American Martyrs and St. Patrick's Catholic Church
Saturday, September 19, 2020

Jason Obergfell’s Reflection

Pentecost 2020

Dear Friends,

As I begin writing this newsletter on Pentecost Sunday, the United States is in the grips of disease. The sickness has spread throughout the country, and has left behind death in its wake. Many are feeling scared about their financial future. Others are feeling oppressed by a governmental system that has limited their freedom or treated them unjustly. 

There is also a Corona virus pandemic happening.   

As may be the case with many of you, I spent my Pentecost Sunday listening to news reports and reading Facebook posts from friends about the protests occurring throughout the country. George Floyd, a black man, died as a result of his encounter with police.   This time, it happened to be captured on video. His death has taken over the news, but earlier in the same week there was an incident that could have produced the same result in New York’s Central Park. After being asked to leash her dog according to the park rules, a woman tells the black man making the request that she is “calling the cops” and says that she will tell them “there is an African-American man threatening my life.” She proceeds to call the police and frantically report that she is being threatened by an           African-American man, ultimately screaming a request that the cops be sent immediately. Given that the dispatch call about George Floyd simply entailed a black man using a fake $20 bill to pay and possibly being drunk, it should be obvious that a white woman frantically screaming about being threatened by a black man in Central Park was not only false, but also potentially deadly.  

In this newsletter, I am choosing to focus on the disease affecting the United States (and I don’t mean the Corona virus). Maybe this newsletter is more for me than for you. The Preamble to the Constitution begins with the words, “We the People.” To me, that means that “We the People” of the United States are co-responsible for what happens within our country. Although I live in Bolivia, I am still co-responsible for what happens in my country. That is why I feel the need to share and reflect about not just my Bolivian experience, but also my American experience. It is a part of me.

God Provides Assistance - Gifts of the Holy Spirit Even in the midst of death and sadness, I am reminded that as Christians we are a resurrection people. We believe in the possibility of new life after death. I believe that the Easter Season ends with Pentecost, because Jesus knew that we need a guide on the journey to resurrection. Jesus provided that guide when he said to his disciples, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit aids us on the journey by the gifts of:

 Wisdom: both the knowledge of and judgment about “divine things” and the ability to judge and direct human affairs according to divine truth.

Understanding: penetrating insight into the very heart of things, especially those higher truths that are necessary for our eternal salvation. 

 Counsel: allows a person to be directed by God in matters necessary for his/her salvation.

 Fortitude: a firmness of mind in doing good and in avoiding evil, particularly when it is difficult to do so and there are obstacles to overcome. 

Knowledge: the ability to judge correctly about matters of faith and right action, so as to never wander from the straight path of justice.  

Piety: revering God with filial affection, paying worship and duty to God, paying due duty to all men on account of their relationship to God, and honoring the saints and not contradicting Scripture.

 Fear of God: chaste fear whereby we revere God and avoid separating ourselves from him—as opposed to “servile” fear, whereby we fear punishment. 

These seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are available to us. As opposed to opening the gifts at Christmas, with the Holy Spirit we must open ourselves. If we do, then it becomes possible to produce the Fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

ACL Disease in the United States You may think that the other disease that I alluded to at the beginning of this newsletter is racism. I believe that racism is only one manifestation of a bigger disease. It cannot be named with just one word, so I call it “ACL Disease.” In my opinion, it is even more contagious and more deadly than the Corona virus. I called it ACL Disease because of some of the characteristics that define it. 

ACL disease is characterized by Apathy, Contempt, and Laziness. A person may exhibit one or all of these, and in varying degrees of severity. 

Maybe you have noticed some of the symptoms in your lives, too. 

I have seen them in posts on Facebook and Twitter. For example, people I know have posted offensive “jokes” on Facebook, often implying untrue beliefs about someone from the opposite political party (or about entire parties). Such posts are often laden with Contempt. When I have commented on the offensive or the untrue nature of some posts, another person will respond as though it is impossible to obtain factual information. This seems to be an intellectual Laziness in an age when we have access to literally millions of different informational resources at our fingertips. When asked about voting, or even just taking some type of action to help resolve systemic problems in the country, people often have an Apathetic response handy. Only around 64% of the voting age population is even registered to vote, and only around 55% of the voting age population ends up casting a ballot. These things are so commonplace that we forget that they are symptoms of a deadly disease. ACL Disease ultimately leads to the death of love for one another, and sometimes that can literally be fatal.  

We the People cannot “form a more perfect union” if we communicate with a tone of Contempt. We the People cannot “insure domestic tranquility” if we are Apathetic about the injustices that other people suffer. We the People cannot “promote the general welfare” if we are Lazy in our pursuit of the facts and the truth. When I experience the spread of a disease with symptoms such as these in my home country, I feel angry. I feel frustrated. I feel sad. When I see the effects, I feel heartbroken. I feel appalled. I feel ashamed. I also feel co-responsible, as a part of “We the People.”

The LCA Antidote Luckily, we are not left without the tools to combat this disease. There is an LCA cure, which also serves as an effective vaccine. This antidote is not, however, as simple as reversing the letters. We must transform what the letters represent within us. The LCA antidote is characterized by LOVE, COMPASSION, and ACTION. These are not always easy to live out. That is why Jesus left us the gifts of the Holy Spirit to draw upon. 

Let me share just a few examples of how they help:

  Wisdom: The ability to judge and direct human affairs according to divine truth can inform our ability to recognize evil behaviors, such as speaking with contempt, knowingly misleading people, and fomenting division.

 Understanding: Penetrating insight into the very heart of things can inform our perspective about people in a reality not our own. We should seek to understand others as much as we desire to be understood ourselves.

 Counsel: The direction by God in matters necessary for our salvation can remind us that the “coin of value” in God’s realm has little to do with growing wealth and everything to do with growing our ability to love.

  Fortitude: A firmness of mind in doing good and in avoiding evil, particularly when it is difficult or dangerous to do so, is essential to overcoming apathy and instead choosing to act. Change happens through action. With fortitude we can take positive action and overcome the obstacles in the way. We are not powerless.

 Knowledge: The ability to judge correctly about matters of right action, so as to never wander from the straight path of justice, is readily available to us. We must not be lazy in our pursuit of the necessary knowledge.  


Question for Reflection:  What is one positive act I can commit to doing that will address the problem of racism in the United States?*


Praying the LCA antidote may be found in you,

Jason Obergfell        

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

 - Archbishop Desmond Tutu

 *For suggested resources on the topic of racism, or suggested positive actions,

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Jason Obergfell

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