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The Jesuit Antiracism Sodality East

“Prince of Peace, break the weapons of war” – Liturgy of the Hours, Solemnity of Christ the King

 

Desolation

“How are you?” a colleague asks. I am at a holiday networking party for New York City therapists in the evening at the end of one of my busier workdays. I’m prone to getting tired and gloomy after the early sunsets of these latter weeks of the year, but I splashed on a face of makeup and hopped on the subway after my last Zoom session was done and now here I am. Well, I’m here but I’m not really here, I’m here and I am in Gaza.

The suffering of clients in my therapy practice experienced in the wake of this genocide balloons inside my belly – I have been given much to hold. I listen to fears for a partner’s family in the West Bank, the horrors of watching videos of children grasping onto dead parents and mothers cradling dead sons, fury at having one’s Jewish experience or LGBTQ experience being co-opted as justification for ethnic cleansing and mass violence, the shame of attending church services trotting out patronizing prayers for peace.

These stories have been filling me up and making me sick. At night they bubble up and I spit out exhortations on the voice mailboxes of my congresspeople’s phone lines, begging that they advocate for a permanent ceasefire, crying out that as a Catholic voter they will never represent my values by continuing to approve funding for weapons of war.

“How are you?” A question that cannot be answered in this work-related setting. In professionalism’s white supremacist norms, there is no room for the earthquake of watching a genocide in real time. The relentless march of production and consumption requires a quiet fidelity to the status quo. There is only room for momentary discomfort followed by official statements of shallow optimism. There is only room for sobbing quietly on your lunch break. There is only room for a quick fundraiser for children, followed by forgetfulness. There is only room for being here and not really here, here and in Gaza.

I smile and prepare to tell a lie afforded to me by the accident of my birth. I was born an American and thus I am Here, whereas by contrast the people of Palestine are There. We see the people who are There as unfree and us who are Here as free, and perhaps that is the real Original Sin. I say, “I’m fine.”

Consolation

I am having drinks with a friend talking about my decision to forego Christmas Eve mass this year and use those hours of time to pray with the people of Gaza, contemplate the histories of the many people of the Holy Land, and discern how God may be asking to move and act through me in the upcoming year. My friend shares that she is heartened by this, as she has been considering organizing a gathering for people to connect spiritually and grapple with the question of how to be in solidarity with the Palestinian people. She had felt held back by guilt about having known so little about Palestinian suffering prior to recent months, and frustration at not yet having a clear sense of how to put her newfound values into action. We talk about searching for the humility to balance leading and learning, acknowledging our imperfections while striving to do something meaningful. We talk about the necessity of disallowing our privilege as Americans to tempt us into accepting any sense of despair.

I give thanks to God for how God is working in my friend’s mind and heart. God always welcomes us whenever we take up the call to follow the path of Jesus, and requires from us only the desire, not the know how. Together – praying, fumbling, falling, kicking, screaming, desperately practicing, again, again, again, and again – with God, we find our way.

This month’s reflection was provided by Teresa Thompson, a parishioner of the Church of Saint Francis Xavier in New York City. If you would like to volunteer to provide an upcoming reflection, please contact Jason Downer, SJ: jdowner@jesuits.org.

The views and opinions expressed in this reflection do not necessarily reflect those of Jesuits USA East.

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