Chapter 1.5: Rise Up

Good news – the Gospel – can come at you from places you didn’t expect. And in forms you may not appreciate at first.

One of the things that Pope Francis does in Fratelli Tutti that is unusual but by no means unique is address it not just to Catholics but to all people of good will. He goes farther than his predecessors by referencing his dialogue with Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb and their joint statement on human fraternity as an inspiration for this document, and in doing so, he reminds us that we Christians would do well to keep our eyes open for God’s wisdom in sources we wouldn’t expect.

I mentioned on Facebook earlier today that I was looking for a song (that was featured in, of all places, a PSA for the University of Georgia), when I stumbled on Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” which I was not that familiar with. The lyrics really took me, but even more so the “Inspiration Version” video I found on YouTube, which you may want Kleenex for.

The story she tells, in the song and the video, is a pretty good commentary on Fratelli Tutti, and especially on chapter 2’s reflection of the Good Samaritan. Because, in its way, Rise Up is a story of what shared humanity looks like in the flesh, and it turns Jesus’ parable at just enough of an angle that you can see it in a couple different lights.

Here’s one: we hear the parable of the robbery victim saved by the outcast, and we think of it as a one-off, an interrupting unique event. Sometimes that’s how our shared humanity shows up, but usually it looks different than that. We bind up the wounds and carry the victim bleeding by the side of the road, most of the time, not in strangers, but in the people we already love. Spouses (watch the video above, if you haven’t already). Kids. Friends. When Day sings early on “you can’t find the fighter, but I see it in you,” and when she shifts at the end from “I” to “We”, she pays testament to that sort of Samaritan work. 

Here’s another: “All we need is hope, and for that we have each other.” There is a strong temptation, especially in our culture, to separate the givers from the takers. Love isn’t like that, though. Francis says explicitly in Chapter 2 that we all play all of the characters in the Good Samaritan story at different points in our lives. What “Rise Up” reminded me is that we are no less holy, no less equal, when we’re the victim being tended to, than when we get to play the Samaritan. I wrote a piece about five years ago on that, “The Difficult Grace of the Passive Voice.” Day’s video reminded me of that, especially the last (spoken) line.

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