A Gospel Reflection for March 25, 5th Sunday of Lent

Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it will bear much fruit. Those who love their lives will lose them.  Those who hate their lives in this world will keep them to life eternal.” 

John 12.24-25
John’s gospel couples the grain of wheat metaphor with sayings about discipleship, about hating our lives in this world to keep them to life eternal.  These sayings call us to plant ourselves in the Christian community and follow Jesus by serving others.  “Where I am, there my servants must be,” Jesus says.

What seeds of hope are you planting with your life?
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Response to #KONY2012 from a Sister in Uganda

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.

Gospel Reflection for March 18th, 4th Sunday in Lent

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but so the world might be saved through him.”

John 3.17

Jesus’ mission is not to condemn the world but to save it.  He calls us who believe in him to do likewise.  Like Nicodemus, we find this hard to understand.  We are accustomed to the harsh realities of our world, such as terrorism, war, collateral damage, market forces, corporate downsizing, torture, and ethnic cleansing.  We take the daily condemnation and crucifixion of millions of our fellow human being for granted.

What crucifixions can I or we in our church community help end?

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Invisible Children and #KONY2012

“Where you live should not determine if you live.”

Two days ago, Invisible Children started a campaign of awareness called “Kony 2012.” Since then, over 7 million people have watched this video and started spreading the word.

Joseph Kony has been committing war crimes in Africa for 26 years, yet many people in the world have never heard of him.  Invisible Children and #Kony2012 aim to change that and to bring Joseph Kony to justice.

Help make Joseph Kony famous.  Sign the petition, contact policymakers and culture makers, and spread the word.

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

Get Angry for Women

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.

Gospel Reflection for March 11, 3rd Sunday of Lent

In the temple Jesus found people selling oxen, sheep, and doves, and money changers sitting at tables. Jesus made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple—sheep, oxen, money changers. He poured out their money and overturned their tables.
He spoke to those selling doves, “Take these doves out of here. Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

John 2.14-16

In Sunday’s gospel Jesus acts dramatically to cleanse the temple of those who change money for paying temple tax and those who sell animals for sacrifice, necessary functions for Israel’s religious practice at the time. “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace,” he commands, pours out their money and overturns the tables. Such a disruptive act might claim headlines today.

Where do buying and selling get in the way of appreciating God’s presence in your life?

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The three traditional pillars of Lenten practice for Catholics are fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. This week I reflect on fasting and abstaining. Fasting usually means partaking of only one full meal in a day, something that is required of adult Catholics on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Abstaining means refraining from something, usually the eating of meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays during Lent, but it is also linked to the idea of giving something up during Lent. Many of us know that Catholics are supposed to do these things during Lent, without really understanding why.

SPIRIT 4 Teens

In eighth grade, I had to wear an ankle brace and walk with crutches for a few days following a minor ankle injury from gymnastics. It was a little thing, but all of a sudden actions I had taken for granted—getting in and out of cars, climbing stairs—took a lot more thought and a lot more work. That small change to my physical being meant renegotiating my relationship to my body and my environment.

Similarly, a year later, my sister had an even more serious injury—a double compound fracture of her arm (again from gymnastics), a break so bad the doctors worried for a minute that they would have to amputate her arm. She was in a cast from her wrist up past her elbow, holding her arm in a 90 degree angle, a position that made previously simple tasks—like putting on a shirt by herself—impossible. When we went shopping…

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