The Good Shepherd

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, Sister Marge Wissman, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 19th newsletter

The purpose of this Sunday’s gospel is to expand the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd beyond the parish priest or pastor to every Christian and church leader. The actual word ‘pastor’ is derived from a Latin word meaning ‘shepherd.’ In this gospel we are offered both comfort and challenge. The comforting good news is that the Good Shepherd knows us, provides for us and loves us. The challenge is that we are called to be good shepherds to those entrusted to our care. When introducing himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus makes three claims: first, his sheep recognize his voice, second, an emphasis on this self sacrificing life – “the Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, and third, his deep desire that many other sheep follow him – “There are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well.”

I was once part of a justice group called Pastors for Peace. When asked about the name, the founder of the group, Rev. Lucius Walker, said we are all pastors in the eyes of the people we serve. So Jesus shares his life of being a Good Shepherd with us. Everyone entrusted with the care of others is a Good Shepherd. We are a good shepherd by loving those entrusted to us, praying for them, spending our time and talents for their welfare, and guarding them from physical and spiritual dangers. Who are the people to whom you are a good shepherd? At the time that I am writing this reflection, I am also formulating a letter to send to an immigration judge and lawyer. It is on behalf of someone who is trying desperately to get a green card to remain in the United States with her husband and children. I feel that I am a good shepherd to her. Use this example to think of people for whom you are the good shepherd.

This Good Shepherd Sunday is celebrated after Holy Week when Jesus was put to death by the High Council. And then to their dismay and wonderment Jesus rises and is with us again on Easter Sunday. It is testimony to the truth that God’s plan will prevail. Even if they reject this stone, it will still become the cornerstone that will one day be recognized. But the rejection of Jesus and his followers will not alter God’s plan. The ultimate goal is to have one flock under one shepherd. It will be accomplished by Jesus laying down his life for all his sheep.

Sister Marge Wissman, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on April 20, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Earth Day –an urgent reminder to protect ‘our common home’

by Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose writings are published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

As we approach the global celebration of Earth Day (April 22), it would be wise for Catholics to reflect on Pope Francis’ famous environmental encyclical letter “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”

Citing Francis of Assisi – patron saint of ecology – Pope Francis writes “our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. …

“This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.”

Pope Francis explains, “Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable, highly toxic and radioactive, from homes and businesses, from construction and demolition sites, from clinical, electronic and industrial sources. The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

The Holy Father then weighs in on climate change. Ignoring the weak scientific claims of those who deny the climate is changing and that the earth is warming – due principally to human pollution – he writes, “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system” (see:

Indeed, the scientific consensus is very solid. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), “97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities” (

The last five years were the hottest on record (see: And Antarctic land ice, which covers 98 percent of the continent’s land mass, is melting at an alarming speed thus causing a dangerous rise in sea levels. Furthermore, human-induced climate change is happening so quickly that many animal and plant species don’t have enough time to adapt, thus causing various species to die. Frogs, which are among first to die when ecosystems start losing their balance, are now dying off in great numbers (see:

Now consider the endangered human species – especially the poor.

According to a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) policy brief titled “Climate Change and Global Solidarity” today “there are 3 billion people estimated to be a serious risk to the effects of climate change. Many people live in Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States, and their simple lifestyles contribute little to the problems we face. Pope Francis calls us to action – for our immediate response to their needs, but also for longer-term solutions which ensure the enduring benefits of nature for generations to come.”

CRS is urging us to email and call our national legislators (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) urging them to robustly increase financing to meet the immediate and long-term needs of the 3 billion brothers and sisters most at risk form climate change. And to fulfill and exceed the $3 billion pledge to the Green Climate Fund – the premier global climate-finance fund (see:

The Earth Day user guide (see: and recommends:

• Get informed – knowledge is power
• Calculate your carbon footprint
• Unplug – using energy more efficiently
• Travel smarter
• Your food’s carbon footprint
• Advocate your school and company to serve plant-based meals
• Shop smarter – support socially responsible and environmentally sustainable companies
• Vote for the earth and its people.

Join Catholic churches and schools that are going green (see:

Planet Earth – God created it. It’s good. And its’ the only home we have. Let’s treat it with the respect it deserves for our good, the good of the poor and the good of generations to come.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at

Published in: on April 17, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Opening Our Minds to Christ

Reflection for the Third Sunday of Easter by FAN Board Member, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our April 12th newsletter

Recently, in reading Pope Francis’ newest book, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, I found his words full of hope and the possibilities of God’s unfolding future. In the midst of this seemingly endless pandemic and the pains to dispel racism and poverty, there are signs of hope in promoting change and the awareness for true equality, equity and working for the common good of all people.

One line in Francis’ book stood out for me. “A fruitful thought should always be unfinished in order to give space to subsequent development.” On a light note one might think that these words were found in a fortune cookie. However, for me, they go right to the heart of our readings for this Third Sunday of Easter. The fruitful thought of God’s resurrected love and Christ’s ongoing and revealing presence should always be unfinished to give us the room and the space for subsequent developments. We cannot, should not, look upon the revelation of God’s dynamic presence and the resurrected life of Christ as simply an historical event to be remembered and celebrated. Our God is not static!

Speaking of discernment and being open to the continuing guidance of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis also wrote, “Tradition is not a museum, true religion is not a freezer, and doctrine is not static but grows and develops, like a tree that remains the same yet which gets bigger and bears ever more fruit. There are some who claim that God spoke once and for all time – almost always exclusively in the way and the form that those who make the claim know well.”

In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter was bold in holding the people and their leaders accountable for the death of Jesus. “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” He acknowledged that their actions were the product of their own ignorance and their inability to see beyond what they believed and held to be true. We hear in both this reading from Acts and in the First Letter of John that repentance is always available if we are open to “knowing” the Christ and seeing God’s divine action unfolding. God’s mercy is not static!

Our gospel invites us to reflect on another post-resurrection event. The events of Christ’s appearances to his disciples and followers had to have been a tremendous paradigm shift in their understanding, their comprehension of faith and of God’s presence, Christ’s presence, beyond the limitations and boundaries of our human reality. Jesus’ words were calm and reassuring, “peace be with you,” “touch me and see,” “have you anything here to eat?” His words and invitation to the basic human gestures of touching and eating can be seen as ways in which he opened their minds to a new and different reality of divine presence and resurrected life. Christ’s presence is not static!

We live in a post-resurrection world. Alleluia! But are we living with a static and stayed notion of the teachings of scripture and the presence of God? We must take Pope Francis’ words to heart. “Tradition is not a museum, true religion is not a freezer, and doctrine is not static but grows and develops…” If we are open to God’s redeeming, merciful and unfolding ways then we must let go of old and bias attitudes and behaviors that limit our vision and judgment of people based on their religious beliefs, their skin color, facial features, country of origin and sexual orientation. We cannot be static!

Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on April 13, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

We also are sent out

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) by FAN Friend, Tom Mariconda

This reflection was originally posted in our April 5th newsletter

Image by Anja from Pixabay

Year after year, we hear about “doubting Thomas” on the First Sunday after Easter. But this Gospel is actually much larger than the doubt of Thomas. It is about our being empowered by the Spirit to go out into the world to “restore all people to unity with God and each other in Jesus Christ.” This is God’s Mission, and we have all been commissioned to play a part in it by virtue of our baptism.

The doors where the apostles had gathered were locked, trying to keep the unsafe world outside, like many of us have been doing in response to COVID-19. The apostles were afraid for their lives, but locked doors and their own doubting hearts could not stop Jesus from coming to them where they were. Jesus came to them and greeted them with “Peace be with you”. The Apostles rejoiced at seeing their Lord again, but his greeting of peace was not just “Hello” — it was a goodbye as well. Their Lord had risen, but he was also leaving them. His work on earth was finished and he was going to return to the Father. He was commanding them to continue his work of reconciliation to the world. Jesus doesn’t ask the apostles if they want to be sent out into the world to continue the mission he started; he simply sends them out as the Father had sent Him.

We are also sent out each and every day to live the Gospel in the context of our daily lives. Jesus believed that the apostles could continue his work — and so can we. Can we put aside our own doubts and believe that we can make a difference in the world? I truly believe that we can make a difference. Does this mean that we will always succeed in seeing our goals become reality in all cases? The answer is, regrettably, no. But I believe that we can all make a difference in the world by simply standing up and demanding that our society could do better and by giving the gift of our presence, by serving those in need or being a voice that demands justice for the marginalized.

When we get involved in feeding the hungry, providing for the homeless, serving those in need, or demanding that all God’s people be kept safe, we make Christ visible in the world and we do make a difference. We make a difference not only to those we serve, but by opening ourselves to being transformed by the encounter as well. Our call is to simply bring the gifts of our presence, our faith and our hope, so that we can make a difference in the lives of those we encounter daily.

For now, let us always remember the Easter greeting:
The Lord is Risen, Alleluia
He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia

Tom Mariconda, TSSF
FAN Friend

Published in: on April 6, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

A Good Friday reflection on Jesus’ suffering with the world

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose writings are published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

Pope Francis has often urged us to prayerfully meditate before the crucifix. Because by prayerfully meditating before the crucifix, one can see and begin to understand the ultimate result of sin.

The Romans’ sins, the Jews’ sins, our sins nailed our Lord Jesus to the cross. The cost of sin is death. Our sins killed the Son of God. Our sins crucified our loving Lord. And our sins continue to cause him to suffer.

God is not the grand watchmaker, who created the world and now sits back and watches from afar as humanity suffers. No, by his incarnation, life, passion and death he has proven that he is with us – especially in our suffering.

And it is most important that we be with Christ in his suffering.

The late deeply insightful theologian Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar said, “It is the Cross that the Christian is challenged to follow his Master: no path of redemption can make a detour around it.”

So, let us pray.

From the personal sins of pride, arrogance, selfishness, greed, indifference, envy, lust, anger, unkindness and violence, save us O Lord. Make us instead men and women whose lives reflect your humility, compassion, selflessness, generosity, justice, kindness, purity, gentleness and nonviolence – in short, your love.

From our indifference to the structures of sin so evident in our society and world, like the abortion industry which profits from the brutal dismembering and murder of unborn babies, save us O Lord.

From an insufficient government response to the suffering of our poor and hungry brothers and sisters in this country, and throughout the world, save us O Lord.

From the many corporations that reap huge profits from the use of sweatshop labor, that refuse to pay a living wage, that produce unsafe products, that pollute and dangerously warm our earth, save us O Lord.

From the military-industrial complex which produces the guns used in many murders committed on our city streets, which manufactures the light arms, tanks, helicopters, fighter jets, war ships, bombs, missiles and drones that fuel the world’s wars and kill far more innocent civilians than combatants, save us O Lord.

From the research facilities and factories that produce nuclear weapons of mass destruction, save us O Lord.

From a government that is more committed to astronomical military budgets and tax cuts for the wealthy than it is to adequately funding needed programs for the poor and the middle class, to fixing the nation’s infrastructure, to helping family farmers, to trading fairly with poor nations, to ending global poverty, to legalizing our hard-working undocumented population, and to committing full funding for clean, renewable energy sources, save us O Lord.

Let us also remember that the crucifixion was not only the ultimate sign of the evil of sin, but was also the ultimate sign of the love God has for us.

On March 27, 2020, with the deadly coronavirus increasingly raging throughout the world, Pope Francis presided at an evening Lenten prayer service and extraordinary blessing “Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) – before an empty St. Peter’s Square. This strikingly, out of the ordinary, deeply prayerful event, highlighted in a mystical way a heavenly call to humanity to pay serious attention to what is most important in life.

Pope Francis declared that during this pandemic crisis we are being called to make a choice between “what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.”

He added, “It’s a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”

For a deeply moving Lenten/Holy Week experience reverently watch Pope Francis’ mystical prayer service (see:

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at

Published in: on March 31, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Clear out the Old Yeast

Reflection for Easter Sunday by FAN Communications Coordinator, Janine Walsh

This reflection was originally posted in our March 29th newsletter

We’ve lived among a pandemic for more than one year. I remember my deep sadness last Easter at not being able to enjoy the annual rituals at my parish during Holy Week. I was depressed that I was not able to join with my fellow parishioners in my faith community to sing “Hosanna” on Easter Sunday. Watching it on tv was just not the same, I lamented. How could I ever be satisfied?

Now, one year later, new habits have formed. Grabbing a mask as I walk out the door and washing my hands when I come in the house is second nature. I’ve watched mass on tv so much, I have developed a deep connection with the Spiritual Communion prayer. These habits that seemed so foreign to me last Easter are now my “new normal.” In meditating on Sunday’s second reading from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, I wondered, was God clearing out my “old yeast”?

My oldest daughter was one of so many who began baking during the shutdown last year. She honed her skills and learned how to make delicious loaves of bread. My favorite is her herb and olive oil focaccia. I watched her in awe as I was never a great baker. Chemistry was not one of my favorite subjects. I couldn’t understand why the ¼ tsp of salt had to be in there! How can such a small amount of salt matter that much? I remember, when I was young, being frustrated that a cookie didn’t come out the way it was supposed to. My mother looked at the recipe card and asked if I added the right amount of salt. At my angst, she laughed understandingly and said “Chemistry matters in baking.” It was these memories that stirred in me as I read St. Paul’s words.

“Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become fresh.” They say “old habits die hard” but it’s amazing what you can do when motivated. Think back to this time last year. How long did it take you to acquire new habits like grabbing a mask or sanitizing your hands more often? One year of living with a pandemic, we find ourselves developing new habits, perhaps even better ones than the old. With fresh yeast, we can join together to celebrate “sincerity and truth.” Who wouldn’t want a slice of that?

This Easter season, let us discover the empty tomb and ponder the mystery of the Resurrection. Let us “clear out the old yeast” in our hearts to be strengthened in our faith so as to develop new habits. Habits like Jesus had: feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and dying, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, welcoming the stranger, and loving the ‘unlovable.’

How, you may ask? With a little fresh yeast and some chemistry. Welcome those who may think differently than you…they are the yeast. Add in the chemistry of other cultures and soon you have beautiful, bountiful ideas to develop and nurture new habits of justice for all.

Janine Walsh
FAN Communications Coordinator

Published in: on March 30, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Nails Not Needed

Reflection for Palm Sunday by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our March 22nd newsletter

A few years ago, a priest shared a story about visiting a chapel in Namibia where, as he prayed, he noticed that something was different about the wooden crucifix. When he went closer to examine it, he saw that there were no nails holding Jesus on the cross. Why? It dawned on him that it wasn’t the nails that held Jesus on the cross—love did.

Have you ever wondered if the excruciating agony of Jesus’ crucifixion was really necessary for our salvation? How could a loving Father God demand the torture of the Son? Certainly God could have chosen another way without so much pain and blood. Wasn’t it enough that God became human? But that’s the point. Paul reminds us that the Christ came “in human likeness.”

In our humanity, we all experience suffering. Only some are tortured. Not all undergo great physical pain. But each of us suffers in some way: loneliness, isolation, depression, rejection, anxiety, abuse, death of loved ones, financial insecurity, impact of racism, spiritual emptiness; not an exhaustive list. For more than a year, the whole human family has suffered with the global pandemic. Is the reason for Jesus’ Passion not only about, or even mainly about, payment for our salvation, but about God “in human likeness,” desiring to enter fully into the human experience? Is it more about God being present with me in my suffering than it is about saving my soul?

In the Palm Sunday narrative of the Passion, all the palm wavers disappear; the “Hosannas” are traded for cries to “Crucify him!” Jesus is deserted by almost all his closest friends and disciples. From an instrument of torture he cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But the good news for us is that we can be sure that God in human likeness knows and understands our suffering and never abandons us. God is with us, even when we don’t feel God’s Presence. Self-emptying love is what kept Jesus on the cross.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on March 23, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Lent’s radical call to each person and every nation

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose writings are published in print and/or posted online in various U.S. diocesan papers. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the Franciscan Action Network.

“Repent and believe in the Gospel” – the call we received from Christ on Ash Wednesday – is a radical call, the most important call we will ever receive. It directs our attention to uprooting all that is sinful in our lives and to ever more fully live lives of love – for friend and foe alike – with a special emphasis on the vulnerable and poor. It’s a radical call that is meant to be heard, reflected on, and acted upon beyond the season Lent – throughout all the seasons of our lives!

In the Gospel the biblical word used for repent is the Greek word “metanoia” – a radical change of mind, heart, soul and action. It happens when one changes course and turns around to walk in the right direction – walking out of the darkness of our lives and into the light of Christ. Metanoia means a life-changing conversion. That’s what Jesus is calling us to when he says “repent!”

Think of some of the great saints who deeply repented, who truly experienced a metanoia.

St. Paul did a complete about face. He went from persecuting the followers of Christ, to championing their cause and suffering with them.

St. Augustine of Hippo turned from fleeting unmarried sexual pleasure and unsatisfying philosophical pursuits to a totally fulfilling surrender to the will of God. In his famous autobiographical “Confessions” he sums it all up so well: “You [God] have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

When you and I allow our heart to rest in God, we become a new creation, fully dedicated to advancing his kingdom. But this takes humility, honesty, selflessness, much prayer and hard work. True repentance (conversion) is not for the faint-hearted!

The renowned Catholic English writer G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

And making it even more difficult, a life dedicated to listening to the Holy Spirit concerns itself not only with personal repentance/metanoia, but also with the conversion of the nation, that is, praying and working to change in our country what St. Pope John Paul called the “structures of sin” – everything from abortion to war – into structures of life, love, social justice, peace.

In this year’s Lenten message, Pope Francis encouragingly writes, “To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you’ (Is 43:1). In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.

“Only a gaze transformed by charity can enable the dignity of others to be recognized and, as a consequence, the poor to be acknowledged and valued in their dignity, respected in their identity and culture, and thus truly integrated into society” (Fratelli Tutti, 187).

As one important concrete way of charity, please consider a selfless Lenten donation to the poorest of the poor (please see:

Let us pray that the God of love, the God who is love, will transform all our gazes into gazes of charity, thus inspiring us to recognize the dignity of each poor person near and far, and to therefore do all in our power – as individuals and governments – to help lift our brothers and sisters out of poverty into the decent dignified conditions of life they deserve.

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at

Published in: on March 20, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Struggling with Christian Morality

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent by FAN Executive Director, Stephen Schneck, Ph.D

This reflection was originally posted in our March 15th newsletter

Image by falco from Pixabay

For more than thirty years, I taught political philosophy at The Catholic University of America. As part of the canon for courses on the history of ideas, Friedrich Nietzsche’s book, Genealogy of Morals, was one I would lecture about every few years.

In the book, Nietzsche made the argument that Christianity was a slave morality. He particularly contrasted Christian morality with the moralities of the classical ages of Greece and Rome – those moralities had at their heart a celebration power, nobility, spiritedness, magnificence, fame, wealth, nobility, pride, glory, and living exuberantly. They were moralities directed toward living gloriously as a master in the world.

Nietzsche loved Greece and Rome. He mocked Christian morality because it was morality for servants and slaves. Christianity was about meekness, humility, denial of self, obedience, turning the other cheek, and doing good to those who persecute you. Christianity embraces and identifies with those in poverty and those poor in spirit. It calls us to be lambs not wolves, to give rather than take, and to overcome our own egos, and our desires and pride, to surrender to become instruments and channels of divine love.

The readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent remind me of how my students struggled with these Nietzsche arguments. The Responsorial Psalm prays that God will cleanse our hearts from the glamours of pride and sin. The second reading, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, explains that even Christ suffered to deny himself in perfect obedience to the Father.

In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears
to the one who was able to save him from death…

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered;
and when he was made perfect,
he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

The Gospel, from the twelfth chapter of John, dramatically insists on this same denial of self, insisting that we reject living gloriously in this world, that we spurn the appeal of magnificence and power and wealth.

Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.

And, John’s Gospel passage continues in this vein. We are called to be not masters; we are called to be servants, even as Jesus himself served the will of the Father, choosing not to save himself from an ignoble death, sacrificing his “self” for our salvation.

No wonder Nietzsche was appalled. Nor is Nietzsche alone. Indeed, are not those with power, fame, glory, wealth, and magnificence the kind of people we too often admire in the world around us? Isn’t the glorification of the self a modern American norm? We want VIP status. We post selfies. Our apps constantly invite us to self-promote.

The season of Lent reminds us, week after week, that our Christian morality is entirely different. It is ever about humbling and overcoming our individual selves in loving service to God and others. Lent is a journey to relearn the central message of Christian morality – a morality that begins and ends with being servants. It is a morality that identifies with those in poverty, the meek, the powerless, and the poor in spirit. Indeed, Christian morality is a Lenten morality wherein overcoming the self we allow ourselves to become instruments for divine purpose in this world and in preparation for the world to come.

Stephen Schneck, PhD
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on March 16, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Rejoice! Because God so Loved the World

Reflection for the 4th Sunday in Lent by FAN Director of Advocacy, Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our March 8th newsletter

We are nearing the great Easter Triduum: the celebration of our Free gift of Salvation. The Scripture Readings of this Fourth Sunday, called also “Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday,” remind us, in case we have forgotten it, that indeed Salvation is a free gift, a gift given in spite of our rejection and blindness.

What is it with us humans that at times we can be so blind and deaf to warnings and even evidence that something cannot continue as it is, even to our own peril?

The first reading tells us that God tried everything to warn the people about their behaviors. God sent messengers to help them confront the evil of their actions, but they did not listen and they mocked the messengers. They were not able to heed the warning and change their behavior. So the house of God was burned and the people sent into exile. But God in the end did not leave them and through the vision of Cyrus, king of Persia, the worship in the temple was restored.

St. Paul, in the letter to the Ephesians, also makes it clear that while we were dead in our transgression we were brought to life with Christ. And finally, John’s Gospel presents us with the very well known verse “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

If I could attempt to summarize the Scripture messages of today, I would say they are a hymn to love and mercy. And that is why it is indeed a Laetare Sunday.

So today as we listen to God’s Word, we may ask ourselves if we too are deaf and blind. Are there warnings to which we are not paying attention? Who are the prophets we ridicule or ignore? In these troubled times, our country and our world need to pay attention to the signs around us: climate crises, poverty becoming more widespread, violence on the increase, white supremacists acting out their fear and hatred, just to name a few. We need to listen and pay close attention to at least one prophet of our time.

Pope Francis is tirelessly pointing us in the direction of change, encouraging us to believe that a different society is possible, writing documents to show us the way. Pope Francis also reminds us that while we are sinners we are also infinitely loved and surrounded with the tenderness of God, if only we recognize it. There could be such a different way to live if only we would be energized by this truth, that God so loved the world, and therefore act with mercy and compassion. May the end of the Lenten season be the time for us to listen. It is never too late to rejoice in the awareness of God’s love.

Sr. Maria Orlandini, OSF
FAN Director of Advocacy

Published in: on March 9, 2021 at 10:30 am  Leave a Comment