Tag Archives: human-rights

Gospel Reflection for September 22, 2013, 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

16 Sep

Jesus said, “No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  Neither can you serve both God and wealth.”

Luke 16.13

In the parable that forms Sunday’s gospel (Luke 16.1-13), Jesus surprisingly holds up an embezzler as a role model in ingenuity in protecting his own interests when he get fired.   Luke’s gospel does not let the self-serving manager go without criticizing him.  A series of sayings follow that pass judgment on dishonest people.  The saying insists that whoever is dishonest with a little can’t be trusted with a lot.  No one can trust a cheater.  No one can serve two masters.

What good things do you take for granted that are beyond the reach of poor people in your area or in the world?


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Example of a Good Shepherd: Norman Borlaug

18 Apr

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.

Gospel Reflection for Lent: How does the Holy Spirit work in our world?

18 Feb

In the gospel for the 1st Sunday of Lent the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness, where he duels with the devil.  The Spirit fills Mary, Elizabeth, Zachariah, and Simeon before descending upon Jesus at his baptism and leading him into the desert.  All these activities culminate in Jesus’ first preaching, his inaugural address in his hometown synagogue.  He reads from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to bring glad tiding to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year of God’s favor” (4.18-19).  Jesus rolls up the scroll, sits down, and with all eyes on him, develops his first sermon—9 words in English, under 50 letters, perfect for Twitter:  “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  I am that Spirit-filled prophet.

The Holy Spirit anoints Jesus to stir up a year of favor, the jubilee year the Old Testament Book of Leviticus requires every 50 year to give the poor a fresh start, to prevent a permanent underclass.

Makes me wonder what the Holy Spirit is stirring up in our time.  Pope Benedict has done something new is resigning, an act of humility.  He’s done what he can with the strength he has.  Benedict set in motion a Year of Faith that celebrates the 50th anniversary of Vatican II.  Fifty, hum, could it be time for a jubilee year in the Church, a new beginning?  By my lights we profoundly need a Spirit-filled leader who can reengage the Church with the needs of the times and find God coming from the future and not only the past.

Once on a two-hour car ride with my youngest sister and her youngest daughter, we shared our answers to the questions: What two people have most influenced you in your life?  My two were both wise, learned women older than me.  My sister’s two were her children.  Her answer stunned me.  I hadn’t thought about learning from younger people.  As a nun I don’t have children to learn from, and of course, neither do the cardinals who will gather on March 15 to elect a new pope.  Will they elect a leader like their predecessors who appointed them?

How does the Holy Spirit work in our world?  Richard Gaillardetz maintains that one of the most important acts of the Second Vatican Council happened in the first 15 minutes when the bishops voted to recess rather than accept the list of bishops the Curia proposed for membership on the commissions preparing council documents.  The bishops gathered, met one another in language groups, and learned about each others’ abilities.  A greater diversity of members on the commissions resulted.  Diversity opened the doors to the Spirit.  So did, celebrating Eucharist during the Council in various rites, the Byzantine, Syriac, Melekite.  The bishops experienced a bigger church than most knew.

Already in 1963, some bishops noticed the Council included Protestant observers but no Catholic women.  Cardinal Suenens led the rally to include women.  Carmel McEnroe tells about the 23 women who attended Vatican II as auditors in the book Guests in Their Own House. The woman were heads of international organizations of lay people and heads of religious orders, except for one married woman, who with her husband were the head couple in Mexico of the Christian Family Movement.  They had 12 children.  She had a big job representing married Catholics.  The 23 women contributed most to the commission that preparing the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. the document closest to the Spirit-filled mission that Jesus announces in his inaugural message, the document that calls Catholics into solidarity with those in our world poor and afflicted.  It is the fullest statement of Catholic social teaching and human rights.  Here is a paragraph the women succeeded in getting into the document.

“With respect to the fundamental rights of the person, every type of discrimination, whether social or cultural, whether based on sex, race, color, social condition, language, or religion is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent (GS29).

Now is a crucial time for we the People of God, the whole People of God, the Baptized, male and female, clergy and laity to participate fully, actively, consciously in our life as Church.  Now is a time to pray for sure.  Now is also a time to let the Spirit of God do something new in all of us.  Benedict started to twitter online.  Maybe we can create access to the cardinals online.  We can give voice to the needs of the poor, the need for women to become fully equal in the Church, the need to welcome and connect with alienated Catholic.  Let the whole Church find ways to text and tweet, blog, and send cards and emails, dialogue with our neighbors, and be part of the election.  Visit Futurechurch.org.

I heard Father Geoffrey Diekmann speak on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Vatican II.  Someone raised a hand and asked him why there were no women scripture scholars on the committee that created the new lectionary.  “We never thought of it then,” he said.  What about now?

As we begin Lent, Jesus challenges us to live God’s word as he does.  May the Holy Spirit lead us as well as the Irish say to speak the truth and shame the devil.

Radical, Mutual Love

21 Jan

Radical, Mutual Love. A guest post from Ellie Roscher.

 

“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?

How can our church community take serious steps toward turning Jesus’ vision into reality?6708304967_0a295d7538_m

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.

Peace Be with You

20 Apr

via Peace Be with You. by Claire Bischoff

In this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 24:35-48), Jesus utters a seemingly simple greeting upon appearing to his disciples after his resurrection: “Peace be with you.” It is the same salutation we offer to others sitting around us at mass each week for the kiss of peace. Saying “peace be with you” has become such a habit for many of us that we may have stopped thinking about what Jesus has wished for us and what we wish for others. Peace.

My guess is that many of us consider ourselves to be peaceful people and to have peace in our lives. I have never had to suffer through war waged on the soil of my country. I have never used physical violence against anyone or had it used against me. I even feel guilty if I accidentally hit a squirrel while driving, and I always try to take bugs trapped inside my home outdoors instead of squishing the life out of them. Yet the type of peace I allude to here is what some have called “negative peace,” that is, peace that is simply the absence of violence. Of course, negative peace is much better than violence or oppression and as such is an important baseline measurement of peace. But I believe when Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” he is calling us to live into a peace that goes beyond this baseline understanding, a type of peace that can be called positive peace.

Positive peace is a lot more difficult to identify and achieve than negative peace. In fact, given the reality of sin in the world, positive peace is more of a journey than as a destination. Positive peace encompasses positive content and is something we can strive for across the full range of relationships in which we find ourselves: relationship to self; relationship to other individuals; relationships within groups of people, communities, societies; and relationships with the planet on which we live and the other living things that also call this planet home. What might positive peace entail in each of these relationships?

Relationship to self: Peace in relationship to the self involves being kind to yourself; not being overly critical of yourself when you make mistakes; and accepting and respecting who you are, your body, your personality, your spirit. Living in peace with yourself means respecting and treating your body as a temple of God–eating well, exercising, and resting. It involves seeking help for physical, emotional, intellectual, or any other kind of problem you may be struggling with.

Relationship to other individuals: Peace in relationship to others involves actively seeking ways to be kind to others, including offering help if you notice someone needs it. It involves accepting and respecting other people for who they are. It also means working to restore relationships when relationships are challenged by disagreements or misunderstandings.

Relationship to society: Peace in the larger society involves working to help create social systems that serve the needs of everyone, especially the needs of the poor and oppressed. As the bumper sticker says, “If you want peace, work for justice.” (Before this was a bumper sticker, it was the title of Pope Paul VI’s address on Peace Day in 1972.) It also means finding constructive ways to deal with conflicts—be they religious, political, etc. In other words, peace does not mean there is never any conflict. It means that “people are interacting non-violently and are managing their conflict positively—with respectful attention to the legitimate needs and interest of all concerned.” (Quotation from Irenees.net, a website of resources for peace)

Relationship with Earth: This relationship is especially appropriate to reflect on this Earth Day 2012. Human beings have not always treated the earth and the other living things on this planet with the respect due them as part of God’s good creation. Restoring peace in our relationship to the Earth means finding little things we can do every day to lessen our carbon footprint—walk, bike and carpool more; go meatless one or more day a week; and reduce purchasing and purchase products with as little waste in packaging as possible. It also means getting involved in larger projects—like the high school students in this week’s Spirit who started a recycling program at their high school—and advocating for governmental policies that protect the environment.

Go through the four areas of relationship listed above. How can you work for more positive peace in each of these areas in your own life? What is one thing you can do for more peace to be with you this week?

 
Photo courtesy of  Inspire Kelly (Vita Bella) via Creative  Commons License

Response to #KONY2012 from a Sister in Uganda

19 Mar

Marion Weinzapel is one of four Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet working in the Diocese of Gulu, Uganda, with Archbishop John Baptist Odama.  She describes how the Kony 2012 video gone viral complicates the peace process many have long worked on in her own informal interview with him. 

INFORMAL CONVERSATION WITH ARCHBISHOP JOHN BAPTIST ODAMA ON “KONY2012”

Mar. 9, 2012: Sr. Marion Weinzapfel, Gulu

Archbishop Odama: “This is a complex issue. It can’t be handled so simply. It will not be easy to have Kony caught. In the process there many be many loses of life. But for us in general, [Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative], we always advocated a process of dialogue.” [Archbishop Odama was not speaking on behalf of the ARLPI but out of the spirit of this group which he chaired from 2000-2010. The ARLPI may be forthcoming with their own statement.]

When the ARLPI wanted to talk with the LRA, we managed to meet LRA leader, Sam Kolo, in Paluda in Palabek on the 29 December, 2004. That was possible because we had first gone to the military and asked them to withdraw all mobile forces in the area. [Kolo himself later came out and has since attended Gulu University.] All were thinking that 2005 would be the year of peace. But in 2005, the government forces attacked the LRA and shattered the trust that had been built up.”

The ARLPI worked together with religious, cultural and political leaders. The Rwot David Archana representing cultural leaders and Mrs. Betty Bigombe was present for this historic 2004 meeting with Kolo along with Jacob Olanya.”

In November, 2008, another meeting with the LRA took place. The meeting lasted for 6 hours and I spoke directly to Kony: ‘Kony, your life and the lives of those in your hands, and the lives of all those in Uganda—civilians, military, government and those of Sudan are very precious and should not be lost.’ I could see that Kony listened intently and that statement made an impact on him. I wanted to arouse a sense of humanity in Kony and touch his heart. But two weeks later, ‘Operation Lightening Thunder’ happened. The LRA then responded with vicious attacks on civilians.”

In September of 2010, I visited the United States with the now retired Bishop Ochola of the Anglican Church to converse with the State Department, Office of African Affairs, to address the issue of military intervention in the bill: ‘Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009.’ We asked to keep the application of the new law focused on non-violent actions.

It is clear that Archbishop Odama feels that the world-wide effort to stop Kony through the video KONY2012 by Invisible Children hinders rather than helps the situation. “Kony will only hide deeper and the trust needed for dialogue become more elusive. The Archbishop explained that you can’t do both—have a military option and a peace process going. You either do one or the other and leave enough time for success.“

Finally, Archbishop Odama says that current efforts for dialogue are moving slowly. Leaders are now trying to work in low-key ways with their counterparts in Sudan and Central African Republic. Yet, they have not given up hope that dialogue can still happen.

Related information can be found at the Africa Faith and Justice Network.

Get Angry for Women

7 Mar

A Guest post from Ellie Roscher

Really think for a moment about the Jesus you have been taught about since you were a kid. Think back to the puffy books depicting Jesus sitting in plush fields with sheep or the Sunday school versions of the Gospel stories translated for smaller children accompanied by Jesus with a halo and outstretched arms. We are shown serene paintings of Jesus with a peaceful face gazing silently up to the heavens or holding a small child gently in his lap. We are taught as children that Jesus is our friend. That he is perfect and sinless. And rightly so. This week’s image of Jesus getting angry in the temple, driving the moneychangers out and being consumed with zeal, stands in stark contrast to the Jesus of our childhood.

I think this Gospel story is very important. It is important for us to not equate perfection with being passive, not to equate our friend with someone who is apathetic. When we love God and we love God’s people, there are things worth getting angry about.

Rath’s story is worth getting angry about. Human trafficking, prostitution, and gendercide are real and pervasive. I have to imagine that if Jesus were here he would turn over a table or two in the name of the abuse women are enduring in the world today. Half the Sky, a book I highly recommend, also addresses how things like rape, honor killings, and lack of health care for birthing women are horrible forms of modern-day slavery. We have to care about our sisters around the world who were created and adored by God. We have to get angry enough to move toward action. The book offers solutions. We are seeing that educating women and giving them micro-loans can benefit entire villages and economies. We are seeing study abroad programs and social media activity activate young people to make a lasting difference. As the book and Spirit so powerfully state, women are not the problem, but the solution.

March 8th is International Women’s Day. This year, dare to get angry about oppression against women. Don’t let that anger consume you, but like Jesus in the Gospel, let’s realize that sometimes destruction has to come before creation. Sometimes anger can lead to creative friction and agitation can lead to action. Buy the book. Check out the girl effect. Spread awareness on social media on March 8th. You are powerful and can be part of the solution. Girls like Rath need your anger desperately.

NOTE:  If you are in the Twin Cities, Sheryl WuDunn co-author of Half the Sky speaks Wednesday, March 7th at 7 pm at the University of St. Thomas. Click here for more information. The event is free and open to the public.

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