“We Become What We Love”

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Advent by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our December 5th newsletter


contemplationAs we continue our journey through the Advent season it is good to take a step back and spend time in quiet reflection. Advent did not fully become part of the church until the late 6th or early 7th century. It originally was a season, like Lent, of repentance and penance. It is often described as a time of waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The word Advent itself means coming. It is derived from the Greek word “Parousia” which refers to the coming of a king. I find it fascinating and telling that we created a season to prepare for the arrival of a king given that the four Gospels each present a different Jesus. In Matthew, Jesus is the king; in Mark, He is the servant; in Luke, He is the perfect man; in John, He is God Divine. The king won out, after all who would spend four weeks preparing for the arrival of a servant? Yet in Mark 10 it says: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.”

This week’s readings all have a theme of patience. The first reading from Isaiah prophesies about what will happen in the future. It says: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.” In our second reading we are told: “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.” We live in a world where patience is rare. We want instant gratification. We expect our prayers to be answered yesterday. When that does not happen we get angry, we blame others. If we learn anything from the election it is that we have created a world based on fear and blame. We are so disconnected from each other that we have failed to see the God in all of creation. We have ceased following the teachings and living the example of the servant and turned the servant into a king. We should stop calling ourselves Christians. I wish Jesus would come across the sky in a chariot and wave a magic wand to make everything right. But we all know that is not going to happen because Jesus never left us; we left Jesus.

The only answer I have comes from St. Clare when she wrote: “We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God’s compassionate love for others.”

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on December 6, 2016 at 9:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Returning to Ourselves

Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent by FAN Board Member, Ms. Carolyn Townes

This reflection was originally posted in our November 28th newsletter


reflection

John the Baptist had a difficult task ahead of him. From the time he leaped in his mother’s womb, John’s divine assignment was ordained. He was to be the herald of the coming Messiah. He was to pave the way for the message and mission of the Christ.

During Advent, the appearance of John is very prominent and no less so in this Sunday’s readings. We hear John doing exactly what the Lord called him to do – preach repentance to the people of his day. This is what John was called to do: to usher in a new way of being with Jesus.

But John also had to practice what he preached. It wasn’t enough for him to point the finger of condemnation at others; he also had to look in the mirror of the waters of the Jordan River where he baptized. John had to keep his own heart pure as he was anointed and appointed by God to shepherd His people until the coming of the Son of God.

“The need to advise, admonish and teach should not make us feel superior to others, but first of all oblige us to return to ourselves to see if we are consistent with that we ask of others,” Pope Francis told his audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Part of our call to practice what we preach is to act with mercy. We must be about the business of kingdom justice; hearing the cries of the poor and the afflicted and doing what is ours to do to alleviate their suffering. We too are called, like John, to work for a more just society, bearing with one another in mercy and love. The task will not be easy, but we are gifted with the spirit of grace which assists as we need. As Pope Francis said, we must consistently “return to ourselves” to exercise that spirit of grace and mercy.

During this Advent season, as you examine your thoughts, words and actions, do you return to yourself to make sure you are practicing what you preach? Or, are you calling others to repentance without checking yourself in the mirror of the Word of God?

Loving and merciful God, grant us the grace to see what we need to see in order to do what is ours to do. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Carolyn D. Townes, OFS
National Animator, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation
U.S. Secular Franciscan Order
FAN Board Member

Published in: on November 29, 2016 at 9:35 am  Leave a Comment  

The Laborious Climb Up God’s Mountain

Reflection for the First Sunday in Advent by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Marie Lucey

This reflection was originally posted in our November 21st newsletter


mountainAdvent is the quieter, more reflective liturgical season, right? Advent is a season of anticipation and hope. However, Advent 2016 unfolds in the aftermath of contentious, alarming U.S. elections just a few weeks ago. Many see election results as a vindication of their unheeded outcry about being excluded from the economic system, some see the election as confirmation of their bigotry, and many see the results as a train wreck, especially for vulnerable communities including immigrants, refugees, Muslims, LGBTQ persons, and those with needed health care under the Affordable Care Act.

Maybe this Advent puts us more closely in touch with the times of today’s scripture writers, Isaiah, Paul and Matthew. Theirs were not Hallmark times, not soothing and gentle, but tumultuous, struggling, uncertain times. Times like ours.

In Isaiah’s vision, the people say, “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain,” to be instructed in God’s ways. One of God’s instructions is to “beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks…”. Usually we apply this teaching to nations, but it can also be a lesson for us as individuals. In this post-election Advent, what are my swords and spears? At whom are they directed? In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus cautions us to “Stay awake!” and to be prepared. We have a high mountain to climb. Recently, I read advice by a teacher who said, “You will not climb the mountain for which you are not passionately prepared.” A first step can be to be awake to my own swords and spears, and beg God to transform them into attitudes and actions of peace and love. So equipped, we begin the laborious mountain climb toward peace with justice, holding fast to our core beliefs, taking each other’s hands, crying out, clinging to hope.

Sr. Marie Lucey
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on November 22, 2016 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Finding God in the Aftermath of the Presidential Election

Reflection by Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, FAN Board Member and Associate Pastor at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, MD.


arezzo-fresco

Tuesday night, Nov. 8, I stayed awake past midnight, anxious to find out the results of the Presidential Election. Finally, I rested my weary head on a pillow. “O God where are you in the midst of all this?” I sighed. “And what do you want me to do?” I got an answer a few days later when, out of the blue, an image and a story popped into my mind. That image was one of Giotto’s frescos in the Upper Church of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy. The fresco, which you can see [above], tells a story. St. Francis was passing by the city of Arezzo, which was in the grip of an intense conflict. According to the story written by St. Bonaventure, St. Francis saw a multitude of demons rejoicing over the city and instigating the angry citizens to destroy each other. The people were deeply divided along economic, social and political fault lines. Many felt disempowered. That disempowerment, in turn, gave rise to fear, resentment and hatred. It bred mistrust, mutual demonization and even violence.

In response to that scene, St. Francis sent Br. Sylvester as his herald to preach a message of peace. On the fresco, you see Br. Sylvester standing in front of the city of Arezzo while St. Francis, down on his knees, is in deep, contemplative prayer. As a result of the intervention of the two friars, “the tumult in the city was appeased, and all the citizens, in great tranquility, began to revise the statutes and regulations of the city, so that they might be duly observed. Thus, the fierce pride of the demons, which had enslaved the miserable city, was overcome by the wisdom of the poor. The humility of Francis restored it to peace and safety.” (Notice the fresco’s depiction of the demons fleeing Arezzo).

In this post-election season in America, there are – and I’m speaking figuratively – demons hovering over our cities and the entire nation. They are the demons of fear, callousness and incivility. Those demons incite intolerance, discrimination, and personal and systemic violence. What can we do to follow the lead of the two medieval Franciscan friars who put evil to flight? I’d like to offer three observations and suggestions:

1. St. Francis and Br. Sylvester were contemplatives in action. Notice Francis, down on his knees, praying. Likewise, our efforts for justice and peace must go hand-in-hand with cultivating prayer and contemplation. Only by going deeper will we be able to draw on these inner resources. Only then will we have the power to deal with fear, anger and helplessness. Only then will we be able to let go of the rigid ideologies that shackle us and hinder us on our path toward the Kingdom of God.

2. St. Francis and Br. Sylvester didn’t flee from the conflict – they took personal risks and engaged that conflict with compassion, creativity and courage. They brought opposing groups of Arezzo’s citizens into a civil discourse. Are we willing to follow their lead? As a response to the 2016 Presidential Election, Franciscan Action Network invites us to make this make this commitment to Civility in Dialogue:

Facilitate a forum for difficult discourse and acknowledge that dialogue can lead to new insight and mutual understanding.
Respect the dignity of all people, especially of those who hold an opposing view.
Audit myself and utilize terms or a vocabulary of faith to unite or reconcile rather than further divide those with conflicting positions.
Neutralize inflamed conversation by presuming that those with whom we differ are acting in good faith.
Collaborate with others and recognize that all human engagement is an opportunity to promote peace.
Identify common ground, such as similar values or concerns, and utilize this as a foundation to build upon.
Support efforts to clean up provocative language by calling policy makers to their sense of personal integrity.

3. According to the biography of St. Francis, the devils fled the city of Arezzo when its citizens sat down together in a civil dialogue and “began to revise the statutes and regulations of the city.” The key point here is that an authentic dialogue leads to restorative justice. The 1971 World Synod of Bishops reminds us that “Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world is a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel.” The Church’s mission for the redemption of the human race and its liberation from every oppressive situation ought to compel the ordinary Christians – men, women, youth and children – to civic engagement, and not just during times of elections but throughout the year.

I hope that, just like St. Francis and Br. Sylvester, our Franciscan parishes will continue to inspire and empower people to live out a Gospel that is not truncated but, rather, is inclusive of civic engagement.

Engaging in a civil dialogue and working together “to revise the statutes and regulations” of our counties, states and nation is what we do, to some extent, at St. Camillus Parish. We often use labels like “community organizing” or “advocacy” to describe the work we do. Through our involvement in Action in Montgomery (AIM) or Renters Alliance, we make our contribution toward more compassionate, just, inclusive and intelligent public policies on issues such as access to safe, quality and equitable housing for the poor and middle class; and quality educational opportunities for all children and youth. The advocacy efforts of Bread for the World help stave off malnutrition and hunger in our country and around the world. March for Life seeks legal protection for unborn children. Citizens Climate Lobby and DC Catholic Conference work together to promote the D.C. Carbon Fee and Family Rebate Act. Franciscan Action Network and the USCCB’s Justice for Immigrants seek just and fair treatment for undocumented immigrants, opposing policies that target people of color and discriminate against Muslims. These are the various ways we can care for the vulnerable, safeguard the earth, and promote what Pope Francis refers to as “the revolution of tenderness.”

So, where is God in this tumultuous post-election period? As typical of our God of surprises, S/He might be waiting to be found in your commitment to deeper prayer and contemplation, in your pledge to civility in dialogue, and in the tenacity with which you stay engaged in various community or advocacy efforts without giving in to despair or cynicism. I know it gets tough. But God believes in you.

Peace and all good,
Jacek Orzechowski, OFM
St. Camillus Church, Silver Spring, MD

Published in: on November 17, 2016 at 1:20 pm  Comments (3)  
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The Unfolding Mystery of Christ, King of the Universe

Reflection for the Feast of Christ, King of the Universe by FAN Board President, Sr. Margaret Magee

This reflection was originally posted in our November 14th newsletter


universeI grew up in our church which celebrated this Sunday as the Feast of Christ the King, a feast instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925. In the years following World War I, though war had ended, Pope Pius grasped that true peace among nations had not become a reality. His desire, in establishing this feast, was to focus the faithful beyond their own nationalistic agendas to be united in Christ’s kingship as the Prince of Peace.

Personally, this feast only invoked images of Jesus as the king sitting royally on a throne crowned and in glorious robes. Images very much like my childhood perception of God as an old man with long white hair and beard sitting on a throne in the clouds. These images of Christ, the King and God on a heavenly throne had little or no connection with the world. For me, they instilled a sense of a God who sat in judgment, distant from humanity and divorced from creation.

Pope Paul VI, in 1969, revised the title of the feast to Christ, King of the Universe. This revision along with our broadening worldview and greater awareness of our global reality has helped to shift perception from nationalism and royalty to God in the midst of and one with all creation.

Our readings this Sunday call us to this deeper reality. In the letter to the Colossians, Paul speaks of Christ as the firstborn of all creation, with all things being created in and through Christ. Christ holding all created things together is the very fabric and connectivity of all creation and all living beings. Yet the gospel brings us back to reality that our sinful, human weakness blinds us to the presence and reality of the Christ of God and of the universe. The ‘rulers sneering’ and the ‘soldiers jeering’ remind me of the cries we hear today from Climate Deniers yelling ‘Prove it!’ Those who deny our climate crisis truly seem disconnected in their spirituality to our God and to the Christ who dwells in and throughout all of creation.

The Jesuit writer and mystic, Anthony de Mello, in his book Taking Flight captured this sin of disconnection. “Once upon a time there was a forest where the birds sang by day and the insects by night. Trees flourished, flowers bloomed, and all manner of creatures roamed about in freedom. And all who entered there were led to Solitude, which is the home of God, who dwells in Nature’s silence and Nature’s beauty. But then the Age of Unconsciousness arrived, when it became possible for people to construct buildings a thousand feet high and to destroy rivers and forests and mountains in a month. So houses of worship were built from the wood of the forest trees and from the stone under the forest soil. Pinnacle, spire, and minaret pointed toward the sky, the air was filled with the sound of bells, with prayer and chant and exhortation. And God was suddenly without a home.”

Pope Francis in his encyclical, Laudato Sí, calls for our ecological conversion and a renewed spirituality which truly embraces Christ, King of the Universe. “The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things. Saint Bonaventure teaches us that ‘contemplation deepens the more we feel the working of God’s grace within our hearts, and the better we learn to encounter God in creatures outside ourselves’.” (233)

Anthony de Mello, SJ, Taking Flight- A Book of Story Meditations, Image Books Doubleday, New York, 1990.

Sr. Margaret Magee
FAN Board President

Published in: on November 15, 2016 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Taking a Stand at Standing Rock

By Rev. John Dear, a leading social justice activist and priest known for his work on peace

fr-john-dear


Like millions of other concerned people, I’ve followed the standoff at the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in North Dakota for months. The good people of Standing Rock, including the Dakota, the Lakota and the Sioux, have stood their ground since April, to block the evil 1,170 mile, $3.7 billion Dakota Access Oil Pipeline which will dig through the three mile wide Missouri River, potentially poisoning the water for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people, and desecrating the sacred land of the indigenous people. They’ve built several large camps and a permanent campaign that has gained the support of 200 other tribes.

Thousands have made the journey to the Standing Rock to stand in solidarity. The Obama administration has told the Army Corps not to issue the permit for drilling under the river but the preparations continue. Hundreds of unarmed peaceful people have been arrested in acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. State police and brutal pipeline security guards have attacked the nonviolent people with dogs, mace, tear gas and rubber bullets and consistently lied to the media, blaming the peaceful people for their violence.

Through it all, the Native American people have stood and walked in a steadfast spirit of prayer and nonviolence. Before our eyes, they have demonstrated that rare kind of satyagraha reached by Mahatma Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the finest nonviolent movements in history. In doing so, they have exposed for all the world to see the centuries old racist war on Native Americans and the equally centuries old war on the earth itself, as well as the power of creative nonviolence when wielded properly.

Last week, a national call to clergy went out. Clergy were summoned to drop everything and get to Standing Rock for a day of prayer and repentance, and a march from the main camp to the bridge where the police and pipeline security officials block the road to the notorious pipeline construction site.

And so I went. Over six hundred women and men priests and ministers from various Christian denominations made the journey, along with hundreds of other activists. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Looking out from the plane over the barren prairies of North Dakota, I was startled by the massive bright blue Missouri River. It is much bigger than I realized. From the air, it was so clear to see that, indeed, “Water Is Life,” as the Standing Rock saying teaches. Our plane was packed with church folk and young activists, and so was the Bismarck airport. There was excitement and hope in the air. Solidarity seemed alive and well.

As I drove south under the big blue sky across the rolling brown prairies to the village of Cannon Ball near the Standing Rock camp, the orange sun began to set and the sacred landscape radiated beauty, energy and life. I walked into the packed gymnasium for the evening orientation and nonviolence training, and found a hushed standing room only crowd listening attentively to Father John, the local Episcopal priest who has served here for 25 years, as he explained the scenario for the next day. Several Standing Rock leaders spoke before food and refreshments were offered. It was clear from the get-go that nonviolence was the order of the day.

They call themselves “protectors” not protesters, “pray-ers” not disrupters, “peacemakers” not “troublemakers.” It’s that creative nonviolence that has attracted the interest and sympathy of people around the country and the world.

The next morning, I drove to the Oceti Sakowin camp as the sun rose over the mysterious North Dakota landscape. From the hills above the camp, it looked like a sea of tents with the striking exception of the scores of large white tee pees sprinkled throughout the camp. It was a sight to behold. The Cannon Ball River ran along one side of the camp and large brown rolling hills circled the entire area in the distance. Here, for the past months, thousands of people have maintained a nonviolent satyagraha campaign to protect the land, the water, and the dignity of the Standing Rock people.

At 7 a.m., as I approached the main gathering place for worship, I noticed the large billboard with the camp rules: “We are protectors. We are peaceful and prayerful. We are nonviolent. ISMS have no place here. We respect the locals. We do not carry weapons. We keep each other accountable.”

There, around the Sacred Fire, several dozen Native women offered morning prayers and then set off for the daily walk to bless the water. Over the next two hours, hundreds of clergy, mainly women and men Episcopal priests, arrived and greeted one another. Over the course of the day, we exchanged stories, shared our feelings and plotted strategies for future solidarity. I was happy to see friends Ann Wright of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus, and Bill McKibben of 350.org.

At 9 a.m., Father John began a liturgy of prayer and repentance, where we formally denounced the ancient “Doctrine of Discovery,” the church document from the 1490s which empowered European authorities to steal the land and resources of indigenous peoples. After silence and prayers, it was burned in the Sacred Fire. Then the march began.

We set out from the camp, by now a thousand of us, well over half in various clerical church attire, with black robes, white collars, and colorful stoles. Most of us carried bright posters that read “Clergy Stand with Standing Rock.”

We walked slowly, mindfully, peacefully down the main road, over the hill, and down toward the bridge, where the police have barricaded the road to prevent people from approaching the actual drilling and construction site of the pipeline. We sang as we walked–“Amazing Grace,” “This little light of mine,” “We are marching in the light of God.” It was one of the greatest, most peaceful marches I have ever experienced in a lifetime of marching for justice and peace.

When we reached the bridge, we gathered together for songs and speeches. A wonderful African American woman minister led us in “The Water Is Wide.” A group of Jewish women sang an inspiring prayer in Hebrew. A young Quaker activist read her congregation’s statement of solidarity. Another Native elder and minister prayed for the pipeline workers, police and security guards, and the coming day when they would join our circle and together we could celebrate creation and the Creator.

In my speech, I thanked the Standing Rock people for their steadfast resistance and exemplary nonviolence, and reflected on Jesus’ connection between nonviolence and oneness with the earth. I recalled his teaching in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek; they shall inherit the earth,” and noted that meekness is the biblical word for nonviolence.

Long ago, Jesus connected nonviolence with oneness with the earth, I said. We have forgotten that connection, rejected nonviolence as a way of life, supported the culture of violence, and now are faced with the consequences of systemic violence–the destructive pipeline and catastrophic climate change. But the Standing Rock people are calling us back, I continued. They urge us not just to reject the pipeline, honor their land, and protect our water, but to reclaim our common nonviolence and shared oneness with the earth. They are showing us the way forward, and it’s time for more and more of us to follow their lead.

More songs, speeches and prayers followed, and then everyone exchanged the sign of peace. Bag lunches were offered and people sat down on the tall brown grass to eat, talk and rest after the day’s march.

Later that afternoon, a hundred clergy drove north to Bismarck for another protest at the State Capitol. Fourteen were arrested inside during a sit in, calling for an end to the pipeline and for respect for the native lands and water. But I stayed back and spent the rest of the day walking through the main camp, meeting and listening to hundreds of people. It was a powerful experience, to encounter so many people who were coming together in this difficult but beautiful campaign.

One young Standing Rock couple with two little children showed me their video from the demonstration the day before, when police and pipeline security officials sprayed the people with tear gas and shot them with rubber bullets. Others told me about the military-style raid on another camp the previous week, which led to the removal of everyone’s meager possessions and the arrest of 140 protectors. The pictures could be from our military maneuvers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Palestine, Libya and Pakistan. More, this war against the indigenous people and North Dakota landscape is not new: for one thing, hundreds of nuclear weapons have been planted in this sacred ground, ready for take off and global destruction.

One Native elder, who was also an ordained UCC minister, reflected with me on the possible outcomes that lay ahead, including the Obama administration’s effort to move the pipeline many miles north. In the medic tent, one young Native physician’s assistant told me stories of previous demonstrations, their care for the marchers and their basic mission—“to keep people alive.”

I visited the artist collective, various kitchens, tents where extra clothes were being collected and given away as needed, and the media tent. In another tent, I came upon the daily nonviolent direct action training, required of every newcomer on the day of their arrival. Some 150 people were being trained in the basics of nonviolence. It was the Civil Rights movement all over again.

Right now, everyone is digging in for the long, cold winter. But as I stood and watched a group building the geodesic dome in the center of the camp, it was clear: they may be cold, but they are on fire.

The next day, I read an editorial in the New York Times calling for the pipeline to be moved far away from Standing Rock. It said in part:

A pipeline may well be the most profitable and efficient way to move a half-million barrels of crude oil a day across the Plains. But in a time of oil gluts and plummeting oil prices, is it worth it? Is it worth the degradation of the environment, the danger to the water, the insult to the heritage of the Sioux?

The law-enforcement response to the largely peaceful Standing Rock impasse has led to grim clashes at protest camps between hundreds of civilians and officers in riot gear. The confrontation cannot help summoning a wretched history. Not far from Standing Rock, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, sacred land was stolen from the Sioux, plundered for gold and other minerals, and then carved into four monumental presidential heads: an American shrine built from a brazen act of defacement.

The Sioux know as well as any of America’s native peoples that justice is a shifting concept, that treaties, laws and promises can wilt under the implacable pressure for mineral extraction. But without relitigating the history of the North American conquest, perhaps the protesters can achieve their aim to stop or reroute the pipeline.

Perhaps. If the Standing Rock campaign is able to stop or reroute the pipeline, it will do so because of their steadfast nonviolence and the strong movement that has grown up around them. But like every grassroots movement of nonviolence, they need help and are asking for it. Everyone can get involved to help build this movement, support their nonviolence, and reach that good outcome and transformation.

As we continue our solidarity with Standing Rock, we are being summoned to take a new stand in our own lives, to give ourselves to the growing grassroots global movement to stop the destruction of our common sacred land, the poisoning of our shared water and the oppression of the indigenous peoples. One immediate next step is to get involved in the Nov. 15th National Day of Action. Another would be to join the group I work with, www.campaignnonviolence.org.

Published in: on November 10, 2016 at 2:40 pm  Comments Off on Taking a Stand at Standing Rock  

Justice, As a Matter of Fact

Reflection for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Intern, Joshua Crawford

This reflection was originally posted in our November 7th Newsletter


healing“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place[.]” (Lk. 21:10-11)

This week’s Gospel reading has a reputation for being among the most difficult for Christians to process and accept. It is indeed odd. Much of the stories of Jesus’ life and teachings are agreeable and comforting to a Christian’s ears (the Nativity, “Judge not, lest you be judged”, the Golden Rule, healings, etc.). And yet, here we have Jesus delivering alarmingly bad news to us.

I have come to accept these words as an assessment of the current world, stated very much as a matter of fact. Wars, natural disaster, disease and injustice exist, and they will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. But we are not helpless in our reaction to such things. A social justice advocate like me uses these verses as inspiration for everything we do. Nothing motivates us to do something about evil and injustice like witnessing it and then being compelled through a moral conscience to do something to stop it or prevent it from occurring again.

The reading is disturbing to a social justice advocate just as it is to everyone else, but a clear motivation to alleviate injustice and pain allows one to accept it. Furthermore, this motivation is something close to an affirmative command for the Christian. I have no doubt the same Jesus who performed miracles and was angered and aggrieved at people’s lack of compassion (Mk. 3:5) would command Christians to take action (in whatever ways their status in life permits them) to end the pain and suffering of others.

After the joyous events of baptism, forgiveness, adoption as children of God and assurance of life in communion with God and the saints, the Christian is invited to live with Jesus as their example. That example includes being moved by love and compassion towards others and taking action whenever able to express it by helping victims of all those tragedies listed in the reading. The Christian should be able to accept this invitation without hesitation, and the only difficult step should be merely figuring out the best ways of carrying it out.

Peace and all good,
Joshua Crawford
FAN Intern

Published in: on November 8, 2016 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Fidelity over Circumstances

Reflection for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, by Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our October 31st newsletter


faithful
“The Lord is not God of the dead, but of the living.” (Lk. 20:38)

The Gospel this week is a strange account of two different viewpoints. Is there eternal life or is this all there is? Does what I do today count? The answer is yes, there is eternal life and what you do today shapes your life for eternity! For those who believe in Christ, we find it troubling that life could just be about what we do today. But as you know, this discussion still goes on today in our families and in society. How many times have we heard from friends and family the argument “Why would God allow this to happen? Why do good people get hurt? Why is there war and why do people go without basic human needs?”

On the weekend before our national elections, I am sure that we are all tired of the questions that we have been seeing and hearing for weeks about this person or this policy. So God’s Word today calls us to see things for the long range game and not for short term solutions.

Fidelity in difficult times is based upon our firm belief that God is in control of all circumstances, in spite of what we think and in spite of what we might see and even not see.

I remember being at a self help group and hearing in someone’s sharing of their struggle, “It was not the end of the world, it was just the end of my trying to control life.” The readings this week remind us that even our greatest fear, Death, cannot and will not have the last word in the human story.

So know this: we will all survive the results of this election in spite of the ads, the arguments and political discussion that has surrounded us for months. So take a breath and get on living and believing that our God is Faithful. For we are called to do His work on earth.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap
FAN Board Member

Published in: on November 1, 2016 at 9:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Restoring Dignity to the Excluded

Reflection for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our October 24th Newsletter


restoring-dignity
The encyclical Laudato Si describes many of the crises regarding God’s creation, a creation which is depicted by the author of the book of Wisdom as “loved by God and embracing God’s imperishable spirit.” (Wis. 11:24, 12:1) However, in the encyclical the Pope adds “We are faced …with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.”(Laudato Si, 139)

In our Gospel, Saint Luke tells of Jesus “restoring dignity to the excluded.” Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, pocketed funds collected from the people and is rejected by society. Jesus treats Zacchaeus with respect and dignity; Zacchaeus is transformed and acts to restore relations with those he has cheated. “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Zacchaeus also vows to do what he can so that others have what they need to live with dignity “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor.” (LK 19:8)

In Laudato Si, the Pope speaks of integral ecology as a new model of justice, which presumes that social injustice is not independent from the environmental crisis, but that they are related. How we act towards any human being is how we treat the rest of God’s creation and how we act towards creation is how we treat each other.

As we prepare to cast our vote for our next President we may ask, where are the strategies to combat poverty, to restore dignity to the excluded or to care for God’s creation? No matter who wins the election, we are called as followers of Jesus to exercise faithful citizenship that considers the care of our one and only Earth as well as the care of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters, with whom we share our Earth.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Are We Living as Christians or Hypocrites?

Reflection for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Executive Director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our October 17th newsletter


christians-or-hypocrites
We live in very strange and disturbing times. According to Bread for the World, every day nearly 18,000 children die from hunger and hunger related disease. In the time it takes you to read this meditation around 60 innocent children of God will have died. We justifiably challenge our leaders and politicians who support the sin and evil of abortion, but we give a free pass and even honor those who contribute to the sin of hunger. We rationalize it by saying it is different. Sunday’s first reading from Sirach tells us: “The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites…. yet he hears the cry of the oppressed. The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.” Our God certainly heard the cry of those 60 children who died in the last 5 minutes. Did we hear their cry?

In a few weeks we will be giving candy out to children at Halloween. The children will be smiling as we put a candy in their bags. We will be thinking how cute they look. Maybe we will be thinking about when we were young and went trick-or-treating. We probably will not give a second thought to the children who are trafficked and sold into slavery to pick the cocoa seeds used to make the candy. God will certainly hear the cry of those oppressed children. Will we?

In an article by Cindy Wooden at Catholic News Service, we are told Pope Francis spoke with a group of young people October 13th and was asked what the greatest sin is. His response is prophetic: “…the sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy,” which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ.

“You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian,” he said. “You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25,” which is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger.

“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” he said. “If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”

Luke’s Gospel reading starts with the statement, “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” The story goes on to talk about the two men, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee talks about how righteous he is, how he prays and gives money to charity. He does all the prescribed fasts and considers himself better than the sinners. The tax collector admits he is a sinner. We know how this story ends. In her book, Holy Thursday Revolution Beatrice Bruteau says Jesus’ teachings and actions mean “we are to deepen our purity beyond ritual observances and not let any purity practice divide us or set us at odds with our fellows.”

If we are so concerned with our rituals and our purity codes that we are not hearing the cry of the poor and oppressed and not acting on those cries, what does that make us?

Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on October 18, 2016 at 8:07 am  Leave a Comment