"I can't breathe" (5/29/20)

Friday, May 29th, 2020

Logo for the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.

Psalm 145:8-9


 “I can’t breathe.” Those words continue to ring in my ears. George Floyd, a child of God, was gasping for air, calling for his mother and pleading for his life.

The truth is revolting. It is easy to turn away and ignore the horror as if it is someone else's problem. Yet, how can we not be horrified and grief-stricken when we believe that every person is created in God's image? How can I ignore the cries when we proclaim that every person on this earth is a beloved child of God? 

This becomes all the more heart breaking when we consider there are thousands more wrongful deaths of our sisters and brothers that do not make the headlines.

Racism is not solely a problem for people of color. It affects us all. If one member of the body suffers, all suffer together. More than just a personal prejudice, racism is a systemic and institutionalized problem that continues to find new ways to seep into our legal system, politics, prisons, and yes, even our churches.

With tears in our eyes and Christ in our hearts, we must do everything we can to confront and dismantle the structures and systems that allow such injustices to occur. As the Body of Christ, we must shield our siblings from the blows inflicted by prejudice and hatred. In the process, may we never meet the violence with violence, or the hate with more hate. We pray for the strength and faith to transform this violence through love. We pray, dear Lord, that we never allow our persecution to turn us into persecutors. For a pure heart that is centered in God will always find God. 

Let us go forth, walk with the oppressed, and raise our collective voices to proclaim the Good News: that every human being is created in the image of God and that out of his boundless love, Jesus gave up his life to save every individual. Therefore, no act of violence is acceptable. And, no life is expendable under any circumstance.

Let us ask the Lord to make us laborers for peace, healers of violence and pain, and messengers of love. Let us always look, see and hear, and then, without fear or hesitation, act with the heart of Christ. 

As a demonstration of our commitment, I am asking for the Diocese of Pennsylvania to pray together the Great Litany on June 8th from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. We will have different voices across the diocese reading the names of those slain by acts of violence during this time. Information on the live-steamed event will be sent out next week.

For this litany, we will move the observance of the Feast Day of the martyrs of Uganda to June 8. The first name to be read in the recitation of names will be Archbishop Janani Luwum. I invite you to send names you wish to be included to prayer@diopa.org . All names received by 5 pm on June 5 will be included. 

As Christians, we cannot look away any longer. May Christ transform our hearts into his own heart of compassion.  

Bishop signature

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutiérrez

XVI Bishop of The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania