‘I have a dream … a dream of sons of former slaves and sons of former slave-owners sitting at the table of brotherhood a dream where children will not be judged by the colour of their skin a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places shall be made plain and the crooked places shall be made straight and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.’ – Martin Luther King.
In our journey towards this year’s Valentine Day, Ash Wednesday, Lent and Easter, today’s Racial Justice and Transfiguration Sunday prepares and calls us to a positive expectations for the healing of the world and church from racial leprosy. Today is another opportunity to reflect on the importance of racial justice and to pray for an end to misunderstanding, racism and injustice. Today’s gospel reading summons us to transfigure, to transform, to metamorphosis from racial leprosy because God is not colour coded.
As we talk and reflect on race, it is important to note that God never created nor explicitly structure us racially and yet racism is terrible and widespread in our society and in the church. The truth is that God’s work and mission is too important to be contained in the life experience of one race. To see the glory of God at work in our nation and church, we need healing and transformation from racial leprosy that continue to eat to the bloodstream of the world and the church and the healing must start from the church as the light and salt of the world.
William Stingfellow provides us a better understanding of racism. According to him, racism is ‘a demonic power which works its awful influence in our lives.’ Racism is present in both explicit terms, ‘as verbal and physical abuse, but also in less explicit ways, more hidden and unconscious, what some term ‘white supremacy’ or ‘whiteness.’ Many may deny or considered ourselves racist, ‘yet we inhabit a society and a continent with a long history of racism, through its colonialism of much of the rest of the world and forcibly transporting black people as slaves across the Atlantic.’ Indeed, it was a long time ago, but we are yet to be free from the inbuilt racism handed down within society and church ‘which is still considered normal and dominant.’
The reflection for us today is that “Racism is therefore an unavoidable sin, a wound that seems unable to be healed” by human palliatives and policies. The gospel reading from Mark today provides ‘an opportunity to name this wound and seek to find the balm to begin to treat it. The healing and restoration of the leper into the community points to many people we treat as outsiders. When the leper had encounter with Jesus he was interiorly and exteriorly healed and renewed, and was asked to get back to the community, to the temple and ‘show yourself,’ be a part and not just as an outsider. Racism is an ailment we need healing from for the world and the church to fulfil its full human and spiritual potentials just as the leper was freed and returned to his village, his priest, and his roles in life (Mark 1:40-45). Racism in the society and church denies people of their place and roles spiritually and socially. As Christians we bears Christ’s name and we are expected to bear his fruits by demonstrating alternative to racial injustice.
Racial Sunday on the Transfiguration Sunday reminds us that the present racial culture, leprous sin of the world is not the whole story. Today’s reading renews our hope that we can be healed of racism, our pain can be transformed. Our society and church can see the Glory of God again. John Wesley rightly said that Jesus ‘has made us clean from our leprous sin,’ including racism. Racial and Transfiguration Sunday is a moment of glory and light shining on our darkness and sin. Our hope is renewed for the fact that Jesus came to heal the leprous, to wipe out our sins with his touch. Sin like leprous is ‘a sickness unto death’ that tears at us from the inside out. Racism is disease that attacks the very bloodstream of our society and church thereby ‘giving rise to hatred and greed and lust and other such manifestations of our sickness.’ Racism as leprous of sin usually ‘lie quietly within us, glossed over with our self-assurance that we would never act on such impulses; and granted that we frequently deny such inner expressions of sin as though we were immune to their worst appearances..’
The story of Cain’s exterior appearance of innocence that gave way to the murder of his brother points to racism and hatred as leprous of sin with facial hospitality but with a murderous heart. We need healing today by making the simple plea, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Only Jesus has the right and the power to declare our healing: “I will; be clean” though his touch and embrace. Racial and Transfiguration Sunday is a time to receive divine touch of his healing and wholeness. Racial Justice Sunday on Transfiguration Sunday is a sign of hope, a sign of humbling disease with the appropriate healing transformation. Racial leprosy is irritating to Jesus just as Jesus was indignant with the man with leprosy, therefore, the world and the church with racial leprosy must humbly repent, pray and come to Jesus for his healing touch.
Let us prayerfully sing the hymn by Sebastian Temple ‘Make Me a Channel of your Peace,’ by giving thanks to God for our diversity and pray for God’s help in overcoming our prejudices and the injustices that reflect and reinforce them:
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred let me bring your love
Where there is injury, your pardon Lord
And where there’s doubt, true faith in you
Oh, master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness ever joy
Make me a channel of your peace
It isn’t pardoning that we are pardoned
In giving to all men that we receive
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.
We remember in prayer all the families of the 71 passengers that died when a Russian airliner crashed after leaving Moscow’s Domodedovo airport. Lord, in your mercy, comfort the families and the nation in general.