Learn more about Catholic Relief Services here.
Learn more about Catholic Relief Services here.
In the winter of 1998, Ryan Hreljac was a first-grader who was listening when his teacher told the class about countries that didn’t have clean drinking water. Ryan lived in Canada and had never imagined schools without drinking fountains. He was interested in helping people in the African countries his teacher talked about so he started raising money to help build a well. His fundraising and advocacy turned into a social justice movement. Today Ryan is a college student. His first-grade project has evolved into Ryan’s Well, a foundation that has helped build 749 water projects and 992 latrines bringing safe water and improved sanitation to 789,907 people.
John’s gospel makes an extended comparison between Jesus and shepherds who pasture, protect, and water their flocks and who at night sleep in the opening of the sheepfold. Jesus is both the good shepherd and the gate to the sheepfold. This Sunday the Church reads from John 10, where the gospel makes this comparison.
A man died in September 2009 who like a good shepherd used his brains and energy that millions on our planet might eat. Norman Borlaug believed food is a moral right.
Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for developing disease-resistant wheat that grew well in Mexico, India, Pakistan, and African nations where population was outrunning food production. Famine seemed inevitable when Borlaug finished his doctorate in 1942.
In Sunday’s gospel Jesus rescues a woman caught in adultery from its prescribed punishment – stoning. Jesus doesn’t condemn the woman but challenges her to transform her life. Prostituting women continues around the globe today, especially among the 40% of the world’s population that lives on less than $2 per day. Education and micro-financing hold out the possibility for women to transform their lives and our world.
In their book, Half the Sky, authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn describe the beginning of a new global movement to emancipate women and girls. These New York Times journalists have traveled the Third World for two decades and identify the education and empowerment of women as the key to ending global poverty.
What stories of women and girls transforming their lives and countries have you heard?
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
This vision of radical, mutual love that Paul had for the Galatians came straight from Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ hopes for the church were revolutionary. Irrational. Almost unimaginable. The harsh power boundaries that existed in Jesus’ community between Jews and Greeks, slaves and free people, and men and women are hard for us to fully grasp today. For example, Jews and Greeks are not seen as oppositional groups in our society. It is easy for us, then, to read this passage without giving Paul and Jesus credit for how counter-cultural their vision of unity was. Widows, aliens and orphans are three groups repeatedly mentioned in the Bible as needing advocacy. We can infer from these named groups that women, foreigners and children lacked human rights in the Biblical society. Times have changed. We do not have slavery. Widows tend to have the rights they need to survive. Yet we can understand human made rifts that have societal consequences. Try: There is no longer Baptist nor Catholic, there is no longer Iraqi or American, there is no longer homosexual or heterosexual; for all are one in Christ Jesus. Our church still struggles to come together united as one in Christ Jesus.
What groups of people would you mention if we were to update this verse from Paul to the Galatians about our modern day church?
Monday we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. Like this verse from Galatians, it is easy to recite famous lines form Dr. King’s speeches without fully feeling the revolutionary, irrational ideas he was preaching. His vision incorporated all people being judged by the content of their character more than the color of their skin. He also stood up against the War in Vietnam. His vision of unity had economic and political consequences. When he was shot, he was in Memphis organizing non-violent marches and boycotts to advocate better wages and safer conditions for black sanitary workers. His vision came from Jesus’ vision of radical, mutual love. He worked to address the poverty, unemployment and lack of education leading to lack of economic opportunity for black Americans. There is no longer black or white; we are all one in Christ Jesus.
What steps have we taken as a society to actualize Dr. King’s vision of America?
How can our church community take serious steps toward turning Dr. King’s vision into reality?
On Martin Luther King Day, we also celebrate the other men and women who worked for civil rights alongside Dr. King. John Lewis, now a US Representative, was trained in nonviolence by Reverend James Lawson as a young student. Nonviolence is not easy. In his memoir, Walking With the Wind, Lewis talks about being trained to take hatred into your body while being beaten and transform it into love. He was trained to picture his attackers as small children, vulnerable and innocent. John Lewis took his skills in nonviolence to sit-ins, boycotts, and on the Freedom Rides and indeed risked his life for Jesus’ vision of radical, mutual love. John Lewis was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The work that students did during the Civil Rights Movement is a testament to the power that young people have when they chose to organize and change their communities for the better.
What advantage do you have over older people in your ability to organize and change your communities?
How are you told that you are not powerful as a group of people? How are you empowered as young people to make your communities better?
If you could organize with other students like John Lewis did, what issue would you address? Would your want your group to be nonviolent?
What can you do on Monday to celebrate Jesus, Paul, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis?
Photo courtesy of alvesfamily via Creative Commons License.
As stated in this week’s Sunday By Sunday: Many people in our world need help to survive.
AIDS has left thousands of children in Africa without parents. Learn about Catholic Relief Service’s response to these problems:
Catholic Relief Services works in over 30 countries throughout Africa and strives to enhance human dignity, empower the people that it helps and strengthen and support partner organizations. CRS achieves this by working in the areas of food security, peace building, HIV and AIDS, civil society building, Emergency Response and health among others.
This week’s Sunday By Sunday features the organization Beyond the 11th. Beyond the 11th is a nonprofit organization that empowers widows in Afghanistan who have been afflicted by war, terrorism, and oppression. Its mission is to reach beyond differences of culture and geography to embrace the most essential of connections: humanity.
See also Razia’s Ray of Hope, an organization Patti Quigley directs.
Jesus was teaching in the temple and spoke out against the scribes being showy in their faith, looking for status.
Jesus said, “I want you to observe that this poor widow gave more to the treasury than all the others. They gave from their loose change what they could spare. But she in her poverty gave the pennies she had to live on.”
The scribes in this Sunday’s gospel seem unable to penetrate the heart of the law. They like to benefit from their positions as respected teachers, even at the expense of powerless people like widows. Jesus warns people to beware of such self-centered, greedy teachers.
Jesus values authentic faith and piety. He values the widow’s simple gift more than long, public prayers for show. The widow is like Jesus himself, who gives his entire life for love of God and neighbor.
In what measure are you a Christian in appearance? In what measure an authentic Christian?
Tags: 32nd sunday in ordinary time, compassion, giving, Gospel of Mark, Gospel Reflection, gospel reflection november 11, Joan Mitchell CSJ, Mark 12.43-44, Sister Joan, social justice, Sunday By Sunday, the bible
“The past two years have been particularly tenuous for hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world, as the programs that support them remain at risk for deep budget cuts,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “With the presidential election fast approaching, Christians should understand the issues and take part in God’s work to end hunger.”
Learn more about World Food Day here. How are you getting involved?