Monthly Archives: January 2013

The peace of Epiphany

Salvadoran martyr and archbishop, Monseñor Oscar Romero, spoke of peace in his 1978 Epiphany homily:

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution
of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
In it each one has a place in this beautiful family,
which the Epiphany brightens for us with God’s light.

May this vision of peace guide us this year.

True Christianity – an unbeliever and a bishop

What does it really mean to be a Christian, a follower of Christ? What does it mean in a world of hunger and oppression?

Many would claim to be Christian because of a statement of faith they made once or which they make each Sunday. But is that what makes a true Christian?

Some would seem to limit true Christianity to code of ethics, especially in the realm of sex?

For me true Christianity means following the God who became flesh as a poor man in an occupied land in order to make us free – from sin, from oppression, from strife. He is a liberating God.

Today is the anniversary of the death of the French author and philosopher Albert Camus who died in car accident on January 4, 1960. His novel The Plague and several of his essays, especially those in the collection  Resistance, Rebellion, and Death, have touched me deeply. In particular I continue to be challenged by this excerpt of a talk he gave in 1948 to Dominicans, entitled “The Unbeliever and Christian”:

What the world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest [person]. That they should get away from abstraction and confront the bloodstained face history has taken on today.

On this day in 1995 another prophet died, the Puerto-Rican Jesuit bishop, Monseñor Antulio Parilla-Bonilla. He was a bishop who spoke out forcibly against the Vietnam War and for the independence of Puerto Rico. I met him once in a church’s gym in Spanish Harlem in the early 1970s. It was probably around the time he spoke these words at a Mass in the First Spanish Methodist Church in New York which was being occupied by the Young Lords:

There’s oppression in the whole world: two-thirds of humanity is oppressed by the white axis of nations. The poor, nonwhite population is being oppressed, I would say, by maybe 15 or 20 percent of the people of the whole world. And anybody who will just cross his arms before a situation like that should not call himself a true Christian.
It’s about time that we realized what true religion is – seeing that when Christ was trying to explain who was going to be rewarded and who was not, he didn’t refer to a catechism, he didn’t refer to daily communion, he didn’t refer to externals – he referred to good deeds and good works. And it’s not good works to one person individually; it’s good works to change structures now, this moment in the history of humanity.

An unbeliever and a bishop reveal to us just a bit of what real Christianity is.

St. Basil and the rich man

Today the Church remembers St. Basil the Great, a doctor of the church who defended the divinity of Christ. He sought the truth about Christ and was not the liar, who denies that Jesus is the Christ,  as we read in today’s first reading, 1 John 2: 22.

Basil was a monk, bishop, theologian, doctor of the church, founder of schools and a hospital. But he was one who pointed to Christ, as John the Baptist did, and called for a just society.

Not afraid to challenge the rich, in his sermon on the rich man (Matthew 19:16-22), he addresses the man (and all the rich) in this way:

Now, you are obviously very far from having observed one commandment at least, and you falsely swore that you had kept it, namely, that you’ve loved your neighbor as yourself. For see: the Lord’s commandment proves you to be utterly lacking in real love. For if what you’ve claimed were true, that you have kept from your youth the commandment of love, and have given to each person as much as to yourself, how has it come to you, this abundance of money? For it takes wealth to care for the needy: a little paid out for the necessity of each person you take on, and all at once everything gets parceled out, and is spent upon them. Thus, the man who loves his neighbor as himself will have acquired no more than what his neighbor has; whereas you, visibly, have acquired a lot.

This is a challenge to the rich and to most of us on the internet who have more than most of the world.

Will we listen to the word of the Lord, calling us to love and to share? Will this year be a year of sharing with the poor? Or will we continue to try to hold on to all we have?

Seeing the world anew in a new year

Last week I went to Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, to the funeral and burial of my last living aunt, Mary Barrar. It was a time of sadness and celebration, as we remembered aunt Mary as a take-charge, faith-filled, loving woman.

During the last two years of her life, as she became frailer, she was moved into a retirement village

The night before I left to return to Honduras, her son George drove me around the grounds to share some of his memories of being with his mother there. It was snowy but you could see that the grounds were beautiful are well-cared for.

Aunt Mary had mild dementia and George told me how each time he took her out to the gardens at Dunwoody she would be in awe, since each visit was a new experience. She did not recall that she had seen them before.

Dementia can be awful and very troubling, both for those who suffer and for their loved ones.

But George’s reflection made me think about the gift of seeing things each day as if they were new.

A line from Gerard Manley Hopkin’s poem “God’s Grandeur” came to mind as I thought more on this.

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things

A new year has begun. Maybe the best resolution I can make it be to rise each day to a new day, seeing the world anew, standing in awe and gratitude to God for “the dearest freshness deep down things.”