We Cannot do Everything
$90 million has been cut from the Dept. of Social Services
6500 children will lose their access to basic needs in January, 2016
Cities and municipalities could lose their ability to listen to their residents and raise the minimum wage or set benefits standards--such as paid maternity leave--to support working families.
All of this has happened just in our state in the last 3 weeks. And 300,000 Missourians will continue to live without access to health care because our lawmakers did not expand Medicaid.
If we widened the lens of injustice, we would also see pain and despair caused by racial and economic disparity in Baltimore; a drought in California that is hurting poor Latino migrant workers the most and large fracking corporations the least; hundreds of African and Middle Eastern migrants drowning in the Mediterranean; and 213 Nigerian girls, recently rescued from their captors, pregnant with the children of their kidnappers and abusers.
That's enough sorrow to make someone throw up her hands and cry, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"
Yesterday afternoon, after learning about the legislature's veto override of SB 24 but before heading up to the "Faith in Ferguson" monthly prayer service at Our Lady of Guadalupe, I sat in my car and prayed aloud, "God, I'm here to build your kingdom, I'm here to do your will, I'm here to bring glad tidings to the poor and proclaim liberty to the captives, but I'm failing. I must be the wrong person for the task."
I arrived at Our Lady of Guadalupe heartbroken. I cried on my friend's shoulder; I told God that I didn't really mean it as I sang the opening song, "Here I am, Lord."
However, this month's "Faith in Ferguson" was incredibly special. First of all, it was Cinquo de Mayo, so Marie Kenyon, the new director of the Archdiocese's Peace and Justice Commission, reflected on the need for greater Catholic participation in the fight for just and humane immigration reform. Also, May 23 is the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, and Sr. Cathy Doherty had put together a beautiful liturgy that honored him.
Archbishop Romero lived among the poorest and most marginalized people in El Salvador. He not only provided them with basic needs, but he also spoke out against the political structures that were oppressing them. On the radio, he delivered sermons where he condemned the human rights abuses of the military and El Salvadorean government, even though he was receiving death threats. He even asked President Jimmy Carter to stop sending military aid to El Salvador--but President Carter did not listen. Archbishop Romero continued to work--in spite of the hopelessness that surrounded the situation in El Salvador--until he was assassinated on March 24, 1980.
During the prayer service, I found myself saying, "Give me the courage to continue going forth, as Romero did."
Towards the end of "Faith in Ferguson," we prayed the what is often called "The Romero Prayer." It is lengthy, so I will not copy it all here. But here are a few lines:
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This morning I woke up and prayed, "Okay God, I'm here to do your will, but you need to help me feel a sense of liberation after I try and fail to change so many of our legislators' disregard for the poor. Please remind me that I cannot do everything."
I still don't know if this was the "right" prayer, but it got me back to my office today. It also gave me the hope to organize some of our clergy and lay people to call their representatives and tell them to VOTE NO on that bill that would take away the ability of cities and municipalities to raise the minimum wage.