We had a good meeting here with Congressman Gutierrez Monday evening. The church was filled. Downstairs it was also filled, wall to wall and out into the entrance area to the church. Upstairs was packed, up in the balcony and standing outside the door. Upstairs, we had all the church lights on. The people were more silent than usual, listening, applauding loudly at certain times, when people spoke, when the Congressman spoke. It was a serious meeting. Downstairs we had set up a screen and a speaker so that the crowd could hear and see the speakers. The lights were turned off so that people could better see the projection on the screen. Even though they sat in silence in darkness, they applauded loudly as did those upstairs.
It was something to see so many people sitting silently in darkness downstairs. It reminded me that many millions are living in a kind of darkness, not knowing what the government will do now, listening for words of hope. Trump has said that he is only going after “the criminals” – yet he says there are three million criminals. They are re-implementing the secure communities program, attempting to enlist local police in identifying the undocumented. That lets us know that they plan to deport as many as they can. The lives we have built, the families and friends we have formed, are threatened.
Doris and her family spoke about their situation at the meeting. I pictured in my mind the quinceañera we had last month for her daughter, Izaithell. I was thinking about the whole family that was there, the young women and her brother, the dreamer, with the young men who made up her chamberlanes as she formally passed into womanhood. Here in this church the whole family was blessed by God, for they were gathered in His presence. How could men in government plan to break up what God had blessed and what a loving, hard working family had established?
I wanted to bring those downstairs upstairs, up into the light, out of the darkness, up here with the Virgin of Guadalupe, with the Cross of Jesus and the Holy Sacraments, up here so they could see our Congressman and leaders who had struggled so long and so hard. I realized that millions are living in the darkness of fear, the darkness of not knowing.
Trump announced his executive order: his plan to build a stupid wall, his plan to cut off funding to cities like Chicago which have declared themselves sanctuaries. He also suggested he could send “the Feds” to police the streets of African American and Latino communities of Chicago. He announced that the government would no longer allow entrance from seven majority Muslim countries. Even green holders were held in detention at the airport. “Vetting” included questions like “What do you think about Donald Trump?” Thousands of people came out to demonstrate against and a federal court injunction was won to stop those in detention from being deported. At least in New York, the court order was ignored!
Of course the proposed wall on the border will not stop people coming from Mexico and Central America. It is not a security operation. It is a sign of disrespect and insult to the people of the south, for Latinos and Latin Americans. It is an attempt to show U.S. power over them. The same is true with the attack on sanctuary cities, cities where Trump was defeated badly in the last election. Trump is saying, “I can destroy you if I want. I can deport you.” Trump is criminalizing a whole Latino population, not only in the United States but on the whole continent, labeling them rapists and murderers and thieves, using the authority of the President of the United States, attempting to put millions in the darkness.
If you were paying attention you would have also seen this week that Trump reversed Obama’s decision to halt the pipeline through Native American burial grounds, a pipeline that threatens the water and the earth of the original people of this land.
This is the same white nationalism, historically, of the men who committed genocide on the native Americans, who brought slavery to this land, that stole Texas and Arizona and New Mexico and Colorado and California from Mexico, new states in which Mexicans were lynched and – after they were used – from which they were deported, sometimes even if they were citizens!
We will fight back. We will defend ourselves. We have resources. We have the majority of the people with us now. We can do many things, powerful effective things – but first we must get our minds right, we must come up out of the darkness!
Scripture tells us of a time when the people lived in darkness. They were labeled. To the Romans they were all potential terrorists, rebels. To the Priests who did the Romans work, they were people to control, using their own religion and their own traditions against them. The priests called them sinners if they resisted. In other words, they turned the power of their faith against them and joined this darkness with the threat of death by the Romans. This is what Jesus faced, the challenge he faced.
We learned last week that the first step in the plan of Jesus to renew and prepare the people was to select his disciples. To train them – and to strengthen their commitment – he would show them how to reach the people. Their first lesson was in the power of healing. Jesus began by healing a leper. The leper showed faith when he had asked Jesus to heal him saying, “You can heal me if you are willing.” Jesus declared, “I am willing.” When Jesus healed him he told him to go to the temple and demand his rights. Later Jesus was teaching in a crowded hut. Four men brought a paralyzed man to be healed. To get him to Jesus they had to lift him up to the roof, cut a hole and lower him down. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven, get up and walk” – and the man got up and walked!
The condition that kept the leper from his rights as a human being was skin deep. His skin had been made to appear ugly, abnormal. He was discriminated against, forced to hide his face. Trump’s war on the undocumented affects all Latinos because it focuses discrimination and hate against them. After Jesus healed him he told him to go take his rightful place in the temple.
What was required for Jesus to heal him of this discrimination? He said “You can heal me if you are willing.” He had to believe he could be healed. He had himself to be willing to be healed. Are you willing to stand up against the hatred and discrimination that is being leveled against you? When voices around you accuse you and threaten you, are you willing to stand up? When they threaten your family and those you love, will you stand up?
If you will, says Jesus, then God will make you whole! God is willing and God is able! God will let you know that you are a child of God, one among the people of God, among His people – and no weapon formed against you can strike you down or force you back into the darkness.
The leper was isolated even from his own people, maybe from his own family. Yet because he was willing to stand up he was surrounded and loved by them. Healing restores the unity of the people of God and in that unity there is power. If you are arrested tomorrow by immigration they will ask you to sign a voluntary departure. If you refuse and reach out to Familia Latina Unida you will see your community rise up in your defense. If you are willing, you will be healed!
If your son is arrested and beaten by police tomorrow, they will take him to jail and tell him to plead guilty. If he refuses, if he denounces publically what the police did to him, then his community will rally around him shouting that “Black and Brown Lives Matter” and he will be healed because he was willing!
The community, the people of God, cannot defend you and save you if you are not willing, if you do not come before God and know from the Almighty that you are His child, that you are one of His people, and from that experience gain the courage to resist. You see that is where the courage and the determination to resist the wickedness of a Donald Trump comes from. No you are not perfect. You have done things to your own people that are hateful. The memories of those things make you weak in the face of your accusers. Yet if you confess before God as you did this morning, he forgives you, he makes you clean and he restores you to his people and to a community of resistance and love. If God forgives you then no man, no authority on earth, can make you feel guilty or ashamed.
Discrimination goes deep. It is subtle. It surrounds you even as a child. You feel the hate aimed at you even when you don’t recognize from where it comes. It paralyzes you. It keeps you from learning, from developing into your full potential as a human being. This kind of paralysis, once it has set in, requires more than that you are willing to be healed. It requires solidarity. It requires love. The four friends that carried the paralytic to see Jesus, who refused to be kept out by the crowds, who lifted him up to the roof and cut a hole and lowered him down – that is the solidarity we need. That is why we need to organize, to build Familia Latina Unida and the Fuerza Juventud. When racism and discrimination and hate have paralyzed the spirit and the potential of someone we need to surround them with love and with determined struggle. We need to show them by our solidarity that they are one of God’s people.
Jesus told the paralytic when he healed him that “Your sins are forgiven.” The hypocritical priests objected, telling Jesus that only God could forgive sins. In fact, they were telling him that only the high priest in the temple, the one who made a deal with the Romans to continue their oppression, could forgive sins. Yet Jesus told them that it should now be known that the son of man has the power to forgive sins.
We have the power to forgive through our solidarity, to restore each other no matter what we have done. Through our faith we can bring a person to know that God forgives them and that God is with them. The four friends had brought the paralytic to Jesus. They had defied the authority of those who told them to submit to the authority of the Romans. They did not do the work of their oppressors. They did not adopt the attitude of their oppressors, laughing at him, isolating him. No, through their solidarity the paralytic was brought before God and saw himself in God’s eyes as one of the people of God – and he was healed.
When the Donald Trumps of the world call you rapists and murderers and thieves it can make you remember your weaknesses. It can make you weak. Yet through solidarity you are restored to God’s forgiveness, reconciliation and renewal – and the lies and the hypocrisies of those who accuse you are exposed and defeated!
We come here to this church – and remember that church is anywhere that two or three are gathered together in His name – you come before God, you confess and receive the forgiveness and reconciliation with God and with the people of God. The discrimination that isolated you is washed away. The hate that paralyzed you is removed.
I know that the solidarity of the four friends is offered through an embrace, a kind word in difficult times, through prayer together. Yet this year we will be reminded that faith without works is dead. When someone is in trouble, they need prayer and expressions of love – but that spiritual support needs to be expressed in actions. If someone accepts the label the wicked put on them they need more than for you to take them to church. They need an invitation to join with you in common struggle!
It is true that young boys and girls are often taught to be ashamed of their parents. It is true that the dreamers were called on to denounce their parents as criminals in order to proclaim their own innocence and to find a place in the so-called American Dream. We want them to know their own history and the history of the courage of their parents struggle. That s a start – but it is not enough. That is why we have the youth health service corps. That is why we give them the knowledge and the resources to fight the twenty year death gap that exists for those who do not have insurance and health care. Service and struggle in solidarity and resistance confirms the spiritual and makes it strong.
Are there some among our people that cannot be forgiven, that cannot be healed? Jesus began with the leper, skin deep, and then went deeper to the paralytic. Next week Jesus will call out the demons that hatred places even deeper in a man or a woman’s Spirit. Walk with us as we walk with Jesus.
Did the disciples learn the power of healing? We will see in June during the season of Pentecost that the first thing the disciples do to begin the movement again is to heal a lame beggar. They walked with Jesus to the Cross – as we are walking this year. He taught them as he is teaching us and they were made ready as we are being made ready this year.
Last Monday we appealed to those gathered here to become “defenders” and “mobilizers” for Familia Latina Unida and the FuerZa Juventud. We will begin the trainings and the deployment of those trained in February. There are cards here to sign up today if you have not yet signed up. There are millions coming alive in resistance across this country. No walls can separate us. No laws and no executive orders can defeat us. The shadow that was cast on the people this week as Trump assumed the Presidency can only keep those in darkness who do not know the light. Yet the light is here. The light has always been and will always be here. Wherever two or three are gathered together in faith and action, in courage and determination, God is with them. God is with us – and he is our light and our salvation, of whom shall we be afraid? Amen? Amen! Amen!
The Holy Scriptures for the Fourth Week in the Time of Galilee
Luke 4: 4-11 Jesus Calls His First Disciples
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch. Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man! For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Luke 5:12-16 Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy.[b] When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing, he said.“Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 5: 17-26 Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man
One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”