A reading from the First Letter of John for Jan. 6, 2022, seemed especially fitting for the first anniversary marking the attack by Americans on our U.S. Capitol. “… If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the command we have from him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn 4:19-5:4).
This Scripture passage calls us to action, to love one another. We begin with prayer, reflection on Scripture, examination of conscience and a commitment to rebuild fractured relationships in our families, our communities, our state and our nation. On the eve of the anniversary of the mob attack, Franciscan Action Network hosted a virtual, interfaith vigil — a good start to begin the process of healing.
Insights and reflection suggestions from the vigil serve as a template for how to move forward in this new year of 2022. Inspiration for the vigil came from our own Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan director of liturgy and of deacon formation, and deacon candidate Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action and Catholic Charities. They are Secular Franciscans.
We must discern “what part we’ve played in wounding our country — our faith communities — our families,” Deacon Agnoli said. “Then, and only then, confident in God’s abiding presence and forgiveness, can we turn to the future with hope.” As individuals, as communities of faith, we are to think about what we do in the face of threats to our democracy and to the rights of so many who have been excluded.
Rabbi Sharon Brous of Los Angeles asks us to “imagine a world that centers justice, equity and human dignity. One in which the privilege of being human comes with the sacred responsibility to protect and defend those most vulnerable. A world that recognizes that all of our liberation is tied up in one another. A world in which we know that we belong to one another.”
The Rev. Traci Blackmon of the United Church of Christ asks us to “remember that redemption is possible when we live out love. Let us learn from the tragedies of our past and move toward the light within each of us fueled by the everlasting power of love, knowing that love is the only thing that never dies.”
Ferris spoke of our need for prayer within faith traditions and for society as a whole. “Within each faith tradition, prayer is offered in moments of great joy and great sorrow, at pivotal moments both for the people of a unique faith community and sometimes, oftentimes, for a society, maybe even all of humanity.”
Reflection follows prayer, and the reflection questions interspersed in the vigil, are challenging and necessary. They require our introspection, honesty, humility and a willingness to listen to others with whom we may vehemently disagree:
• How did the events of Jan. 6, 2021, create or deepen a wound in the United States?
• How has polarization affected relationships in my family, faith community, neighborhood or other groups?
• When have I put my political preferences above God? How have I made political power into an idol?
• When have I repeated or shared information I did not know to be true?
• How have I demonized people whose views are not like my own? To whom do I need to listen with an open heart?
• In what other ways have I contributed to polarization?
• What part am I called to play in fostering healing in my family, faith community and nation in 2022?
• What do I need to do to help keep democracy vibrant in our country?
The reading from 1 John, calling us to love our brother (and sister), takes shape in the words that Deacon Agnoli spoke during the interfaith vigil’s blessing/dismissal: “Go now to heal and transform, to denounce violence and to console those who are hurting. Go and be the hands and heart of God in our world today.”
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor