodist Church built in 1845. An older woman I would guess in her 80’s came in to join the group and told me that she wasn’t sure she was in the right place. She said that she had looked me up on the internet and didn’t agree with me on anything. Though it made me a little nervous, I responded that she was very welcome, and I was eager to hear her experience.
I think this exchange was a bit like Jesus in the Gospel. This Texas woman wasn’t a scribe and student of the law, but she was challenging me like the scribe tested Jesus. It was a test to trip Jesus up. It reminded me of many of the political arguments that I engage in today. In those arguments, we are each eager to make our points and define our sides…and might I add win!
But what happened in Poetry Texas that day was different. It was a gathering where the agenda was for me to listen and learn from people with different perspectives. After some conversation, this group of people with differing views came to articulate what they saw as a communal duty to care for each other. This duty they said went way beyond political posturing. I saw this sense of “communal duty” as the embodiment of the mandate to love.
Then the woman who had started off so antagonistic, began sharing about her family’s struggles and the death of two sons one through a drug overdose and another through suicide. Listening changed the relationship between us and among us. Rather than being antagonistic, I found, through holy curiosity, a place in my heart for her and her cares. We have different politics, but we have the same care.
It is this care that is the heart of the call of God that we read about in the first two readings. Moses shares the mandate to Love the Lord our God. It is this love that is wide enough to encompass even those of differing political opinions. This is underlined in the second reading where Jesus is viewed as THE high priest who does not betray his people. Rather Jesus is the intimate leader in love that shows us the welcome and compassion that is necessary to create a community anchored in the common good.
So let us this week embody the care and community that I experienced in Texas by the end of our gathering. Let us have space for those who disagree and find our connections before the Divine together in a love that overflows all bounds. Then may we be marked by love, perhaps not in the same way as this 80-year-old Texan woman chose to be marked with a tattoo for each of her deceased children, but in some way let us make manifest that we do in deed care for those who differ. Let us remember to love our neighbors as ourselves for this indeed is the reign of God.
Simone Campbell, SSS
Simone Campbell, SSS
Sister Simone Campbell (a Roman Catholic Sister of Social Service) is a religious leader, attorney, and author with extensive experience in public policy and advocacy for systemic change. For almost 17 years she was the executive director of NETWORK, Lobby for Catholic Social Justice and leader of Nuns on the Bus. In 2010, she wrote the “nuns’ letter” that was seminal in the passage of the Affordable Care Act. She has twice spoken at the Democratic National Conventions, appeared on numerous television and radio programs and received many awards including a “Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award” and the “Defender of Democracy Award” from the Parliamentarians for Global Action. Prior to her work in Washington, this native Californian did interfaith state-based advocacy in Sacramento and for 18 years was the founder and lead attorney at the Community Law Center in Oakland to serve the family law and probate needs of working poor families in Alameda County. Her two books, A Nun on the Bus (2014) and Hunger for Hope (2020), are award winning reflections on the substance of her life and the call to faithful justice seeking.
Take an opportunity to read and reflect on the Sunday readings during the first five weeks of Lent. Participants are provided with links to reflections on the Lectionary readings (Cycle A) written by scholars -- including weekly preaching from Catholic Women Preach. Then, each week participants share their insights in an online community discussion, guided by a facilitator.MORE INFO/REGISTER
Advertise with Catholic Women Preach: email Russ at firstname.lastname@example.org