As a child, I found it horrifying to say these words with the congregation. I could not fathom shouting them out about anyone, let alone Jesus.
I am reminded of a Las Posadas procession during Advent at Saint Dominic’s Church in San Francisco. The congregation says, “No! There is no room!” at each door on the church property upon which the children portraying Mary and Joseph knock. I heard instead a little girl proclaim, “There is room! Let them in!”
We hear in the reading from Isaiah:
The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear…
Children have a keen sense of justice and “well-trained tongues,” ready to rouse those who have become complacent about unjust systems and behaviors. As many of us grow up, we seem to lose the voice of the young child who insists there is room or refuses to join the call for crucifixion or revenge or exclusion. We begin to believe the lie that the issues are just too big or too complicated.
Currently, I am caring for a family member at her Mercy Housing apartment near Sixth and Howard in San Francisco. It is a lovely community; she and I have been blessed by interactions with our neighbors, both housed and unhoused. Sixth and Howard is a place of both life and death. You may notice, in the upper right corner of the picture, the Salesforce Tower, a symbol of wealth and power in San Francisco. Mercy Housing, Tenderloin Neighborhood Housing, Hospitality House and the International Street Team are all part of my neighborhood, serving people who are poor and vulnerable. They also have power in the city, but very little wealth. I am struck by the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty, of power and powerlessness, I see and experience every day.
I turn to Jesus who certainly experienced the same type of dissonance in the communities he encountered. I am inspired by the way Jesus LIVES his life within these tensions, even to the end. He has compassion right until his very last breath when he forgives from the cross. He presents a different model of power when he admonishes his disciples, “to be the leader, become the servant.”
Jesus’ actions point the way through the centuries and today in San Francisco, at our borders and in our churches. He came to show us how to live and how to love. He lived so well that his very life challenges both his structures and our structures. Ultimately, these challenges led to the cross but ultimately to resurrection. So too, we are called to empty ourselves, become humble, and truly listen to the people and places calling for a powerful voice to rouse the weary into loving without bounds.
Sister Colleen Mcdermott, OP