To believe, to hope:
This is the Christian's grace in our time.
When many give up hope,
When it seems to them the nation has nowhere to go,
As though it were all over,
The Christian says: No,
We have not yet begun.
We are still awaiting God's grace.
For me, this is the greatest honor in the mission
The Lord has entrusted to me:
To be maintaining that hope
And that faith in God's people
And to tell them:
People of God, be worthy of that name.
- Blessed Óscar Romero
Homily on September 2, 1979, reproduced in The Violence of Love
In honor of Blessed Óscar Romero's feast day March 24, I thought of how he continues to inspire me and many of us. His truth-telling and martyrdom offers me a real example of how I can stand with my sisters and brothers, the people of God.
I stand with high school students each day. Their experiences, desires, pain and suffering root me in a real invitation to love.
On good days, I teach. On better days, I learn.
So, I asked them what they think God's dream for our world was. I was inspired by Romero's description of hope and how hope bears fruit for us.
Below is a meditation on hope and God's kin-dom through Romero's words and the words of some members of the high school class of 2017.
When asked about what they learned about themselves:
Today I learned that as much as I have tried to step outside my bubble, there is still a lot I don't know about people who have had different experiences than me. I learned that being white is, and always has been, a default characteristic for me, not something I would consider to define me. We live in a world where white kids don't have to grow up thinking about race and what race means for them in society, but that is the reality for all children of color in America. Most importantly, what I learned, is that I want to learn more and know more about the experiences that I will never have, solely because I am white.
I learned that I have been putting myself in the box — like society does for me. It made me think about how I used to identify myself and how I identify myself as now. It definitely changed over time and I feel that it is important to constantly think about that so I do not continue to put myself in the box.
It is difficult for me personally to talk about identity and cultural inequity because I feel partly responsible and guilty in being the benefactor of racial oppression. I have not experienced the oppressive narrative many other cultures and races live every day, and it is difficult to put myself in their shoes and be vulnerable. Relating my story to the story of other cultures and races is worlds apart, and therefore can be hard to articulate and understand. I know change is first fostered through listening, so it is important to keep in mind the endurance in vulnerability required for empathetic conversation on identity. I believe that God's dream for the world is in fostering a fully equitable and united human family in community.
When asked about God's dream for the world:
God's dream for the world is for every one of his children to be able to freely be who they want without the fear of others' judgement. God hopes that we can be honest, open and loving to everyone we encounter. I learned that I fear leaving California because I am Asian. I learned that I am lucky I don't feel scared where I live now.
God's dream for the world is for us to be equal and to be brothers and sisters together. We have to help our neighbors, refugees and those who are strangers to us. By being generous, loving and caring to others, we showcase our human kindness which stems from God. God's dream is to act more in his image, rather than off of emotions and feelings.
God's dream for the world is to see humans overcome the ugliness [of the world so that we can] heal and grow. God wants us as humans to realize that despite our outward appearance there is nothing separating us.
I believe that God's dream for the world is for us to be more compassionate and listen to understand all people. We need to acknowledge that each individual's experience is unique in order to connect with others and grow as people.
I think God's Dream for the world is for us brothers and sisters to stop being so silly and be open to love because we all seek love and a relationship. God wants us to be understanding and be open to growth and hearing other's experiences.
God's dream for the world is for us to love as big and hard as he loves us. His dream for us is to accept one another because we are all made in his image. His dream is for us to simply be happy. That shouldn't be a lot to ask.
God's dream for the world is for people be able to show their identity to others and for people to be their authentic selves. He wants us to be able to accept one another for who they are and to not persecute them for being different. That is what I think his dream is.
I think God's dream for the world is to create a world where all people of different walks of life can be their most authentic self. God wants a world where people don't walk in fear because of who they are. We must not just learn to coexist but to thrive and rebuild.
Prayers to you, our future and our present. May the Class of 2017 be bearers of hope in the shadows of our broken communities. May we all live into God's dream for us all.
[Jocelyn A. Sideco is a retreat leader, spiritual director and innovative minister who specializes in mission-centered ministry. She directs the Community Service and Social Justice office at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. Visit her online ecumenical ministry, In Good Company, at ingoodcompany.net.co or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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