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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

And Jesus Wept.

"Dominus Flevit" "The Lord Wept--outside of Jerusalem
   I am reading  Jesus, a wonderful book by James Martin, SJ. It presents a wonderful and prayerful reflection on Jesus based on the author's experience of making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  I am reading it slowly, not because it is difficult to understand, but because so many of his reflections lead me into prayer and meditation.  When I finish reading I may review it on this blog, for now I am picking up on one part of it that struck me today.

   Fr. Martin comments at length on Luke 19:41--"And Jesus Wept."  He goes into what is behind this and all of the anguish Jesus felt on the night before His death.  That lead me to ask "Over what would Jesus weep today?"  It would be easy to answer that question by listing any number of the evils of the day--terrorism, human trafficking, racial violence are among other things that come to my mind.  I'm sure that the list is longer than that.  I would suggest, however, that we go deeper than that to find the answer.

    I think that more than anything else Jesus weeps at the hatred that is in the world, not only the hatred that fuels terror groups like Isis, but the hatred that I see everyday on Facebook and Twitter directed at other races and nationalities, at politicians, at other nations and at other religions. I am taken aback by anger and outrage expressed so vehemently even when I agree with the opinion of the one expressing it.  It is the anger expressed in things like road rage and the random shootings that so often take place. 

   No doubt much of this anger has its roots in hurts that the angry person has experienced in the past.  It comes out indirectly at anyone and anything that gets in their way. We need to work on healing the anger within us.  While I am an advocate of some type of tighter gun control (no, not repealing the 2nd amendment), the real issue is healing the rage that leads to the crazy level of gun violence that we have seen recently.
 
   So, what is the answer to this problem? Interestingly the members of the African-American church in South Carolina where nine of their members were killed forgave the shooter, a young disturbed racist fanatic. In other places further violence erupted after the initial shooting.

   Maybe Jesus's message of forgiveness, which seems so idealistic is not so impractical after all.  Forgiveness is not softness. It is not about excusing bad behavior and injustice. Those folks in Charleston had a great deal of courage.  They were saying that something terrible happened, but they are not going to give it any more power by spreading the violence. Forgiveness is a form of healthy selfishness.  It says that if I continue the cycle of anger, rage and violence I will be hurting
myself, and probably a lot of other people as well.

   In John's Gospel Jesus command to "Love one another as I have loved you.(See John 15:9ff.) is given on the night before he died, knowing that He was to die, and after the betrayal of Judas.  There is a lesson to be learned in this.
 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Social Justice, Politics, Popes and the Church

  There has been  a lot of talk lately about Pope Francis' statements on the world economy and on the environment.  A lot of it has been positive, but a good deal of it has been critical. I have no problem with the criticism.  Even the Pope himself is taking a look at some of the criticisms before he speaks to the US Congress in September and has repeatedly said that he is open to dialogue on these issues. g the What I don't accept is people saying that he is overstepping his bounds, that he should stick to religion.  I'm sorry but caring for creation and helping the poor are moral obligations rooted in our faith. Also, every Pope since Leo XIII in the 1890's as either issued an encyclical or made an important statement on matters of social justice, speaking out on things like worker's rights, war and peace, the arms race and the care for creation.  In fact Pope Francis recent encyclical, Laudato Si, mirrors thoughts put forth by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Francis has simply made these matters more of a predominant theme of his papacy.

   Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical  Redemptor Hominis expounded at length on the meaning of the redemption that Christ came to bring. All Christians agree that on the cross He won victory over sin and death.  We agree also that He gives us the grace to combat sin in our own lives and in the world.This is where working for social justice becomes a part of our Christian responsibility.  It is not enough just to ask the Lord to help me overcome my personal sins, we must also work to combat all of the terrible evils in the world and to point out those political and economic system that contribute to poverty, injustice and other evils.

   Here in the US people will claim separation of Church and  state.  Clearly the Church has no authority to control government policy, nor does the government have the authority to dictate to the Church. Likewise churches must stay away from endorsing any party or candidate. The churches, however, do have the right to speak up when we believe that something is wrong., whether it is on abortion, poverty, slavery, war and peace, etc.  Several of our forefathers said that the churches must be the conscience of society.  It was the churches that led the charge against slavery.  May we continue to speak a prophetic message to our world.

   Popes and other Church leaders are often criticized for not offering practical solutions That criticism is understandable, but it is also exactly where the dividing line is.  As a general rule religious leaders denounce the evils.  They say in effect, "There's a problem here. It needs to be fixed. This is not what God wants" The appropriate experts then hopefully take action. Pope Francis is saying that the current worldwide economic system needs to be fixed. There is too much greed, too much poverty and inequality.

   The Church does not expect some sort of utopia.   The world will always be imperfect until Christ comes again.  Our task, in the meantime, is to work for a better, a more just, a more peaceful, a more equitable world.  Can we all agree that we can do better?

   Lastly, people often tell me that I am too idealistic, that there will always be war, poverty, etc.  My answer to that is to say yes, that is true, but we must keep the ideal before others so that we don't lapse into cynicism and despair.