The Word and the Body

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Board Member, David Seitz, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our January 20th newsletter

The readings for this Sunday have what may seem at first an odd relationship. In the first reading, Ezra the priest assembles the people of God after they return to Jerusalem from exile and reads to them from morning until night the scroll of the commandments of the Lord, interpreting it for the people’s understanding. He ends by proclaiming “Do not be sad, and do not weep for today is holy to the Lord your God…for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.”

Psalm 19 is a hymn proclaiming that the law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, full of wisdom, right, clear, enlightening, enduring forever, true, and just.

The passage from Luke in the Gospel tells the story of Jesus, returning to his home in Nazareth, opening the scroll and reads from the prophet Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” Then Jesus tells those assembled, “Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” If you continue to read in Luke, this story ends with the people being convicted for their hardness of heart and in vs. 29 “Rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.”

So far, our readings have focused on the Word of God being read and taught to the people and show how powerful that Word can be as evidenced by the reaction of those who rose up in fury after being convicted in their hearts by the power of the Word.

The Church seems to have thrown a curve ball at us in the 2nd reading from Corinthians. In chapter 12, St. Paul gives us the great teaching on the Body of Christ. “As a body has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” He goes on to teach that the body is incomplete if any of the parts are missing and he teaches “but that the parts may have the same concern for one another…”

How do we reconcile these two seemingly different themes in the readings? The Word and the Body. Let’s look to the prologue of the Gospel of John for an answer. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus is the Word; the Word that was proclaimed by Ezra the priest; the Word that is exalted in Psalm 19; the Word that was fulfilled in their hearing as Jesus read from the scroll. Jesus, being the Word of God made flesh, comes with the power of the Word as we see by the effect on the people he encounters throughout his ministry. He comes with power and conviction. He brings healing, conversion, hardness of heart and controversy.

When we reflect on St. Paul’s teaching on the body of Christ, of which we are “individually parts of it”, can we even imagine that we, by nature of being joined to the body of Christ, our head, come with power and conviction? Can we comprehend that WE, You and I, as the body of Christ, can claim to be, in a sense, the Word of God made flesh? Do we bring healing, conversion, hardness of heart and controversy? Are we a Word that is perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, full of wisdom, right, clear, enlightening, enduring forever, true, and just, as in Psalm 19?

This is our calling as Christians. We are commanded by Jesus to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (MT 25:19-20)

This is what the Franciscan Action Network strives to do each day. We bring the Word to our nation’s leaders through advocacy, through public presentation, and while reaching across both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, even partnering with other religious denominations and secular organizations to advocate on our core issues that we can agree are important to help proclaim “liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord”. We bring the Word with power, because by our action and advocacy, we cause people to react and be convicted of heart, either towards conversion or at times hardness of heart. That is what Jesus encountered in his ministry. Can we expect those proclaiming the Word today to experience anything different? Sisters and Brothers, we are one body, living in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not of this world, as Jesus told Pilate at his trial. Our Kingdom knows now Earthly borders. We are the Body of Christ, in the Kingdom of God striving to bring justice to all who are “individually parts of it” regardless of the Earthly borders that may be in place. Won’t you please help FAN proclaim the Word?

David Seitz, OFS
FAN Board Member

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Published in: on January 22, 2019 at 10:19 am  Leave a Comment  

For Whom Will You Not Be Silent?

Reflection for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time by FAN Associate Director, Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our January 14th newsletter

Isaiah cries: “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet. . .” While contemplative silence is needed in this noisy world, there are times when remaining silent can be a betrayal. In our time, Dietrich Bonhoeffer agreed: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

In a new biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, author David Blight quotes Douglass in 1893, at the beginning of the Jim Crow and lynching period: “We have one weapon unimpaired and it is that weapon of speech, and not to use it. . .is treason to the oppressed.”

Recently, with the opening of the 116th Congress on January 2nd, over 100 women were sworn in, the most in our history though still not a number equal to men. Many women acknowledged their debt of gratitude to women on whose shoulders they stood, 100 years after women in the U.S. won the right to vote. If the suffragettes and their male supporters had not spoken out, marched, and demanded the legitimate right of women as members of a free society, if they had waited for men in power to introduce the 19th Amendment, when would all of us women reading this reflection been “given” the right to vote? We might also ask ourselves when will women in the church, the People of God we love and in which we have done heavy lifting for many years, when will our voices be included in decision-making at all levels?

In this week’s Gospel, the Wedding at Cana, it is Jesus, of course, who changes water to fine wine, but Mary is in command. John first notes that she was there, and, by the way, Jesus and his disciples were also invited. It is Mary who notices that the wine was running out, and simply tells Jesus, “They have no wine.” At first, this does not seem important to Jesus, but he has been obedient to his mother for enough years to respect her wisdom and understanding, so he does as she requests. As a wife and mother, Mary understands that what may have appeared not significant enough for a miracle could have been a humiliating disaster for a couple on their wedding day. So she did not remain silent.

Sr. Marie Lucey, OSF
FAN Associate Director

Published in: on January 15, 2019 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Yes, Immigration Is “A crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” But Not in the Way Trump Thinks

By Tony Magliano

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is 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. His original post on Pax Christi can be found here.

Blaming huge numbers of violent killings, assaults, sex crimes and drug overdoses on undocumented immigrants, President Donald Trump in his first prime-time speech from the Oval Office (Jan. 8) said, “This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” and insisted that Congress provide $5.7 billion for a wall extension along the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Trump’s words are absolutely correct: “This is a humanitarian crisis, a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.” But how he applies these words are absolutely incorrect.

There is indeed a humanitarian crisis. But not a READ MORE

Published in: on January 14, 2019 at 10:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Expectation or Exasperation?


Reflection for the Baptism of the Lord by FAN Board President, Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF

This reflection was originally posted in our January 7th newsletter

“The people were filled with expectation…” With this opening line from our gospel we may want to pause and ask ourselves, are we living today in expectation? What does expectation look like? What does our faith call forth from us? Are we truly immersed in Christ or are we simply holding membership in a religious faith tradition?

I remember, some years ago, seeing a co-worker’s screen saver which said, “Jesus is coming, look busy!” It seemed funny to me at the time but now it makes me wonder if our ‘busyness’, our constant frenetic activity is really dulling our senses, diminishing our attentiveness and weakening our capacity for compassion and empathy. Do we live with a sense of hope and expectation of living Christ more deeply? Or do we live with deepening exasperation from the pressures of life? Many experience frustration with government, church leaders, and others who seem to be more interested in their own personal gain and status rather than the needs of the people and the common good of all.

We know that it was not until 313 AD and Constantine’s Edict of Milan that Christianity was accepted and benevolently recognized within the Roman Empire. Prior to this dramatic Constantinian shift, Christians were persecuted. For the earlier persecuted Christian community adult baptism was the common practice because seeking baptism meant truly immersing one’s life into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It meant putting one’s life on the line in the belief that the teachings of Jesus and the fulfillment of the Reign of God was at hand. This anticipation and expectation spurred on the believers to totally embrace Christ in their witness and in service of the gospel.

The readings for this Sunday are truly a testimony to the witness and service of John the Baptist and of Jesus. Their witness emboldened the early Christians to live their baptism with determination and expectation of making the Reign of God visible and vibrant even in the midst of suffering persecution and injustice at the hands of the Roman government. So, what about us today?

We, sharing in the same baptism, are called to embrace the prophetic mission and witness of the gospel. We are called to proclaim and to prepare the way so that all people might come to know the Christ, who is our Justice, in those who, in fleeing persecution in their home countries, seek refuge for themselves and their children and are only greeted with suspicion, detainment and deportation. We are called to work for justice and healing in our church and our world where lives and families have suffered the pain and agony of abuse, racism, hatred, and violence.

As we gather to celebrate this feast, let us recall our own baptism, whether we were infants, young children or adults. The baptism we received is a dying to self and a rising in Christ. Our baptism calls us to be immersed in Christ and made one with all our sisters and brothers in the Body of Christ.

May our baptism reflect the expectation and anticipation that drives out the darkness of anxiety, fear and hatred. Let us immerse ourselves in the Spirit and live our baptismal call and work to establish justice, peace and goodness for all people!

Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF
FAN President

Published in: on January 8, 2019 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

When the ‘Word Became Flesh’

Reflection for the Epiphany of the Lord by FAN executive director, Patrick Carolan

This reflection was originally posted in our December 31st newsletter

Last week we celebrated the Incarnation, the moment when the “Word Became Flesh.” Through our rituals, prayers and festivals, our sharing of gifts, and enjoying family, friends, and food we honor the joyous occasion. I remember the anticipation I felt as a child waking up with my brothers on Christmas morning and waiting for my parents to wake so we could open our presents. My wife is Italian every Christmas Eve we would celebrate with a dinner of seven fishes. We would cook all day and in the evening have 25-30 folks over to feast. For many, the celebration of the Incarnation could and should be the most joyous time of the year. The incarnation changed everything. Even in our Gospel reading in the story of the Magi traveling to see the baby, we hear about the joy they experienced when first encountering the baby Jesus. It says: “They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.”

During this time of joy and celebration do we stop and ask why? Why did the incarnation happen? As a child I was taught that Jesus came to save us from our sins. Most of this theology this comes from the 11th century bishop and theologian, St Anselm. In his book Cur Deus Homo (Why God Became a Man), Anselm argued that the crucifixion of Jesus was necessary to atone for man’s fall or original sin. He said that it was necessary for the atonement to take place in order to satisfy the justice of God. This argument would suggest that the incarnation happened only so that Jesus could be crucified so as to pay our debt. As Anselm puts it: “Divine justice demands restitution for sin but human beings are incapable of providing it, as all the actions of men are already obligated to the furtherance of God’s glory.” This is sometimes referred to as the ‘satisfaction theory of atonement.’ A theory that Jesus suffered and died on the cross as a substitute for human sin satisfying God’s justifiable wrath against humankind’s transgression.

A few hundred years later, St.Bonaventure argued that Jesus’ arrival can’t be limited to his role in saving creation from sin because God’s decision to become incarnate precedes creation itself. Another Franciscan theologian, Blessed John Duns Scotus said, “The Incarnation of the Son of God is the very reason for the whole Creation. To think that God would have given up such a task had Adam not sinned would be quite unreasonable! I say, therefore, that the fall was not the cause of Christ’s predestination and that if no one had fallen, neither the angel nor man in this hypothesis Christ would still have been predestined in the same way.”

During this time we often hear about the true meaning of Christmas. Religious leaders will talk about how we have lost the true meaning of Christmas. Maybe we should take some time and reflect on what truly is the Incarnation. What changed the moment the “Word became Flesh?”

Peace and All Good.

Patrick Carolan
FAN Executive Director

Published in: on January 1, 2019 at 11:24 am  Leave a Comment  

Reflections on Pope Francis’ 2019 World Day of Peace message

Tony Magliano

By Tony Magliano

As the saying goes, “Politics and religion don’t mix.” Although this cliché is espoused by many, you will not hear it from Pope Francis.

On the contrary, the leader of the Catholic Church firmly teaches that our Gospel-based faith has a wealth of wisdom to offer the often corrupt world of politics. And that it is our duty to strive to infuse that wisdom into the body politic.

As exhibit “A,” consider the Holy Father’s Jan. 1 World Day of Peace message – appropriately titled “Good politics is at the service of peace.”

Peace “is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence,” the pope writes. “Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.”

This is so true. As one of many sad examples, consider how often political officials allow and even authorize the oppression of minority groups like the Rohingya in Myanmar, and now in Bangladesh (see: https://bbc.in/2KPgZ7Q, https://bit.ly/2RPcE4a).

And consider that many political leaders in governments throughout the world, including democracies, largely ignore the marginalized poor – in effect exiling them to the fringes of society, and even leaving millions of them to die every year (see: https://borgenproject.org/15-world-hunger-statistics/).

Among the “political vices” the pope cites are “xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.” All of which bring to mind recent dire environmental warnings from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (see: https://on.natgeo.com/2C4uv2j), the National Climate Assessment (see: https://bit.ly/2DFvfvO), and the often cold-hearted political response to suffering migrants (see: https://bbc.in/2yZnCMD).

Here the pontiff’s words are equally strong, “Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect for each person, whatever his or her background.”

Pope Francis then challenges the immoral tragedy of war and fear. He says, “Peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear.” And adds that the proliferation of arms is “contrary to morality and the search for true peace” (see: https://bit.ly/2BqRelc).

And he condemns “forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need.”

In the world – political and otherwise – where self-centered egos often dominate, Pope Francis calls our attention to the humble corrective teaching of Jesus: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Francis then challengingly calls us to be creative peacemakers: “Today more than ever, our societies need ‘artisans of peace’ who can be messengers and authentic witnesses of God the Father, who wills the good and happiness of the human family.”

And to that Pope Francis encouragingly adds, “Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home.” With open hearts and minds to God, let each of us ask ourself: What is my stone? And how can I best use it to build our common home?

And then consider a New Year’s resolution worth keeping: Read “Good politics is at the service of peace” and prayerfully strive to put it into practice (see: https://bit.ly/2CmIobS).

[Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at tmag@zoominternet.net.]

Published in: on December 27, 2018 at 1:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

How do you Define “Family”?

Reflection for the Feast of the Holy Family by FAN Board Member, Br. Paul Crawford, OFM, Cap.

This reflection was originally posted in our December 24th newsletter


Large groupThe choices in various readings for this week’s Feast of the Holy Family really reflect the reality of how different we view and judge a family according to our own culture, experience and upbringing as well as the pressure society puts upon a family.

There really is a struggle here in our own country of what is a family traditionally, and culturally and there are many sides and many pushes to define what is normal and what is not. But in spite of various disagreements and arguments on defining this, there is one common factor, which is that a child is an important part of the family. Caring for one another is an important foundation of the family and in this we can all find common ground, cause, and need of improvement.

Anyone who has raised children knows that discipline and order are required, the more difficult issues come in the living out of family life. What is the proper discipline and order is always an concern and a place for discussion and change. I have to come clean here and say I have never raised a child.

But to be honest, I always thought my family was imperfect especially in light of families I saw on TV. It has only been since I have worked as a Social Worker that I’ve come to realize, in-spite of my family’s imperfections, life was good, and my parents really did the best that they could do.

These are important and necessary questions for family, a life is often a work in progress, and at times messy, sometimes painful, through often times wonderful and the source of comfort.

What is important is to recognize that families are families throughout time, usually not perfect, and prone to daily distractions, sometimes friction, but sometimes embracing and a place to find support. Richard Rohr says it so well, foundations are built to have friction which in fact keeps the building secure.

What is also important to remember and to even acknowledge is that every child, even the adult children who now serve as parents, are all children of God, whose existence relies upon God and not simply their human parents.

This week’s Feast Day should remind us that the Holy Family was not so different than ours. Jesus lived with a mother and an adopted father and caused both to become fearful when Jesus disappeared and was found in the Temple. “Child, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Jesus answered, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

So, let us all put aside our checklists, judgements, and criticism of our family upbringing or of other families and accept and get on with our lives.

For we are all children of God, longing for our true home.

Br. Paul Crawford, OFM Cap.
FAN Board Member

Published in: on December 25, 2018 at 9:30 am  Leave a Comment  

50 years later, a Christmas message from the heavens

Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist whose column is 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.


By Tony Magliano

MOROCCO SUPER MOON

In this 2016 file photo, a super moon rises above the roof of the Mohammed V mausoleum in Rabat, Morocco. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the North African nation in March 2019. (CNS photo/Abdelhak Senna, EPA)

Fifty years ago on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24, 1968) the crew of Apollo 8  entered lunar orbit and began circling the moon – the first time in history for humans to visit another world (see: https://bit.ly/2EkLJda).

That evening the crew’s astronauts Bill Anders, Jim Lovell and Frank Borman transmitted a live television broadcast including spectacular pictures of the moon just 60 miles below them, and of the Earth – a quarter of a million miles away.

In a most fitting conclusion to the broadcast, the astronauts shared a biblical reading of the first 10 verses of the creation account in the book of Genesis.

Anders started by inspiringly saying… READ MORE

Published in: on December 19, 2018 at 8:59 am  Leave a Comment  

How did Elizabeth know?

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent by FAN Board Member, Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF

This reflection was originally posted in our December 17th newsletter


contemplationHow does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? (Luke 1:43)

How did Elizabeth recognize her Lord, as Mary, wearied from her travels, approached her? What are the implications of Elizabeth’s greeting for us, as we see images of children and pregnant women, boys and men who have traveled miles to flee violence in their nation of birth, now in camps within miles from our southern border?

Was it because Elizabeth was contemplating the presence and action of God in her own life that she could be open, to recognize and acknowledge God in another? Is this what our baptismal mandate calls us to; to see the hidden presence of God in all with whom we come in contact? Doesn’t our baptism also empower us to be bearers of “he who shall be peace” (MI 5:4) with our every action, conversation, greeting?

If we honestly reflect on when we are most at peace, is it when we are open to others, open to recognize the basic humanness of others, open to recognize “he who shall be peace?” Are we ever at peace with ourselves when we close ourselves off from another human being? When we put a border between ourselves and another, are we not putting a border between ourselves and God?

If we believe that all human beings are made in the image and likeness of God then what are we saying to God when we are complacent, “lukewarm” and take no action when we meet our brothers and sisters, our “holy families,” weary from their journey, as they approach us?

Sr. Maryann Mueller, CSSF
FAN Board Member

Published in: on December 18, 2018 at 9:20 am  Leave a Comment  

“Rejoice in the Lord Always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”

Reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Advent by FAN board member, David Seitz, OFS

This reflection was originally posted in our December 10th newsletter


jesuscollageoffacesDuring this Advent season, we rejoice and prepare for the coming of the long-awaited Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. The readings for the third Sunday of Advent remind us to rejoice always in the Lord. The call to rejoice from the second reading, Phil 4:4-7 was a favorite of one of the founding members of FAN, Deacon Tom Bello, OFS. I was fortunate enough to get to know Tom and he always opened his remarks to his brothers and sisters with this passage from Philippians, “Rejoice, I say again rejoice in the Lord!” I can hear his voice ringing in my ears whenever I read this passage. The reading continues, “Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near.”

The first reading from Zephaniah proclaims “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.” The Gospel reading from Luke chapter 3 recalls John the Baptist preparing the way of the Lord and we are told that “Now the people were filled with expectation”.

Who is this Lord in our midst? Who is it that should cause us to rejoice? Article 13 of the rule of life professed by Secular Franciscan sheds some light on how St. Francis would answer these questions. “As the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the first-born of many brothers and sisters, so the Secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.” All people are a gift and an image of Christ. All people. The immigrant. The migrant worker. The person exploited by human trafficking. The falsely accused. The persecuted. The LGBT community. The republican. The democrat. The soldier. The peacemaker. The protester. The person who disagrees with me. The corporate executive. The homeless person. The sick. The orphan. The Muslim. The Hindu. The Buddhist. The Atheist. The Pharisee. The Saint. The Sinner.

You get the picture. St. Francis was so taken by the fact that the God of the universe, the creator of all, humbled himself to join his nature with ours. The incarnation of Jesus blew his mind and is the foundation of his spirituality. When Francis kissed the leper, he embraced the lowest member and the most outcast of his community. Sisters and brothers, we are called to do the same. Who are the lepers we need to kiss?

The crowds asked John the Baptist, What should we do?” John exhorted them to care for the poor and to be honest and treat people with dignity. We know how the story of John the Baptist ends. He was a voice, a conscience of the times calling the leaders of Israel to conversion. His message reached the ears of kings and the leaders of the people. His voice called them to act with justice. His voice resonated with truth and he paid for his message with his life. He was all in.

Are we called to anything less? Some are surprised to know that St. Francis also preached the Gospel to public leaders. It is very Franciscan to bring the Gospel message to the public square. Francis wrote a letter, “To the Rulers of the Peoples” where he exhorts them “I beg you, therefore, with all possible respect, not to forget the Lord or turn away from his commandments by reason of the cares and preoccupations of this world…And you should manifest such honor to the Lord among the people entrusted to you.” (Francis and Clare, the Complete Works, Paulist Press, 1982)

What are we to do? Rejoice in the Lord, the Lord who is manifest and present among you in every person. Support the activity of the Franciscan Action Network and get involved in taking the Gospel to the rulers of the peoples. St. Francis wrote to the leaders of his time. John the Baptist brought the message of salvation to the rulers and kings of his time. Jesus brought his message to King Herod and Pontius Pilate. When is the last time you wrote a letter to the ruler of your people?

May the Lord grant you peace during this joyful Advent Season.

David Seitz, OFS

FAN Board Member

Published in: on December 11, 2018 at 8:56 am  Comments (1)