“Where is your brother? Where is your sister? Where are the others?” These questions often poured out of our mother’s mouth, when as children, we would come in from play, come back from a trip to the corner store to buy candy, or from a visit to friend’s house. What was implicit in my mother’s words, and abundantly clear to my siblings and me, was that we were responsible for one another. We didn’t go out alone and we didn’t come back alone. We were expected to watch out for one another and to remember that we were family. We were to love, honor and cherish our brothers and sisters.
A week ago, today, our nation watched in horror as George Floyd, an African American man, pinned to the ground by the knees of three police officers, one of whom had his knee firmly planted on the neck of George Floyd, cried out as his life was being taken from him, “Momma! Momma, I’m through.” In a cry that can only elicit tears from even the coldest heart, George Floyd called out to the one person who had always loved him in life, and who preceded him in death. He calls out to his mother, herself now home with God.
In today’s Gospel, Mary the Mother of Jesus stands beneath the cross on which her son hung. “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son. Then he said to the disciple, “Behold your mother,” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
In 2018, when adding today, the Monday after Pentecost, as an official Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church to the Church’s liturgical calendar, Pope Francis and the dicastery that issued the statement said, “Indeed, the Mother standing beneath the cross (cf. Jn 19:25), accepted her Son’s testament of love and welcomed all people in the person of the beloved disciple as sons and daughters to be reborn unto life eternal. She thus became the tender Mother of the Church which Christ begot on the cross handing on the Spirit.”
I find myself deeply embarrassed by what happened to George Floyd. I am heartbroken by the image of him lying on the cold street crying out for his mother while the breath of God was denied him. I am angry that anyone thinks it okay to treat another human being as George Floyd was treated and my heart aches for his family who had to witness someone they love die as he did. And I wonder about my part in racism, the original sin of our country.
As I sit here this morning thinking and praying on this Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, I wonder what Mary the Mother of the Church would ask all of us today in light of the events surrounding George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis a week ago today. I imagine Mary, who was with that first group of disciples in the upper room awaiting the advent of the Holy Spirit, and who has waited with and among the Church, every moment down through the ages, for the continual outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, asking all of us today, “Where is George? What happened? How could this have happened? Don’t you know we are all family?”