Are You a Member of a Community of Conscience?

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By Sister Jeanne Christensen

The readings for the Palm Sunday liturgy are familiar to all of us. Most familiar is Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Because of my advocacy against human trafficking, the analogy between untying the donkey and colt and untying or unbinding persons who are trafficked is real.

A particular method that binds trafficked persons is psychological. Many ask why the victims do not just leave. Most victims suffer from a powerful trauma bond with their trafficker. This bond results because the predator uses force, fraud or coercion to control or bind their victims, to take away their freedom. If a victim gains freedom from their trafficker, she or he will require intense therapy to recover. Sometimes they cannot heal and may return to bondage. When survivors of trafficking succeed in remaining free, they celebrate their resilience, their courage and their freedom to begin a new life. Their celebration may not be as triumphant as Jesus’ celebrated entry into Jerusalem; but like Jesus beginning a new aspect of His earthly mission, trafficking survivors are beginning a new life of freedom and healing.

I wonder, are you and I bound? Who might loosen our bindings and how would we celebrate that? Jesus knew what the future held for Him, but we do not. So if unbound, how do we celebrate even when we do not know what will come in our future?

Before trying to answer this question, I turned to the reading from Isaiah. I began to reflect on these lines: “God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. . . . He opens my ears that I may hear and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. . . . God is my help.  . . . I am not disgraced.  . . . I shall not be put to shame.” Even though we are not going into our city in triumph, speaking up is strong way to draw others into dialogue and/or action.

Right now, with the 2020 presidential election campaign heating up, an extremely partisan Congress, gun violence in our cities, our borders closed to keep “illegal aliens” and “suspected Islamic terrorists” out of our country, and threats of war and nuclear proliferation overtaking the news media, I am weary to the bone! We demand diplomacy and passage of meaningful legislation.

I asked myself, “What am I called to do as Mercy, as a person of faith?” Using my voice is my immediate response. Speaking the truth in charity and with respect and integrity requires courage, trust, humility and compassion. I have a moral responsibility to speak up and to advocate for the passage of laws that could end gun violence, reduce the threat of war, reform immigration laws, and release our migrant sisters and brothers from detention and admit them into the United States. I have a moral responsibility to vote when the time comes. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issue a document every four years, prior to the presidential election cycle. Its title is Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility. In 2004, an early version of the document said:

“Catholic moral framework does not easily fit the ideologies of ‘right’ or ‘left.’ Nor the platforms of any party. Our values are often not ‘politically correct.’

As believers, we must be a community of conscience within the larger society and test public life by the values of Scripture and the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. Our responsibility is to measure all candidates, policies, parties and platforms by how they protect or undermine the life, dignity and rights of the human person; whether they protect the poor and vulnerable and advance the common good.”

Our Mercy Critical Concerns call us to the same. Can we speak and act with integrity, respect, compassion? Will I? Will you? Will we?