Virginia and I were in DC Monday at the White House. We joined a group of local Catholics, from lay people to bishops, Franciscan monks to priests, who peacefully affirmed that Black Lives Matter.

Behind the speakers was a security fence, erected to keep citizens off the White House grounds but turned into a shrine of sorts, adorned by people who left behind posters and cardboard signs and artwork that spoke to their experience of violence and oppression and despair and anger and hope. The protest had a liturgical feel to it, and an excellent closing sermon, and then we marched together to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Along the way, we sang several songs, including There Is a Balm in Gilead. The first verse and chorus goes like this:

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

These are trying times. A week ago I feared this moment would be squandered, that we were at risk of being distracted from the opportunity available to us to reconstruct a more just future. But people did the most amazing thing: the opportunists were hustled off-stage; across the country, an overwhelming number of people solemnly and joyously took up the challenge to meet this very real opportunity with grace.

We’re not there, not by a long shot. But, and I can only speak for myself, I am encouraged that we can meet this challenge and see this opportunity through to meaningful change. That we can create a more just, safer society for all of us, especially those who have been schooled by dread experience that they are unsafe here. That there is a balm. That we can be healed.

I am a Universalist by inclination; I believe there is always another chance, for you, for us. If you are discouraged or wounded, know that you can be whole again. And you can help heal others — a whole country, perhaps.

I don’t know how that happens. I do know its continued existence is precarious. That powerful forces insist that some people suffer. That they will not relent easily.

But there is a balm in Gilead. It’s here too.

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

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