On this day of “independence” I think back to a reflection from January 1st, 2016. A reflection that asks “who are we when we don’t choose our neighbors?” See below:
January 1st, 2016
Today I asked myself – why am I so afraid of conversion? Even when we profess to live as Christians, even as others admire our walk, it doesn’t mean that we don’t feel fear because conversion makes petitions on our conscience and heart. Conversion asks us: are our brothers and sisters, our eternal neighbors, free? After a decade of activism and organizing, I’m beginning to expand my questions and practices of what revolutionary work truly means. I’m asking myself: who am I as a human being in relation to other human beings? How much do I love others? I am left with the words of Colombian priest Camilo Torres Restrepo (February 3, 1929-February 15, 1966).
(The following is an excerpt from a public letter Camilo wrote requesting he be released from his vows as a priest to become a layperson in the guerrilla movement in Colombia):
“When circumstances exist which make it impossible for people to give themselves to Christ, a priest is called upon in a special way to make war on those circumstances, even if this leads him to forfeit the celebration of the Eucharist, if it not accompanied by the self-giving of Christians, is a ritual devoid of meaning. …The Mass, a chief goal of all priestly activity, is fundamentally a community action. Now the Christian community cannot offer the sacrifice of all the Mass with authenticity if that same community has not been practicing before, and in an effective way, the love of neighbor which the Gospel talks about. I chose Christianity because I believed it to be the purest way of serving my neighbor. I was chosen by Christ to a priest for all eternity, and I was urged on by the desire to dedicate myself twenty-four hours a day to the love of my fellow-man. ….If I make this sacrifice I do so in the belief that my commitment to my fellow-countrymen obliges me to it. The ultimate criterion on human decisions is love, supernatural love; I am prepared to run all the risks that love may ask of me.” (1968).
We live in a world that says sacrificial love does not exist and if it were to exist it would be subject to our convenience. That we cannot truly serve others in a world where the struggle for liberation is on the periphery of “who I know, who I trust to know.” Indeed, even the most so-called revolutionary person acts on this “who I know, who I trust to know.” If we believe in a world where sacrificial love does not exist, then every instinct to love, every urge for love, a right and just love will be false.
We have to fight the body’s wish for mere survival, the culture of death we find ourselves in, and the comforts of our own self-congratulatory love. We have to fight these for those we don’t know. It is there that we come face to face with God in the flesh on earth. It is the ultimate conversion. We may reject conversion as we turn our backs to the suffering of others. When we do that we make an idol of our fear and place that idol before the Eucharist and stand no chance of overcoming it. Yet, even fear knows that our courage can supersede it. Because – what can the world possibly accuse you of that the greatest gift of God couldn’t liberate you from? Have no doubt that you will be called fanatical or made to feel as Christ has no place in the world but that is when your conversion is needed even more.
And, either you decide you desire it or you don’t. You want the truth or you want the lies of the world. For what can be said about conversion in words that the heart wouldn’t glorify in fellowship? What is grace if we fear a paltry death in this world? What is death is we die safely as we have been told to die? If you want to fear conversion and death then fear the deaths of those right next to you, the eternal neighbor of God. The neighbor of God you could have loved but choose to reject. The neighbor with the very heart of Christ in him or her. That neighbor is waiting for a conversion. Don’t chose a paltry death as opposed to a death that is extinguished in the faithfulness of God because love is the precise truth. It is the our freedom.