Who has the Right of Way?

Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN board member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our August 22nd newsletter


Recently, while taking a routine driver’s awareness course for my community, I came across this phrase, “You only have the right of way if the other driver gives you the right of way.” I have thought of this many times when I encounter aggressive drivers on the road. One unexpected consequence of remembering this phrase is feelings of peacefulness and calm while driving.

Our readings this Sunday remind us that when we try to follow the nonviolent Jesus our world and values will be turned upside down. Power, pride and social status were just as important to people in biblical times as they are today. Self-sufficiency, ambition and egoism are values ingrained in the social structures of our culture. Advertising and our economic system thrive on greed and self-absorption. We probably can all think of a time when we may have been personally humiliated by assuming “the place of honor at the table.”

Saint Francis wanted his followers to be “minores,” to differentiate them from those who have wealth and power. Francis wanted his followers to always be aware of their total dependency on God. The good we possess is a gift from God and the good that we do is only through God. We may wince at words such as dependency or minority and may tend to avoid any situation where we may be given “the lowest seat at the table.” We can only practice humility on a daily basis with God’s help. In her book the Humility of God, Ilia Delia writes that Saint Bonaventure describes the humility of God as God “plunging in the darkness of humanity to meet us where we are, in our violence.”

Gandhi taught that “the spirit of nonviolence necessarily leads to humility.” How different would our homes, our roads, our society, our politics be if we each practiced nonviolence, attempted to respond to situations in a nonviolent manner, for even an hour each day? The Franciscan Action Network website offers suggestions on active nonviolence.

Thomas Merton wrote that when he made the decision to try to act in a nonviolent manner he began by closing doors gently. Perhaps we can begin by remembering that when driving “you only have the right of way if the other driver gives you the right of way.”

This week: Try to close doors softly and be conscious of any aggression while driving.

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board of Directors

Published in: on August 23, 2016 at 9:03 am  Comments (1)  

The Narrow Gate

Reflection for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our August 15th Newsletter

682This week’s second reading spoke to me as both a parent and a child. I remember as a child being disciplined for some wrongdoing, always thinking it was unfair. Yet, when I became a parent, all those little disciplines I got from my mom and dad were suddenly justified. I could see much clearer the love out of which those corrections came. It’s very hard to explain to 5-year-olds why they are being punished. Only later, when the child has a little “wisdom of age” does she or he fully understand the reasoning: Love. It is the same with God. All the trials we endure in this life, the author explains, are due to the Lord’s love of us, his children. “For whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.” God gives us only what he knows we can handle. We are preparing for heaven by our responses to these trials.

In the Gospel, we have two seemingly contradictory statements. Jesus’ followers ask him how many will be saved. First, Jesus tells his disciples, “many will attempt to enter” into heaven, but “will not be strong enough.” Yet, by the end of the parable, we are given visions of many people from all over the world welcomed to the table of God. “People will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.” This sounds like the opposite of the warning in the beginning of the reading.

We have many ways of separating people in our society today; rich, poor, black, white, brown, gay, straight, the list goes on.  However, the Gospel assures us people from all over will be welcomed into the kingdom of God. God does not have favorite people. He doesn’t make distinctions of power, nationality, age, sex, money, etc. He loves all humanity without exception. The only requirement is Jesus. When we believe in Jesus and live by his ways, we will be united with one another and God. Jesus is the narrow gate through which we are to strive for heaven.

Janine Walsh
FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on August 16, 2016 at 9:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Setting the World on Fire

Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN executive director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our August 8th newsletter

FireI have often found this Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke to be one of the most disconcerting and challenging. Jesus is frequently referred to as the Prince of Peace. Yet here he is talking about setting the world on fire and setting brother against brother. That does not sound much like the “Prince of Peace” to me. I used to wonder why this particular verse was chosen to remain in the final edited version of the reading. Because I have found this verse so challenging I have spent a lot of time reflecting on it. Particularly the section: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Gospel literalists have interpreted that sentence to mean that Jesus literally wants to set the world on fire. Many are waiting for that event to happen. Believing that Jesus will come to destroy God’s beautiful and wondrous creation with fire and then start all over again with a new heaven.

When I was a kid I would often ask my teachers and my priest “what kind of God would be so cruel that he would destroy his own creation and causing millions upon millions to be tortured and suffer? What kind of God would promote fear over love?” As I got older and began working in social justice, I began to look at the passage differently. I began to feel the passion for justice blaze inside of me. I wanted to set fire to the whole world. Not a literal fire but a fire of passion so that people would start to care about the poor, the marginalized and all of creation. When I saw a homeless person I would get angry and want to scream at society, how you can sit idly by while people are homeless and starving?

Luke’s Chapter 12 where this Gospel comes from starts with the sentence: “Beware of the leaven—that is, the hypocrisy—of the Pharisees.” Who are the Pharisees today? In Matthew 15 Jesus says, “Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy about you when he said:

‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.’”

How true are the words of Isaiah today. We have politicians, running for the office of president on down, who claim to be Christian, claim to honor God with their words yet they preach a message of hate and fear. Because we spend time honoring God with our words, not our actions we are a house divided. We can live in our comfort zone and never transform. As it says in the second reading, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.”

Peace and All Good,
Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on August 9, 2016 at 9:17 am  Comments (1)  

God’s Watery Paradise Under More than Olympic Seige

Guest post by FAN friend, Marybeth Lorbiecki, Director of Interfaith Oceans


As we think of Rio, we see Christ the Redeemer standing tall over one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Guanabara Bay –“ the bosom of the sea.” Encompassing the largest bay water volume in the world, it has nurtured marine species of all kinds, tucuxi (Guiana) dolphins, crabs, fish, and seabirds. With its sparkling beaches and blue waters, it evokes a Biblical paradise. “And God said that it was good.”

Yet when Olympic sailors tested themselves in preliminary regattas, they ran an obstacle course of floating plastic bags, submerged sofas and mattresses, and trash of all kinds, even the carcasses of dead horses, dogs, and sometimes people too. 2012 Bronze Medalist Allan Norregaard from Denmark complained: “I have sailed around the world for 20 years, and this is the most polluted place I’ve ever been.”

Read more…

Director of Interfaith Oceans, Marybeth Lorbiecki is author of A Fierce Green Fire: Aldo Leopold’s Life and Legacy (Oxford, 2106) and Following St. Francis: John Paul II’s Call for Ecological Action (Rizzoli Ex Libris, 2014).

Published in: on August 3, 2016 at 10:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Pay Attention to Omissions

Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Times by FAN Staff, Sr. Marie Lucey

This reflection was originally posted in our August 1st newsletter

OmissionsSometimes, as with the Sunday readings for August 7, the option of omitting passages in brackets is offered to shorten the scripture passages. While shorter rather than longer readings may be welcome on a hot August day, several of the richest lines for reflection may be lost. The theme of the scriptures is fidelity, the faith of our ancestors and faithful vigilance on our part at all times. But lines within brackets are what caught my attention.

The gospel of Luke holds this gem: “For where your treasure is, there will you heart be.” What in my life do I most treasure? Happiness? Health? Friends? A good reputation? Hard earned possession? My intellect or skills? The faithful presence of God in my life? Where is my heart?… Later, in the same passage, there is the challenge, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much…” If my life is filled with blessings, how do I share them with others, especially with those in need of a helping hand or voice?

Some of those most in need today are immigrants and refugees. They come to mind in the bracketed lines in Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews: our ancestors in faith “acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth…seeking a homeland.” Here is a good reminder that those of us who are citizens of a country are also aliens seeking an ultimate homeland in God, and we are challenged to reach out to those seeking a homeland on Earth.

In the Good News and in the daily news, let’s not overlook what can be omitted in brackets or in stories of goodness hidden away behind the headlines of violence, disaster and corruption. Sometimes it is these teachings and stories that cause us to ponder and that give us hope. Let’s remember also that August 7 comes between two anniversaries of death and devastation—Hiroshima and Nagasaki. May these remembrances strengthen our resolve to be nonviolent peacemakers.

Suggested action: This week, look for stories of goodness in each day’s news.

Sr. Marie Lucey
FAN Director of Advocacy and Member Relations

Published in: on August 2, 2016 at 9:57 am  Comments (1)  

Feast of the Portiuncula–St. Francis’ “Little Portion”

August 2nd is the Feast of the Portiuncula.

The following is a blog post from Sr. Ann Marie Slavin, OSF of FAN members the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia which explains the day.


The Portiuncula Chapel, Santa Maria delgi Angeli, Assisi. Image via Wikipedia

Today is a feast day special to all Franciscans–the Feast of the Portiuncula. St. Francis seemed to have a special attraction to old churches–particularly ones that were falling to ruin. When was struggling to determine what it was he was to do with his life, he prayed in the the little church of San Damiano. There he heard a voice saying to him, “Francis, rebuild my church which you see is falling into ruin.” Taking that injunction very literally, Francis set about rebuilding the the little church–stone by stone. He did the same with other abandoned churches in the area. One of those was the little church of St. Mary of the Angels. Francis called it… Read More

Published in: on August 2, 2016 at 8:30 am  Leave a Comment  

“Do Unto Others…”

Policy chairman of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Benjamin Palumbo argues that the Golden Rule ideal communicated by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew should be the instrument by which we measure the effectiveness of our federal government. As we enter the heaviest of the 2016 campaign season, we invite you read and reflect on what you want your government to look like.

CACG logo

Benjamin Palumbo, a CACG board member who has served in several important staff positions in both the United States Senate and House, explores this provocative question with the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew: “”Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”

As we come ever closer to the decision that will determine the make-up of the US government starting in January 2017, it is important to reflect on what we would like that government to do with its mandate. Perhaps Jesus’ admonition that we “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” would seem an appropriate guideline.

How would we like that to be translated into action?

Let’s consider the issue of guns. Read more…

Published in: on July 28, 2016 at 12:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

I’m a Fool for Christ Sake

Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Treasurer, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our July 25th newsletter

Fool for God's Sake

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus refers to a “fool” as “One who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God”. So we should be very concerned about what matters to God and perhaps a little less concerned with what matters to us.

Frank Sheed used to stand in Times Square holding a sign that said: “I’m a Fool for Christ sake. Who’s fool are you?” Needless to say his sign opened up quite a time of discussion to many who were trying to store up treasures that offer far less security and last much less than what these readings call us to.

In the Second reading from Colossians the question of what matters to God is clearly answered: that we become like Him, that we “put on the new self, which is being renewed…in the image of its Creator.” What matters is that we do what He has done for us and for our sisters and brothers. Our lives and our actions are a gift from God and what we do is our gift back and is done for others.

It is not what we possess, as much as it’s how we use and share our lives. In a time of so many looking for security, the Word of God calls us to trust, believe and share.

St. Francis pray that we are ready at this moment and if not help us to try again with even a small step. For it is giving that we receive.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Treasurer

Published in: on July 26, 2016 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment  

Bartering with God

Reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our July 18th newsletter

bartering with godIn this week’s First Reading, Abraham feels that he has to barter with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah. Throughout his negotiations he worries that God will grow impatient or angry with him. But God answers his prayers “I will not destroy it.”

In the Gospel, prayer is in the form of petitions. Petitions are demands made on God which is a very bold way to pray. It is a way to stay in prayer with confidence, trust and persistence. God longs for us to ask, seek, knock.

With all the issues that are plaguing our world especially our nation in the present time, we need to persistently ask, seek, and knock. In the Gospel there is an expectation of the person petitioning that because the dweller of the house is a friend he will answer or will finally get tired of the knocker’s persistence and respond. God is our friend, so we should have the same expectations. We must ask, seek, knock persistently for God to answer our petitions to overcome the problems of gun violence, immigration, climate change, elections etc. etc. and we must remember that God is greater and more generous than we can imagine. God doesn’t need for us to tell him what we need, prayer is for us. God knows the condition of our world and especially our nation. But God wants us, needs us to express our faith and confidence.

Sr. Marge Wissman, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on July 19, 2016 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Service in the Lord

Reflection for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our July 11th newsletter

Service in the LordA lot of times in life, serving is not necessarily fun. To serve can be a lot of work. There is most often anxiety about the quality and timing of a meal, because we want our guests to be happy. Why do we serve? Often it’s because we have to. We don’t have the money to hire someone else to serve us, yet still we need to eat and feed our families. Whom do we serve? The answer to that may vary.  First, we serve those whom we love. Perhaps we volunteer to serve hungry, homeless people.

In this week’s readings, we see both Abraham and Martha fussing over guests. Understandably, they want to make a good impression. Together, Abraham and his wife, Sarah served and were rewarded with news they had long been waiting for. In the gospel, Martha feels so overworked, she is compelled to complain to Jesus about her sister, “Tell her to help me.” Yet Jesus gently rebukes Martha, saying “There is need of only one thing.” Mary chose to sit, listen to her Lord and not fuss over how perfect the house looked or setting out the meal. Martha served and was reproached and told she was missing the point. So, what is the message here about serving?

Last year, my mother slipped on black ice, fell and shattered her ankle. I remember it distinctly as it happened during the second week of Lent. I had signed up to attend a weekly retreat through my parish, once a week for an hour or so, the group met to discuss a book we were reading for Lent. For several valid reasons, it fell to me a lot of the time to care for her after her accident as the rest of my family were far away. I became quite busy running back and forth to her house and so I had to let go of some commitments and the retreat was the easiest burden to lift. I made a conscious decision to serve my mother as my Lenten sacrifice instead.

My mother commented at one point, thanking me, telling me how grateful she was and that I really didn’t have to do all this. I responded honestly, saying, “Mom, I want to do this for you because I want to show my daughters what service in the Lord looks like. Because when I’m your age and I fall and break my ankle, I want them to be there for me.”

As this week’s Gospel shows, we must listen and understand the Word of God in order to act on it. For this reason, my husband and I put a lot of time and effort into our family’s faith life. We consider it every bit as important as other commitments, like soccer, dance or rehearsal for the play. If we don’t make time to listen to God, we will never serve with an open heart.

Janine Walsh
FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on July 12, 2016 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  

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