Passing a Milestone in America
Fr. George Smiga
May 19 – 20, 2012
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13
The teaching of Jesus does not change, but the impact of that teaching is greatly influenced by the circumstances in which we live. This week we as a country passed an important milestone that radically influences our circumstances. I want to bring your attention to this milestone not just because it is important, but also because it has an impact on the teaching of Christ. That teaching can be found in today’s second reading which comes from the letter to the Ephesians. This letter reminds us that Jesus came to save all people and indeed to make us one: “There is one body, one spirit, . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of us all.”
Because Christ’s mission is to make us one, we as followers of Christ are committed to work against the divisions that separate us one from another. We are one in Christ Jesus and therefore we are committed to serve and love not only people who are like us, but all people in our world however different they may be. This teaching of unity in Christ reveals the sin of prejudice. Whenever we exclude or ignore another person because of their race, nationality, or background, we introduce a division into the very world that Christ has come to make one. This teaching of Christ runs against our normal human inclination. We naturally love and cherish those who are like us and tend to be fearful and dismissive about those who are different than us. Yet Jesus reminds us that we must treat all people as our brothers and sisters.
There’s nothing new here. The teaching of Christ has been true from the beginning of Christianity. You have all heard this teaching time and again in homilies and education settings. But this teaching of Christ takes on a new perspective when we place it in light of the milestone we passed as a nation this week.
White people of European origin have, for a long time, been in the majority of the American population. Most of here this morning come from that cultural background. We have lived our lives as part of that majority. This week for the first time in our nation’s history, there were more children born to minority families in the United States than were born to white families. This, of course, is part of a larger trend which projects that in a number of decades the number of white Americans will be an actual minority in this country. But what happened this week indicates that already white people are a minority in the youngest members of our population.
Therefore, in the next couple of years Asian, Hispanic, and Black children will predominate in the nurseries and schools of our country. The moral question for white Americans is: Will we see those children as our children? It is still true that white people over fifty control the vast amount of wealth in the United States and the most political influence. So, are we willing to use our wealth and our influence in order to insure a quality of life to children who are very different from our own? We would do this willingly and with great sacrifice for our own children and grandchildren. But are we willing to make that sacrifice and give our resources for children who look different than our children and grandchildren? Are we willing to commit ourselves to see that Asian, Black, and Hispanic children have solid nutrition, good education, and adequate access to health care?
Of course, when we look at the teaching of Christ, there is no doubt what we should do. Christ clearly directs us to treat all people as our brothers and sisters. But here is the new twist: the statistics that came out this week make it clear that, if we allow prejudice to deny the fullness of life to minority children, America will decline as a country. This is because in a very short time there will not be enough white children to make our country work. We will need more than white children to be healthy and to receive a solid education, because those children will be the doctors, engineers, scientists who will allow our country to innovate and grow. We will need more than white children to have access to a good job, because their work will be what keeps this country competitive. Their salaries will be what funds our Medicare.
So when you put together the milestone of this week together with the teaching of Christ, it leaves us either with a Lose-Lose or a Win-Win. If we allow prejudice to deny quality of life to minority children, we will put our country on a course of economic decline (Lose) and at the same time demonstrate that we are not following the teaching of Christ (Lose). But if we begin to see all children as our children we will demonstrate that we are disciples of Jesus (Win) and at the same time assure our country of a positive future (Win).
I would suggest we go with the Win-Win.