Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
Kansas City's Jesuit Parish
1001 East 52nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Sunday, Mar. 31st 2019

Jesus is Black Today! March 31, 2019

On this last day of Women’s History Month I want to tell you a story. Last month we had a pulpit swap at SFX.  Our pastor Father Steve Yavorsky, SJ went to St. Monica’s at 1616 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.  Their pastor, Father Leonard Gicheru, came here.  Father Leonard is from Kenya.  He is young and very dark-skinned and has a bright smile and a warm manner. 

When Father Leonard called our 5-10 year olds forward for Children’s Liturgy of the Word he spoke to them for a few minutes, joking with them and encouraging them to listen to the Word of God and to be followers of Jesus. One of our children, a smart and high-spirited girl adopted as a toddler from Ethiopia, looked up at him in amazement.  Her smile was as bright as his.  Once we settled into the Chapel, before we could begin, that little girl’s sister, an equally smart and high-spirited girl adopted just a year or two ago from China, pointed back at the sanctuary and asked, “WHERE IS GOD? AND WHO IS THAT?”


I explained. “That man is named Father Leonard.  Father Leonard is from Kenya, Africa and now he works at a church here in Kansas City called St. Monica’s.  Our pastor Father Steve (NOT GOD!!! I thought to myself) is at Father Leonard’s church and Father Leonard is at our church.”  I went on a bit, “you know, most of the people who go to our church have skin this color (pointing to my own fair Irish skin) and most of the people at Father Leonard’s church have…well…dark colored skin, like his…so we thought it would be fun to…”  I was interrupted by one of the older boys, “Is this because it’s Black History Month?”  YES! Yes, It is.  Meanwhile, our beautiful Ethiopian girl exclaimed, “He’s from Africa? I’m from Africa!”

We went on with the liturgy.

We read the first reading from the prophet Isaiah – the one that ends with Isaiah saying, “Here I am, Lord! Send me!” The girl with the dark skin repeated, “He’s from Africa? I’m from Africa!” And then we read the gospel from Luke – the one where Jesus tells Peter to row out to deep water and let the nets down again.

The girl with the bright smile said it again, “He’s from Africa? I’m from Africa!”

We talked about the readings. We prayed together.  And then we returned to the Main Assembly. 

Later that evening, at a parish event over in Xavier Hall, the dad of the girls – a man who surely knows something about “putting the nets out into deep water” – told me that when his daughters returned to the pew they excitedly reported, “Jesus is black today!”

I told you they were smart girls.

Jesus IS black today. And every day.  Jesus is the incarnation of God.  Jesus is God taking on human flesh – and that flesh is white, black, brown, yellow, red…young and old…sick and healthy…gay and straight…woman and man…cis and trans. 

Children see priests not only as representatives of God, but God. Our catechism teaches that a priest is in persona Christi, because he acts as Christ and as God. But children don’t need a catechism lesson to know that. They learn it through the power of ritual, just by coming to church. .

And what they are learning, for the most part, because of who-we-ordain – is that God is male and (at least ‘round here) God is white.

Representation is so important. We need to SEE ourselves. We especially need to see ourselves as “the image and likeness of God.”

I’m so glad the children saw Father Leonard preside as Mass.

What would happen if the children saw a woman preside?

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Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
1001 East 52nd Street, Kansas City, MO 64110
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

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