Sacramento, the city named for the precious Body and Blood of Jesus.
March 18, 2018. Three weeks ago, with two weeks left in Lent before Easter.
Stephon Alonzo Clark, age 22, father to 2 young children, fiance to one woman, black man, child of God, was shot.
He was shot 8 times. 6 of those shots were in the back.
He died on the pavement of his grandmother's back porch.
Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York City.
April 4, 2018. 50 years to the day of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
Saheed Vassell, age 35, son, neighbor, sufferer of bipolar disorder, black man, child of God, was fatally shot 9 times by police.
The catalogue of black men and women killed by police goes on and on, and with each name comes the story of a precious human being loved by God and made in his image.
Before we question the criminal history of these men and women, we mourn.
Before we defend those who ended the lives of these men and women, we mourn.
Mourning with those who mourn is what mercy looks like.
"Do you show mercy to the people around you?" my priest asked during his homily this morning, on the Feast of Divine Mercy. "Do you show mercy to people who don't look like you? Or do you only show it to those who look like you?"
Consider this: Your neighbor kid, the one you watched grow up, the one who has had some dealings with the law but is trying to turn his life around. You smile and wave when you see him washing his car in the driveway. You exchange neighborly hellos when you're at your mailboxes at the same time.
One evening, you hear the news that he was killed by police. He was unarmed, but the police thought they saw a gun. How do you feel?
Your heart breaks for the loss of your neighbor, the beautiful person whose life was not supposed to end so soon. He was a neighbor, a friendly acquaintance, a son, a child of God.
If he looks like you, talks like you, believes like you, lives with you--how do you feel?
If he doesn't look like you, what feels different?
Who was the neighbor that Jesus called 'good'? It was the one who encountered a beaten man he didn't know with bruises he couldn't explain or justify. It was the one who took care of him extravagantly, who did not abandon him or make excuses. It was the one who showed mercy to him.
Brothers and sisters, if our first response to the news of the death of a fellow human being isn't mercy and mourning, we need to repent.
If our first response reveals a lack of mercy, we cannot shrink away or absolve ourselves from this. We must let our responses to racial violence, tension, and injustice be saturated with the mercy of God. We are to radiate the mercy of God to every person we encounter. We repent where our hearts are hardened and we weep and mourn.
May we today, on this Feast of Divine Mercy, let the mercy of God wash over us and lead us to repentance where we have failed to extend the mercy of God to others, especially those who do not look like us.
May we learn what mercy looks like in our communities in times of peace and in times of trial, especially learning from the witness of our black brothers and sisters who have endured harsh treatment and many injustices based on the color of their skin.
May we see the gaping holes that exist in our society caused by racial injustice. We pray for the day when in Sacramento, young black men are given the benefit of the doubt so that they may live another day to know the Sacraments of the Church, especially the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We pray for the day when in Crown Heights in Brooklyn, young black men receive the community resources and advocacy they need so that they can replace the ashes of mourning with a shining crown. We pray that every life would be counted sacred, and that we would mourn to show the mercy of God.
May Jesus, our Fountain of Mercy, pour himself out on us through the Holy Spirit, that we may be merciful as our Father in heaven is merciful.