Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Reflection for April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday
EX 12: 1-8, 11-14
PS 116: 12-13, 15-16BC, 17-18
1 COR 11: 23-26
JN 13: 34
JN 13: 1-15

Jesus is apt to come, into the very midst of life at its most real and inescapable moments. Not in a blaze of unearthly light, not in the midst of a sermon, not in the throes of some kind of religious daydream, supper time, or walking along a road...He never approached from on high, but always in the midst, in the midst of people, in the midst of real life and the questions that real life asks.
                                                                                                         --Frederick Buechner

Reflection for April 12, 2017

Wednesday of Holy Week
IS 50: 4-9 A
PS 69: 8-10, 21-22, 31 and 33-34
MT 26: 14- 25

"Were you There" is a notorious hymn sung throughout Christian churches during Holy Week. The lyrics repeat a series of questions, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?" When the choir at my parish began to sing this hymn on Palm Sunday, the haunting questions took on a new timbre of urgency.  I do not think the hymn is intended to provide a hypothetical scenario for us.  Rather, the chilling questions are meant to shake our soul and remind us that Jesus Christ -- the executed God -- continues to be crucified in our midst.
The idea of "the crucified people," is not wholly new to our theological vocabulary. Various liberation theologians, including Jon Sobrino and Ignacio Ellacuria, brought the term to the forefront of liberationist discourse with the following argument: Jesus Christ, God incarnate, identified himself with the poor, the outcast, and the marginalized during his ministry. Because of this, the Messiah was crucified; God was publicly executed. The task of our Christian discipleship today is defined in light of this fact. In Jesus the Liberator, Jon Sobrino writes, "Galilee is the setting of Jesus’ historical life, the place of the poor and the little ones. The poor of this world—the Galilee of today—are where we encounter the historical Jesus and where he is encountered as liberator. And this Galilee is also where the risen Christ who appears to his disciples will show himself as he really is, as the Jesus we have to follow and keep present in history: the historical Jesus, the man from Nazareth, the person who was merciful and faithful to his death on the cross, the perennial sacrament in this world of a liberator God" (Jesus the Liberator, 273).
In other words, the lives, sufferings, and death of the marginalized, the persecuted, and the oppressed illuminate the meaning of Christ's own life, suffering, and death (and vice versa).  And yet I worry this statement has become too commonplace for those who exist in the confines of liberal academia. We write about it. We talk about it. We employ the term "the crucified people" in a way that groups the oppressed in an abstract category and renders it meaningless. But do we sit with this term? Do we let it break open the content of our spirituality? Are we brought to repent for how many times Christ continues to be crucified among us? In a recent segment of Catholic Women Preach, M. Shawn Copeland asks us, "If our God so suffers, is so exposed to the brutality and power of the world, what shall become of us? It is a daring and daunting theological prospect—for God and for us. For as we believe that our God suffers, we who confess, who worship, who love are called to a share in the suffering of Jesus, a share in the suffering of the peoples of our world."
Are you prepared to enter into the passion of Christ?
Were you there when they crucified God? Did you stand by idly? Or were you compelled to action?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Reflection for April 11, 2017

Tuesday of Holy Week
IS 49: 1-6
PS 71: 1-2, 3-4A, 5AB- 6AB, 15 and 17
JN 13: 21- 33, 36- 38

From Creighton University's Online Ministries:

The message during Holy week is one of the most powerful Jesus delivers. God loves us as imperfect human beings. I imagine Jesus eating, laughing, the disciples toasting one another as they share time and stories with one another. It is a celebration of being together and yet Jesus knows what will happen. In this story I feel the all encompassing love and forgiveness of Jesus.  I also feel the tremendous sadness for what is yet to come. In this case as most betrayals, they are not pre-meditated or a pre-contemplative action.

I can relate.

As a child growing up with a brother and sister there were many opportunities for betrayal and denial. Innocent as they were it begins to painfully paint the picture of my imperfect soul. Friendship…hurting one friend to be with another.
Again painfully portraying my imperfection. I could go on. Fortunately those experiences with reflection, prayer and asking God to forgive moves me forward. These experiences teaches me to be a better person today and tomorrow. I want that next opportunity.   So during this Holy Week I take a step toward God, kneel to the ground and humbly ask for forgiveness and strength and God’s everlasting love to carry on.  I celebrate the opportunity to be an imperfect human.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Reflection for April 10, 2017

Monday of Holy Week
IS 42: 1-7
PS 27: 1, 2, 3, 13-14
JN 12: 1-11


Yesterday, dozens of Coptic Christian churchgoers were killed in two simultaneous bombings in Tanta and Alexandria, Egypt. As the so-called, self-proclaimed caliphate of ISIL claims responsibility for the attack, Christians and people of good will the world over mourn the loss of these Palm Sunday martyrs, their martyrdom made all the more significant in light of this holy day.

Almost two millennia ago, Jesus, aware that a public struggle with the authorities awaited him, entered Jerusalem riding a donkey, greeted in triumph by the same citizens who days later will call for his execution. The public greeted him in a fashion typical of someone highly favored, waving palm fronds, a symbol of triumph, and laying them at his feet. Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet, rabbi, and healer, did not hide or shrink from the authorities he knew would challenge his public ministry. And people were glad for it. In those days, palms were also the symbol of Palestinian resistance to the Roman occupation of their homeland. The followers of Jesus wanted the new earth he preached as much as the new heaven.

Today the world still wants, still welcomes, still seeks out those voices that call for justice, for peace, for the rights of peoples to live without persecution. Where do we find them? Who is willing the pay the cost of speaking and living their truth boldly in public despite the threats to their life? Could any one of us reading these words know them as descriptive of oneself?

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Reflection for April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion
MT 21: 1-11
IS 50: 4-7
PS 22: 8-9, 17- 18, 19- 20, 23- 24
PHIL 2: 6- 11
PHIL 2: 8-9
MT 26: 14 ---- 27: 66 or MT 27: 11-54

An image is worth a thousand words.  Jesus’ ‘triumphal’ entry into Jerusalem riding a donkey was revolutionary and comforting. Many, and probably the powerless, surely understood this image of humble entry.  
Then and now, the world needs new images of power and authority. Jesus-incarnated taught and modeled inner authority and spiritual power, not imposed nor coercive. It is inclusive, convinces by its own merits and the evident truth, and moves hearts. It is Grace incarnate.
Throughout history, multitudes of people have been abused by dominative power, whether by royalty, armies, dictators, religious practices or more recently, multi-national corporations and the effects of neo-liberal globalization. In light of this, it is stunning to see the One who healed, forgave sins, performed miracles and converted hearts—who truly had Power—enter the great city not on horse and chariot, but on a donkey, as Luke and Mark state, one which no one has ever ridden. It is a new Way.
Jesus initiated the Kingdom of God, one where authority is shown by washing the feet of others.  It’s fair to say that the Kingdom of God is yet elusive and naïve to many Catholics and Christians. It has been relegated by many to life-after-death and thus lost relevance now.  
In our work for justice, we need to follow the new Way of the Kingdom. As with Jesus riding a donkey, or even more startling, One hanging on a Cross, it feels ineffective, inefficient, and powerless. But the Resurrection and Pentecost confirmed this new Power—flowing from and communicating life, love, communion—is The Way to stand in this world.  Paul learned and taught this Christian paradox: “when I am weak, I am strong”—in Christ.  
Reflection questions:
  • Where do you witness "imposed or coercive" power in our world today? Where do you witness inclusive models of power and leadership?
  • How can you, in your work for justice, model life, love, and communion?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Reflection for April 8, 2017

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent
EZ 37: 21- 28
JER 31: 10, 11- 12ABCD, 13
EZ 18: 31
JN 11: 45- 56

“It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” (JN 11:50)

A cultural theorist named René Girard has made much of this very pattern of sacrificing one for the good of the many, a pattern which he sees working, usually invisibly, across literature and religion and mythology: the creation of unity among disparate groups as a result of the unanimous expulsion or death of an outsider, a scapegoat. If you have read the Oedipus trilogy or Freud’s Totem and Taboo, if you have read the graphic novel Watchmen or seen the Avengers movie, you have encountered the idea of shared opposition to a common foe bringing disparate peoples together. It doesn't work for very long, but it does work, as long as you are ok with constantly having (and destroying) an "other" over against whom you define yourself.

John’s Gospel uses this image ironically, as Caiaphas imagines the death of Jesus as a means of placating Rome so they do not “take away both our land and our nation.” (11:48) Of course, Rome DID attack Jerusalem several times, none of which were because of Jesus: the destruction of the Temple in 70AD, the sack of the city in 135, The irony is that Caiaphas does not realize that Jesus’ death is indeed for the life of the nation, not by stifling a troublemaker, but by Jesus being “lifted up” (JN 3:14, 12:32) so as to “draw everyone to myself,” echoing the image from Ezekiel of bringing together those members of the children of Israel who had been scattered by the Exile (586-538 B.C.) to the ends of the known world.

I can't help but think that the unity that Caiaphas tried to create was linked to expelling people who did not fit his vision - that is, uniformity and intolerance of dissent were the content of his version of unity. We are called to unity as well, but not by excising whoever does not look like us, think like us, act like us. On Friday, Campus Ministry celebrated a Way of the Cross with stations based on Catholic Social Teaching and situations of injustice that people face around the world today, situations that continue the crucifixion of the Body of Christ. Do we create negative peace through imposing silence, through stifling cries of pain and critique, through creating spaces of fear? Or do we create positive peace that is messy and complex through its openness to the other, its ability to move and change in response to needs, and its vulnerability to being unsettled by those who are different? As the end of Lent draws close and Holy Week begins, be mindful of how easily we choose the path of peace-through-silencing-outsiders instead of the chaotic peace in which differences are respected and valued.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Reflection for April 7, 2017

Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent
JER 20: 10-13
PS 18: 2-3 A, 3BC- 4, 5-6, 7
JN 6: 63C, 68 C
JN 10: 31- 42

“In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice”

Surrounded. In each of the readings today we have figures that are surrounded. Jeremiah can hear the “whispers of many” waiting for “any misstep.” Waiting for the opportunity when he will be moved, so they can take “vengeance on him.” Destroying floods and the snares of death surround the psalmist. Everywhere the psalmist looks, death and destruction lurks. Jesus stands cornered by a group of angry Jews, preparing to stone him.

Jesus asks, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?” For each of these characters the good works of the Lord have pushed them into a corner. Escape seems unlikely. What do they do?
“In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.”

As the powers of death surround, they call upon the Lord and he hears them. The Lord hears us. This is something we can take into our everyday life. As we prepare to enter Holy Week remember, “The Lord is with us.” We can keep experiencing the tragedy of the passion, but remember that the Lord, “like a mighty champion” will come again.