Even as my hands rest, the destruction in my name does not. I may stop to sleep, but my dollars do not. I may love, but my consent to injustice does not. As a human being, as a student, as a U.S. citizen, as a consumer, as a Catholic, as a member of the Ignatian family, how do I walk with the poor? How do I do what love requires?
To do what love requires is a journey. I stand here today, four years after my first experience with the Ignatian family, and I know where that journey, for me, began. It started on my first trip in high school to the School of the Americas Vigil. Attending the ISN Family Teach-In for the first time four years ago, I was introduced to the concept of social justice. I was challenged to walk with the poor, not simply donate to their cause. I stood outside the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, and I saw both police and crosses. I considered how I was connected to both. As a U.S. citizen, that School and its guards are funded with my tax dollars. I am a human, and there is a human name on that cross. I pay for the School that caused the death of the human on that cross. That complicity does not reflect my love. Beginning with that experience, it has been the journey of walking with others and discovering what it means to do what love requires, which has brought injustice into focus, that journey has placed injustice in my hands.
My journey continued the following year. I made the trip to Georgia with Veterans for Peace. Then the next year, I traveled with my fellow students at Loyola University Chicago to the Vigil. Each year, my experience at the Vigil and the Teach-In has evolved. The School has not been closed, so I continue to make the trip, to hold vigil. And each year, my understanding of how I participate in injustice has evolved. I have learned more about the history of injustice perpetuated by my government, a history that was not shared with me as a child. A history, and a reality, that would not be shared with me even today, if I were not open to it. Yet it is a reality that I am invited to claim if I want to begin the process of changing it.
To change that reality, to walk with the poor, the suffering and the oppressed, as I was invited to do at my first Teach-In, I must first withdraw my consent to injustice, in order to love. I am invited to identify my participation in the systems that allow injustice. Only then can I begin to resist, and begin to walk in solidarity with the poor. I can challenge where I place my loyalties, is it in my government or is it in my people? I can discover where violence exists in my life, who suffers at the ends of the policies, positions, and power that I hold? Only then can I envision another reality, and begin to walk with the poor, to do what love requires. Does love require dialogue with legislators to make policy changes about Climate Change, Immigration and the SOA? Is that dialogue enough? Can I walk with the poor and still rest in the system that keeps them poor? What does it mean to protest or hold vigil? To disrupt the system? Beyond government, how else does my lifestyle affect these issues? The food I eat, the clothes I buy, and the conversations I share can all be challenged to support an active love, yet it isn’t easy. Where am I on my journey to walk with the poor, on my journey to do what love requires? Where are you on your journey? Once I admit to my brokenness, my participation in injustice, I am called to believe in a power greater than my own. I am vulnerable in that brokenness, and in that vulnerability; I have found my need for community.
I discovered that community here first. That first year, welcomed into the Ignatian family, I felt the strength in community. I was challenged and supported at one time in the Jesuit mass, in the community of people gathered together to share in a meal that is both life giving and unsettling in its call to action. I returned to that community the next year, and the year after that, ready for that challenge and yearning for that support. I have not made this journey alone. I cannot challenge systems of injustice on my own. I do not challenge my complicity alone. The gospel calls us to turn away from sin, and in that journey we turn away together, we walk strong together. Who do we walk with? Who do we invite to walk with us? As a part of the Ignatian family, I am invited to draw in both the politician and the persecuted poor into one vision of love. I am invited to identify those people suffering from the effects of climate change, people crossing the border into the U.S., and those people killed at the hands of the graduates of the SOA, as part of our community. Their pain becomes my pain. Their suffering, is tied up in my own. Their strength, their inspiration and their love, are the hope that we share. To walk together, with the poor, and live the prophecy of an active love, we need each other. Together we can do what love requires.