During a Mass to celebrate the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on Juneteenth, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz prayed for justice, peace and healing from the “sin of racism.”
Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd — whose deaths this spring gave life to movements for racial justice — were remembered at the Mass, celebrated at Holy Family Church, 3938 Poplar Level Road, and live-streamed via Facebook.
Archbishop Kurtz told the congregation that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a gift and that devotion to the Sacred Heart started at the cross, where Christ “shed his body and blood for our salvation.”
Delving into the Sacred Heart of Jesus can lead to changes needed now, he said.
“We know that for any meaningful change within our nation and in our church there must be a change of heart in each one of us,” he said.
The archbishop noted that June 19 was also the commemoration of Juneteenth — “the celebration of what happened in 1865 in Texas in which the emancipation proclamation of President Lincoln was made present and alive to the citizens of Texas.”
“It’s in the midst of that celebration that we recognize that it did not eradicate the sin of racism in our lives,” he said.
Archbishop Kurtz said there’s a temptation to think of racism as being “out there.”
“But the truth is, as with any sin, we need personally to take responsibility,” he said. He drew the congregation’s attention to the book of Genesis, from which the day’s first reading came, to a “sad echo” that runs through the Old Testament.
“It’s the sad echo in which Cain — after the death of his brother Abel, which he caused — issued the famous words, the question to God, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ In other words, ‘am I responsible?’ ”
The answer is “yes,” said Archbishop Kurtz.
“You and I each share the responsibility when anyone of us commits a sin. You and I share the responsibility to bring that sin to Christ for forgiveness and redemption,” said the archbishop. “At Mass, we often begin by saying the words forgive us for what we have done and what we have failed to do.”
What “we have done” is to react with hatred because of the color of someone’s skin. What “we have failed to do” is not giving people opportunities for a better future and that is also “participating in sin,” said the archbishop.
“As we support the legitimate protest going on around the nation and in our own city, as we seek to promote just resolutions we ask that God will help us with this change of heart. We ask that in many ways you and I will look for the opportunities that have been missed and correct them,” he said.
Archbishop Kurtz recalled the African-American Catholic Leadership Awards Banquet he attended in March. He shared with the congregation how the young people being honored talked about the “gift of their family, their faith, their parish and of their future and the opportunity they believe God is giving them. … We not only cannot stand in the way of that, we need to foster and support,” he said.
The Mass also included the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the Litany of the Sacred Heart.