Tag Archives: justice

Gospel Reflection for October 16, 2016, 29th Sunday Ordinary Time

12 Oct

Sunday Readings: Exodus 17.8-13; 2 Timothy 3.14-4.2; Luke 18.18

“Take up my case. Give me my just rights against my opponent.” – Luke 18.3

The widow in Jesus’ parable this Sunday is not asking for food and basic necessities. She is seeking her “just rights.” The word in Greek, ekdikeo, is not the usual term for justice but a word that means settling with an adversary. We have a widow with the means and moxie to take someone to court. When the judge finally acts, it is because he fears the widow will disgrace him.

This widow is a woman of voice and action who wants a judgment against her adversary and won’t be silenced. She is like the Mothers of the Plaza de May who have protested the “disappeared” in Argentina since 1977. This year the founder Hebe de Bonafini met with Pope Francis, who told her, “When I meet a woman whose sons were murdered, I kneel down before her.”

How is the widow in the gospel a model for Christians? What evils does the judge represent that Christians must resist? Who do you know who protests like the widow?

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Justice Through Sport

17 Jun
via flickr user Corpus Christi Soccer Academy

via flickr user Corpus Christi Soccer Academy

When I lived in Uruguay, I took a trip to see my friends in Argentina during the 2006 World Cup. It was thrilling to live in South America during the Cup, to be among people who loved the sport and were devoted to their team. We went to a local joint to watch the Argentina-Germany game. In a heart-breaking match, Germany advanced on a penalty shoot- out after being tied 1-1 during regulation time. The folks in Argentina were totally devastated. On the streets after the game, I, with my blond hair and blue eyes, got accused of being German on multiple occasions. It felt a little intimidating. These people take their soccer very seriously.

“No, no, I’m not German. I’m American. I was cheering for Argentina!”

It was the one time in Argentina that being from the United States just about saved me life.

After living among soccer enthusiasts, I was not at all surprised to see that Pope Francis had something to say about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. After all, he came to the Vatican from Argentina.

“To win, we must overcome individualism, selfishness, all forms of racism, intolerance and manipulation of people,” he said. He said being “greedy” in football, as in life, is an obstacle.

“Let nobody turn their back on society and feel excluded!” he said. “No to segregation! No to racism!”

and

“Sport is not only a form of entertainment, but also — and above all I would say — a tool to communicate values that promote the good that is in humans and help build a more peaceful and fraternal society,” he said.  (READ THE FULL HUFFINGTON POST ARTICLE)

Historically, sports have been at the forefront of social change. The influence of the global athletic stage is not to be discounted. There have been athletes so talented, so enticing to watch, they have broken open social movements: Jackie Robinson, Mohammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Tony Smith and John Carlos, Billy Jean King, Magic Johnson and Gareth Thomas to name a few. A victory in the sporting arena can feel like a victory for an entire marginalized people. Athletics becomes a staging for life itself. And soccer is the world’s sport. I know from being welcomed into soccer games in El Salvador, Uruguay and Kenya that soccer is a universal language. Any patch of ground can be a pitch. Any two objects can make a goal. You don’t even need a ball. I’ve met amazing soccer players all over the world who started out as kids practicing with nothing more than some paper tied up with a string. Soccer has the power of universality. Maybe that’s why Pope Francis has such a large collection of soccer jerseys. And why he is hoping that the World Cup can be a celebration of solidarity.

If there is a sport that has world power, it’s soccer. And it’s biggest, most strategic stage to do some good is the World Cup. How interesting that Pope Francis knows that, cares, and is using the event to remind us what is truly important.

Almsgiving

21 Mar

Last week I wrote about the idea of giving ourselves over to God in fulfillment of our baptismal promises in relation to the Lenten practice of fasting and abstinence. Along with fasting and abstinence, there are two other traditional pillars of Lenten practice for Catholics: prayer and almsgiving. This week I write about almsgiving, an ancient sounding word that may seem far removed from our current social lives.

“Alms” is a word from Old English that refers to something, like food or money, given to the poor. As a practice, almsgiving can include many things, such as making a donation to a charitable organization or tithing to a religious institution (that is, giving one-tenth a part of something). Almsgiving is part of our baptismal calling, as it is one way to take care of our brothers and sisters, both locally and globally, and to provide for the needs of the “least of these.” Small acts of almsgiving help us to grow in charity, leading toward recognition of Jesus Christ in the poor of our world. Almsgiving takes us beyond an attitude of “it’s just me and God,” as we respond to the needs of others, to those who participate in the Body of Christ with us. If Lent is about giving ourselves over to God, almsgiving is one way that we can offer a material sign of our commitment to follow in the steps of Jesus. We put our money where our faith is, giving some of our fortune over to God by giving it to serve the needs of God’s children.

Almsgiving is not just for the rich. In fact, in Mark 12:41-44, Jesus praises a widow who donates two small coins. He even goes so far as to say that she gave more than the rich people, because she gave out of what she needed not out of what she had left over. You do not need to have a lot of money to make a big difference, and you can also get creative and think about how you can give alms and tithe in ways that do not involve money. Might you be able to donate 10% of the clothes you currently have in your closet to a worthy cause? Might you be able to reduce your energy usage by 10% by being more conscious about turning off lights, unplugging unused electronics and appliances, and adjusting your thermostat?

Almsgiving certainly promotes charity, that is, giving to those most in need. Yet reading this Sunday’s gospel from John 4 got me thinking about whether we are called this Lent to match our charity with work for justice. In this gospel, we hear the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. As the woman herself reminds Jesus, these two people should not even be having an encounter, since both her gender and religious identity separate her from Jesus. When she questions whether she can even draw water for him from the well, Jesus mentions “living water,” which causes the woman to ask where a person can get such a thing. Jesus is clear that one who drinks from the well will be thirsty again, but one who drinks the living water Jesus offers will never thirst.

It may be our first tendency to read Jesus’ reply to this woman in a spiritual light, and we would not be wrong to do so. He is telling her in no uncertain terms that the way for a person to be fulfilled, to be satisfied, to have eternal life is through faith in God. But I think we may find here, too, a lesson about charity and justice. We have all likely heard the saying that if you give a person a fish, it feeds them for one day; if you teach that person to fish, you feed them for a lifetime. With our charity, we quench people’s thirst in the short-term, which is not an unworthy thing to do. People in crisis need their basic human needs met, and charity helps to insure that this is so. But with our justice, we can help quench people’s thirst for their lifetime. People in crisis also need help dealing with the systemic causes of their suffering. It is worth thinking about how, in addition to our almsgiving this Lent, we can also work for justice in the world.

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