Tag Archives: social justice

Mother, Now Saint

9 Sep
Photo via Flickr user Mammovies

Photo via Flickr user Mammovies

A mere 19 years after her death, Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa a saint last week. In his homily during the ceremony at the Vatican, Pope Francis commended Mother Teresa for her generosity of mercy and for defending the discarded of society.

Indeed, in her tireless work, Mother Teresa gave people dignity by seeing their full humanity. She called urgent attention to the hideous and unnecessary poverty plaguing our globe. Taking Jesus’ gospel call to advocate for the poor quite literally, she devoted her life to the daily work. Rightly, Pope Francis lifted up Mother Teresa as a model of holiness.

And then, also rightly and with so much style we have come to expect of him, Pope Francis served pizza to 1,500 homeless Italians who were bused in for the event.

The declaration of Mother Teresa’s sainthood is exciting. In elevating our heroes, it is also important to remember their humanity as well. I can distance myself from them, venerating their holiness, while excusing myself from the call. We are all capable of making a life-long commitment to advocate for the vulnerable members of our society. I read the same Gospel that she did, one where Jesus models mercy, compassion and ministry to us. She was a mere mortal who had the same choice I do as to how to live out our daily lives.

I remember as a young child, being taught by nuns, I was curious about the monastic lifestyle. I wondered, “What would I do with my time if I committed to a simple, celibate life? What life would I build? Who would I love?” Now, with a spouse, children and a job, I must ask other questions. Mother Teresa’s sainthood throws back into relief for me the importance of doing Gospel work in my daily life, here and now, in any way I can. Instead of allowing her holiness to distance herself, I can pray for her holiness to call me to a life of mercy and compassion, too.

God With Us on the Move

2 Sep
Photo via MN Historical Society

Photo via MN Historical Society

A friend of mine spent ten weeks working at a migrant center in Tijuana this summer. Tijuana is a city generally seen as the last stop for migrants from Central America trying to cross into San Diego. Lately, the center is also housing large numbers of people from all over the world seeking asylum and refugee status in the United States. The arrival of refugees from places like Haiti and even as far as Syria is fairly new for the city.

The journeys of the migrants and the refugees weigh heavy on my heart. There are oh so many people on the move, looking for a place to rest, willing to travel across to world to find a country who will welcome them. The courage it takes to set out, the energy it takes to travel, the resilience it takes to continue on shows the remarkable strength of the human spirit. They are looking for a fresh start, a safe place to build a future. Only then can they properly grieve their past.

Abraham had been promised land as far reaching as the eye could image and descendants that numbered the stars. Yet as an old man, when his beloved wife died, he had no land, and Isaac, his only son, had no wife. Abraham could have given up. He could have sat down, pouted, and waited for God to follow through on God’s promises. Yet the story simply tells us that Abraham mourned for his wife and then rose from his grief. He got busy, buying land to bury Sarah and went looking for a wife for Isaac. Both of these acts furthered God’s plan for him. The promises came true. Abraham shows the same courage, energy and resilience as the world’s migrants and refugees. Part of grieving his past required him to continue building his future.

People who have been through great trauma benefit from having opportunities to rebuild families and careers. Good work is good for the soul. Building a future creates space to heal from the past. When the worst happens, we can become angry with God and give up, or we can hear God whispering to us to move. Then God can fill the space we create.

Is it possible that God is waiting for us to act? Perhaps God is calling to us from the future, beckoning us to create space for God’s will on earth. The migrants and refugees arriving at Tijuana have heard the call. They seek room to build a future full of good work and flourishing families. Healing from their past depends on it.

Mourning Into Action

15 Jul
Photo via Flickr user AK Rockefeller

Photo via Flickr user AK Rockefeller

When one man gets shot, when five police get targeted by a sniper, when a baby dies from gun violence, we all hurt. It happens to us all. As people of faith, there are helpful places we can go.

We can turn toward lament, knowing God can withstand our anger and pain:

Hear my prayer, O LORD! And let my cry for help come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress; Incline Your ear to me; In the day when I call answer me quickly. –Psalm 102:1-2

We can crack open our Bibles and read, yet again, about the life of Jesus. We can see with eyes anew how he dissolved boundaries and worked for peace and saw the dignity in all people, challenging us to do the same.

As a person of faith, I also know I need to continue to explore my own white privilege. I am called to see it, name it, and work toward being actively anti-racist in my day. For encouragement, and guidance, we can turn toward the US Catholic Bishop’s Letter on Racism from 1979 (!). It still rings true in 2016. The whole letter is helpful, but allow me to include a few quotes here:

Racism is an evil which endures in our society and in our Church. Despite apparent advances and even significant changes in the last two decades, the reality of racism remains. In large part it is only external appearances which have changed.

Racism and economic oppression are distinct but interrelated forces which dehumanize our society. Movement toward authentic justice demands a simultaneous attack on both evils.

Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation.

God’s word in Genesis announces that all men and women are created in God’s image; not just some races and racial types, but all bear the imprint of the Creator and are enlivened by the breath of His one Spirit.

We can read The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me, Walking With the Wind, or I Have a Dream, just to name a few, and watch Color of Fear, Eyes on the Prize, or 4 Little Girls. We can identify where in our lives we have power and skills and use them for good. Do you have the power of free time to show up at a peaceful protest? Are you a voter in a place that could benefit from some policy change? As a mom, as a teacher of youth, as a writer I can tap into my power. I can commit to spending more time being uncomfortable, listening, learning, and acting in response to the recent violence.

There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. In this time of mourning, may our faith call us also to act.

Image 9 Jul


Image 1 Jun


Image 23 May


Standing on the Border

26 Feb
Photo via Flickr user Mars Hill Church Seattle

Photo via Flickr user Mars Hill Church Seattle

It’s near impossible to think about Jesus as a slave, but this word is repeated in his death story enough to catch our attention. Jesus took on the form of a slave and died on the cross. People treated Jesus like he was less than human. He was disrobed and whipped and spat on and ridiculed and ultimately put to death like a common criminal. Like someone easily discarded. Like someone the world has forgotten, someone who doesn’t matter at all.

Jesus chose to really live as a human. He chose to really die as a human. He makes this brilliant move, a move our whole faith is centered around. Our God chose to die as a human slave, looking human darkness in the eye and suffering greatly so that we might love each other more deeply. He had to be a ransom. There had to be a real, tangible transaction. At the center of our faith is the cross. At the center of our faith is suffering, so at the center of our faith can be love.

Jesus’ death is hard to read about because it reminds us what we are capable of. Lent is a hard time because we have to come to grips with the darkness inside of us, the darkness in the center of society. We can say we’d never do it. We’d never put God on a cross. We’d never own another person. We can’t understand how people could make other people suffer so much for their own enjoyment.

Yet last week, Pope Francis brought our attention to injustice happening in our country on our watch. In the middle of our Republican primaries where talk of walls and immigration reform run free, Pope Francis ventured into no-man’s land between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez to pray for compassion toward immigrants before saying Mass in the Mexican border town. It was quite a moment. During his trip to Mexico and the border, he spoke of forced migration and the slavery of human trafficking, as well as poverty and corruption. It was a strategic trip with a powerful message for our country.

Sadly, slavery is still real. It still happens today on our watch in brothels, factories and fields. We support systems that value some lives over others. We are capable of putting God on a cross. Pope Francis, by standing between the US and Mexico to pray for compassion, is challenging us to look at the slavery of Jesus this Lent and reflect on its meaning for our own lives today.



Moving On In Lent

25 Feb
Click on the image to download your free Lenten cross.

Click on the image to download your free Lenten cross.

The parable of the fig tree reveals God’s hope and compassion for people. The gardener, who cares for each tree, pleads for more time and more care. Leave it for another year. A little loosening and manuring of the soil, a little more nourishment, and maybe it will bear fruit. Think this week about what fruit you want to bear.

Following are suggestions for actions to do that will add color to your Lenten cross.


  • Buy a crocus. It will remind you to notice the Earth rejuvenating itself.
  • Plant an indoor herb garden on your windowsill.


  • Fast from fast food.
  • Fast from too much television. Give a dime to Catholic Relief Services (crs.org) for every commercial you see this week.


  • Pray with the people of God as often as you can during Lent by going to daily Eucharist.
  • Wash your windows and thank God for what you see more clearly.


  • Read God’s promise to the people in Jeremiah 31.31-34. What do you want inscribed on your heart?
  • You can look up poems on the internet by searching just a few words you remember. Rediscover a poem that meant something to you in the past. Use it to pray.


  • Compliment colleagues and coworkers on ways they do their jobs and on how their work matters to the whole enterprise.
  • Talk more, or talk less.


  • Take part in a group that provides families in poverty with needed household supplies and furniture.
  • Volunteer to tutor immigrants in English.

Finding Prophets Among Scribes

5 Feb
Photo via Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski

Photo via Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski

Prophets tend to have a difficult life. It’s a tough gig. They see society as it really is, and speak truth to power. They are rarely taken seriously, often ignored, because we are pretty sure we don’t want to hear what they have to say. They give a comforting word to those suffering, and judge those who hold power harshly. They promise justice, which is not good news for those perpetuating injustice. They offer hope to the mourners while clearly pointing out the source of the grief.

We are in desperate need of some prophets– people who can imagine the world without war and hatred and violence– to call us to a higher place. What if we could see each other as God sees us, and act accordingly, so that compassion ruled the day?

Prophets rarely make it into the limelight. They are on the outskirts, calling for us to turn around and pay attention. They are running grassroots protests and feeding people and asking policy makers to show more humanity in a way that makes us uncomfortable because they are right. They are living in a way that seems like they may have a more direct line to God, who is tirelessly trying to work through our broken humanity.

During campaign season, we look to our candidates in hopes of finding a prophet. We look for people who have this God-inspired vision of what our country could and should look like. I can’t help but wonder, though, if our fast moving, media- driven society hushes prophets and glorifies scribes.

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,  and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! –Mark 12:39

In this presidential campaign season, we will hear a few people do a lot of talking, and several more people talk about those people talking. It is a season to beware. Who are we giving authority to? Who are we listening to–prophets or scribes? We do need to pay attention to the campaign, of course. We need to vote with our ballots and vote with our billfolds and television remotes and laptop mice. Meanwhile, I will keep searching for prophets and preparing my heart to listen.


Gospel Reflection for January 31, 2016, 4th Sunday Ordinary Time

27 Jan

Scripture Readings: Jeremiah 1.4-5, 17-19; 1 Corinthians 13.4-13; Luke 4.21-30

“Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

(Luke 4.21)

These words begin Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Luke’s gospel. In last Sunday’s gospel Jesus read a passage from Isaiah that describes a prophet whom the Spirit anoints and appoints to bring good news to the poor, freedom to captives, sight to the blind, to proclaim a jubilee in which those who have lost out in society get a new chance to thrive. Jesus invites the congregation in the synagogue to hear Isaiah’s word not as an ancient, someday promise but as a present claim. Jesus is the Spirit-filled prophet called to make the human race a whole, flourishing community. Pope Francis has proclaimed 2016 a Jubilee Year of Mercy, when we remember Jesus is the human face of God’s love, love we don’t deserve and doesn’t run out.

For whom are you good news? Who is good news for you?

If you enjoy this Gospel Reflection,
please visit the Sunday By Sunday page
to order a subscription or request a free sample.
Start a small bible study. Be a leader.
%d bloggers like this: