From the Top of Their Heads to the Soles of Their Feet: Pope Francis Gets Low

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So, I have never professed to be an expert, much less informed on religion. This is even more so the case with Catholicism. I know very little about the rituals, specific traditions, and nuances of the Catholic Church. What I know about is stereotypes. And as we know, not only are stereotypes generally negative, in so very many cases they are hurtful. They perpetuate division and miscommunication among people. With that said, I am a person of faith. I believe wholeheartedly in God, in Christ, and in my specific responsibility and call to join my heart with as many others as I can. And I also believe (sometimes foolishly) that if you are a person of ANY faith, at the very root of your doctrine is elevating a greater purpose, a higher calling, and a shared commitment to love. Loving in action, not words or donations. Demonstrating faith through relationship, willing connection to those most in need, most fractured, most hurt. Awkward silence, and complete and utter cluelessness be damned, faith communities are called to reconcile with each other and model grace and understanding.

Of course, the execution of this gets all jacked up. In every religion, denomination, congregation, Mother’s board and even the music ministry we get distracted by our humanity. The culprits? The illusion of power, the unwillingness to pray/reflect, the need to control, and good old-fashioned fear. We choke, and in response, we build bubbles that become space, that become distance, that become detachment, that becomes a canyon between you and the “other.” You know, the one you think you have nothing in common with; the one who made their bed and now must lie in it. The one who should’ve have no better. Ironically, we forget we could say those things about ourselves on any given day.

All this to say that I was so disturbed to see the so-called outrage and discomfort traditionalists had with the new leader of the Vatican, Pope Francis conducting a Holy Week ritual of washing feet in a juvenile detention center. Last Thursday, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 juvenile detainees, to include a Muslim and female detainees. He washed, dried, and kissed their feet to honor and re-enact the act of Jesus washing the feet of his 12 disciples just a day before he was beaten and ultimately crucified.

While some were encouraged by this act, many were angry and disturbed that the Pope would include women in this ritual, let alone someone of a faith as controversial as Muslim. Folks went so far as to speculate that because he washed the feet of female, he would eventually promote the ordination of female priests.

All I could say was pump your brakes, you nit wits. First of all, from a strictly surface level, you should be grateful Pope Francis is hitting the pavement and raising visibility for the positive and engaging work of the Catholic Church. I alluded to stereotypes earlier and we all know that priests, and the Catholic Church in general have a mighty tough road to tow around combating negative press, the assumption of ultra conservative, sexist, and even criminal activity in the church.

As a single black mom, the last place I’m looking for a supportive ear is the Catholic Church. But when I spotted Pope Francis scrubbing that young person’s tootsies, I thought, wow is that a glimmer of humility I see? It literally warmed my heart, and blessed my spirit to see.

The divisions, judgments, and condemnations perpetuated by the church (not just Catholicism) have personally hurt and shook me at very pivotal points in my life. And at the center of it all was the punitive, self-righteous, fear based gospel. Their words and actions would say:

-You are not loved by God as you are.
-You must be perfect to please God.
-You are your sins, good luck moving past them

Well damn. If, after getting up early on a Sunday, putting on eyeliner and clothes that I actually have to iron, and dropping something in the offering plate, that’s the message I receive, why would I ever want to engage with “the Church,” or let a church leader in to my heart?

I saw Pope Francis throw some of that old guard piety out the stained glass window, and literally get down on his knees to serve the “least of us.” He told them he was no better than them, that he is there for him as is God, and made himself their servant. Servant to the throw aways, the sinners, the unforgiven. Kinda sounds familiar, huh (ever heard of Jesus)?

Could it be that the naysayers’ anxiety and contempt for this act made them face a terrifying question: If the highest of our leaders made himself small to serve criminals what am I going to be on the hook for? Am I going to have to cross the bridge I’ve been building so long to look in the eyes of those I pretend not to see?

Maybe. Just maybe.

As I said, I am not hip to the complexities, contexts, and background that may also be feeding into this negative reaction. So by all means, shoot Betty a line, and educate me.

What I am hip to though, is my spirit. The God in me was greeted and blessed by this act of service to those in need of the most grace, the most love, and the most forgiveness. I appreciated the nudge to walk the walk of offering love to everyone we encounter.

Now you might say, “Whatever, Betty. I ain’t washing no damn feet, and you know you ain’t either.”

Just consider this: its not the magnitude or details of a loving act that matters. It’s just the act itself. The gesture. The offer; without expectation of reciprocity or reward.

Now that’s the kingdom, baby. That’s how I want to live out my faith while I’m here.

Go ‘head, Pope Francis.

BB

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Higher than This: Trusting Self in 2012

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement. – Golda Meir

On this Resurrection Day, I’m pushing myself to live out  a resurgence of faith…in myself.  Logic is a cunning distraction.  The if’s and but’s of reasoning and deduction whittle away at my trust of self.

The eternal truth lies in acts of instinct.  Rooted in prayer and discernment with community, yes.  BUT, listen to the whispers of opportunity that haunt you.  They are dying to be nurtured.  Days and weeks of contemplation turn to months of pondering, then years of stagnant slumber.  No more.

It is passion that lies at the heart of  a pure deed.  Such an act reflects a genuine love and honoring of life, because regret will have no doubt on which to feed; one’s soul can enjoy rest and more importantly, restoration, facing each new day unrestricted by the past.

I must live into God’s’ unwavering love; despite the contradictions, disappointments and betrayals the linger.  I must honor the miracles I see every day by creating some of my own.

You gotta let go of your insecurity
Explore the passion in your possibilities
You will find love and no love
can be higher than this
What can be Higher than this

-from “Higher Than This” by Ledisi

Resurrect hope.

Celebrate life.

Be brave and free.

BB

QUESTION: What are you bring back to life this year?

This little light of mine…

As Holy Week begins, I reflect on the joy that awaits, mercies always renewed, and the blessings that are mine if only I have the faith to uncover and cultivate them.  Let’s demand justice, give voice to the pain of the unheard, and celebrate our God given gifts. Don’t dim the light that shines in you!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Nelson Mandela

 

 

Finding some damn peace (and quiet)

“To be at one with God is to be at peace …
peace is to be found only within, and unless
one finds it there he will never find it at all.
Peace lies not in the external world. It lies
within one’s own soul.”
—Ralph Waldo Trine

Peacemaking will always begin at home for me. And when I say at home what I mean more specifically is that when I seek peace, I must first seek to find it in myself. I believe the battle for peace within drives the causes, movements, relationships, and interactions we seek out—or conversely, the ones that we don’t seek out or even avoid. I find that the very thing that has the potential to fill the cracks in my heart is precisely the situation from which I withdraw. What is it within us that causes us to deny ourselves peace; why do we ignore the opportunity to heal? The opportunity I speak of is the one to engage with the world around us. Not simply offer commentary on global news or the latest YouTube sensation. But to actually step across the line to bump against, comfort or be comforted, laugh with, empower, learn from or teach, the kid with the cornrows, the refugee, the entrepreneur, the single mom, the holy and the fallen—these acts of faith in our humanity create space for peace to grow where fear and pain once dominated. It need not be a mission or an elaborately planned expedition across the world. Look right out your window, across the hallway at work, and on the sidewalk of every neighborhood in our city, and you will see a need for peace. More importantly, look in the mirror, and be honest about what you see. Set aside doubt and divisiveness, and put trust and inclusivity in its place. Reserve judgment and see the potential in the most unexpected place: within. Fear and the drive to individualism allow us to forget that we need each other for peace to be a reality. The gift of peace cannot be fully experienced if we keep it to ourselves. Peace cannot be achieved apart from community. The sweetest surprise, however, may be that the key to peace within is submitting to the interdependence of our community and owning our place in it.

Stay up, sisters and friends.  Fight for your peace.  I’m with you all the way.

BB