Sometimes we think Jesus is speaking about the sun, the stars, the moon, and the planets. That might be so, but might he be talking about those who set themselves up as powers on earth. After all, many peoples have made the sun, the moon, the planets into gods, into powers that control the fortunes of people.
Might Jesus be saying that the kingdoms of this world will pass away – and that is not a bad thing. But what must replace them?
The coming of the Son of Man to establish a different Reign, a different kingdom.
Perhaps it’s the vision of the prophet Daniel,
““But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”
May we be those who lead the many to justice and shine like stars forever.
Today the church celebrates the Jesuit priest, Pedro Claver, who ministered to slaves in Cartegena for many years. He is a patron of social justice and of racial justice.
As I sat down to pray this morning, I found that the current missal has no proper readings for Saint Pedro Claver. I have an old Saint Andrew Daily Missal with Franciscan Supplement, from 1962, here with me in Honduras. In the “Proper Feat of the U.S.A.”, there is a complete special Mass, with the epistle from Isaias 58. 6-9, 10 and the Gospel of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10.29-37.
The first lines of the epistle are particularly appropriate:
“Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundle that oppress, let them that are broken go free, and break asunder every burden.”
The Introit is Psalm 106 (107). 9-10, 8:
“The Lord hath satisfied the empty soul: such as sat in darkness and in the shadow of death: bound in want and iron.”
How appropriate for Saint Pedro Claver who went down into the holds of the slave ships when they arrived in Cartagena to serve those bound in iron with fruit, brandy, tobacco, and medicine – and, also, to preach and baptize them (as was the sacramental understanding of his time.)
But as I prayed the official US Collect for St. Peter Claver, the prayer seemed all too bland:
“…grant, through his intercession, that, seeking the things of Jesus Christ, we may love our neighbor in deeds and in truth.”
But then I looked at the prayers in Misal Romano Diario, published in 2015 by Midwest Theological Forum, the Oración Colecta for the United States is much more pointed:
“…fortalécenos, por el ejemplo y las oraciones de San Pedro Claver, para vencer todo odio racial y amarnos como hermanos y hermanas.”
“…strengthen us, by the example and prayers of Saint Peter Claver, to conquer all racial hatred and love each other as brothers and sisters.” (my translation)
The Oración Colecta of Colombia (where he lived and died) is also more pointed:
…”concédenos por su intercesión y ejemplo, que superadas todas las discriminaciones raciales, amemos a todos los hombres con sincero corazón.”
“…grant us, by his intercession and prayers, that, overcoming all racial discriminations, we may love all persons with a sincere heart.” (my loose translation)
I don’t think there is any agenda here, but I prefer the older collect and the one from Colombia, especially in light of the problems of racism in our world – and in the US.
May we conquer all racial hatred and overcome all racial discrimination, through the intercession of St. Peter Claver.
As I wrote this I looked for an image of St. Peter Claver in the ships with the slaves. I found this one:
I also found one on the website of St. Mary’s Press. It is copyrighted but you can go to the web page here.
Before Mass in San Agustín, I sat on the side steps of the church and was near tears. During Mass, I felt a heaviness. But, most of all, I felt helpless, powerless.
In the past few weeks, I have been sent by the pastor on two occasions to baptize kids – one four years old and one six years old, who were leaving the next day with their fathers on the long and treacherous trek to the United States.
In the last week, I heard of two cases of relatives of people in the parish who have been kidnapped in Mexico and were being held for an outrageous ransom. At one point, I embraced, prayed, and cried with the parents, wife, and sister of one of the men.
In the last few weeks, I also came into contact with family members of migrants who had died in the US and whose bodies were being returned for burial here. One was a 16 year old who drowned, the other was a man in his late twenties who was shot and killed.
On Sunday morning, I went for a Celebration of the Word with Communion in a distant village. I had brought Communion to several people there and asked about one of them. They told me he had died ten days before – just three months short of his hundredth birthday. I had visited him and his wife, who died not too long ago. I also had a scare a few months ago when I went to visit him and found him outside on the patio. He didn’t seem to be breathing and I feared he had died. Some relatives came and we got him to bed. He recovered a bit but was still very weak. Yet he died after collapsing while walking just outside his house.
After the Celebration, I visited a man in his early thirties who needs some serious treatment for some brain injuries; he had a drainage valve inserted years ago, but he needs another operation soon. The costs are astronomic for a poor family but people in his village and others raised about $400. But one day a man came and stole the money.
Just last week, another young man in another village, also with serious brain damage, died in a hospital in San Pedro Sula.
All this weighed heavily on me as I waited for Mass.
I realized that I felt powerless, impotent, useless. But I also remembered that St. Paul speaks about God’s strength being made perfect in our weakness.
As a gringo, I want to always solve things, to get things done (usually in the way I want to get them done.) But so many times here I’ve found myself powerless.
But then I remembered the powerlessness of the people and the powerful words of Maryknoll Sister Ita Ford, who was martyred in El Salvador in 1980:
“Am I willing to suffer with the people here, the suffering of the powerless, the feeling impotent. Can I say to my neighbors — I have no solutions to the situation, I don’t know the answers, but I will walk with you, be with you. Can I let myself be evangelized by this opportunity? Can I look at and accept my own poorness and learn from other poor ones?”
My heart was heavy as I drove home from San Agustín after Mass. A few hours later, I called Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, a good friend who serves here in Gracias, Lempira (and has served God’s people in Chile, El Salvador, the US, and as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious when they were experiencing pressure and possible censure from the Vatican). We talked. Sharing what I was feeling and listening to her words of encouragement helped me to recognize that being here, even when feeling totally powerless and useless, is what God wants from me.
As I reflect on this tonight, the vigil of the Transfiguration of the Lord, there are two thoughts.
I like Dove dark chocolate pieces, partly because they are good dark chocolate and are the right size for a quick snack. The wrapper has a short saying on the inside. A few years ago, the wrapper said, “You are where you are meant to be.” That made sense to me and I have it on a small white board I have in the kitchen.
A few years later, I came across this quote from the Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, Blessed Miguel (Michal) Tomaszek, who was martyred in Peru on August 9, 1991.
“You are not where you are now to understand the world, but to understand what the will of God is for you. It is a matter of being where you are supposed to be.”
I am where I am supposed to be.
But being here is a way that God can purge me, humble me, empty me.
A few days after arriving in Honduras in 2007, I came across this passage from Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who was for many years superior general of the Jesuits and had to suffer powerlessness after a stroke. (It is found in Pedro Arrupe: Selected Writings, p. 85.)
…what a missionary must be ready to undergo in a foreign country is highly instructive. To find oneself alone in a great city, without a single friend or acquaintance, without provision of any kind, whether it be physical equipment or the support and security one derives from ordinary human relationships; to be poor even as far as language is concerned, unable to express oneself, to tell people what one is, what one knows; always to be in a position of inferiority, a child just learning to speak, contemptuously dismissed in every discussion, painfully aware of the poor impression one is always making, and of the pity, or else the hostility, with which one is regarded – all this brings home to a person better than empty theorizing what poverty, in the radical sense of dis-possession, really means. Not only does it take away external attachments, it makes one truly humble of heart; for to be poor is to be humiliated, and it is from being humiliated that one learns humility.
But I can do this because we have a God whose strength is in his weakness, who, “being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be held onto; instead, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.… He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, death on a cross” (Philippians 2: 6-8).
Humility is a hard lesson to learn, especially for someone as hard-headed and privileged as I am. But Jesus opens the way for us, by taking on the way himself and putting in our path the poor who teach us the wealth of a poverty that calls us to empty ourselves, to let ourselves be broken open by the poor and to sit and cry with them – crying out to this God who hears the cries of the poor.
Tomorrow I return home – to Honduras. I’ve been in the United States since May 19. This may have been the longest time I’ve been in the US since 2007.
I came, first of all, to renew my Iowa driver’s license. I looked at my license in April and realized it expired June 1. I have a Honduran driver’s license, but that won’t work when I visit the US or other countries.
When I decided to go back to the US (and found the airfares very inexpensive), I considered getting the Corona virus vaccine. Knowing that I’d probably have to spend three or four weeks between doses, I originally thought of flying back to Honduras and then returning for the shot. A good friend dissuaded me from this idea and suggested I take a retreat.
With another friend’s help, I got an appointment to get a new driver’s license and the new card has arrived before i leave. I was able to get an appointment for the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine two days after arriving here and got the second dose last Friday. I also found that my debit card had expired last year and was able to update it.
I also had time to go back and visit at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and the Iowa State campus.
I stayed with friends who were kind enough to lend me a car for the whole time. I also enjoyed a beautiful sunset one night from their back porch.
I served as deacon twice at St. Thomas Aquinas in Ames, where I had served as a campus minister for almost 24 years. The first Sunday (Pentecost), the twin daughters of some dear friends were baptized during Mass.
I had time to visit with some friends, eat some great meals (including asparagus and rhubarb which are treats this time of year.) I’ve put on a few pounds but decided on an exercise regimen when I get back home.
I’ve had some really great conversations, especially with a friend as he showed me a just planted grove of trees on his farm that will be a place of prayer. Returning from my retreat, I had a great morning and afternoon with a friend and his family; he had stayed with me while studying English and is now living in Perry. It was great to see him, especially since he had suffered a severe case of COVID-19. Last night, I had a great evening with another family who have five girls, including twins who will be one year old in a week.
I also was able to go through some of the stuff I have stored in Ames. I managed to give away almost five boxes of books. I also found some photos that I didn’t know I had and was able to send them to cousins. I found two photos of my cousin in her habit; she is a St. Joseph Sister and hasn’t worn the habit for decades. Talking with her, she told me she had not seen these photos.
I also came across some memorabilia from the month I left for Honduras in 2007, including this interesting (and humbling) acrostic of my name.
But, in many ways, the greatest gift was the retreat.
I found an eight-day retreat at the Creighton University Retreat Center in Griswold, Iowa. It was arranged by Creighton’s Christian Spirituality Program and the directors were advanced students in their program. Eight days of silence with personal spiritual direction session each day were what I needed. I also happened to pick up Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, which I highly recommend. I also did a lot of walking on the beautiful grounds of the center.
The retreat was intense, after the months of seclusion during the early pandemic and feels of being isolated and being out of the loop. Sometimes my ruminations continued after I tried to get to sleep (which wasn’t easy since the sun doesn’t go down here until after 9 pm during this time of the year.)
One night, May 31, the day before my birthday. I decided I needed to do something different than go over my life and try to figure things out. Nouwen suggests that the way to go through the resentment of the older son in the parable is the double road of thanksgiving and trust. So, obviously inspired, I decided to name people in my life and give thanks to God for them.
I don’t know how much time I did this before I fell asleep, but when I woke up twice during the night, I returned to the practice and added more names. When I got up, more people came to mind. During my hour of spiritual direction, I remembered more. I still find myself adding people, even those I have been in conflict with or who have caused me pain.
Before noon, on June 1, I spent some time in the chapel and went through my life chronologically, remembering people.
This remembering of persons in my life and giving thanks for them was a gift that was healing.
I have a great devotion to the saints and rejoice in being surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses – from Mary to Saint Oscar Romero, from Saints Francis and Clare to Saint Benedict the Black.
A few years ago, I began to write the names of people in need or who have died in a book in my prayer room at home, so that I am surrounded by the people in need.
But now I have a new circle that I am aware of – and grateful for: the people I have come across in my life. Their presence has enriched me, has helped me become who I am.
I remember with joy people like Fr. Regis Duffy, OFM, who was a high teacher, and with whom I stayed in contact until a year or two before his death. (Going through stored files, I found a few notes he had sent me.)
I even remember a painful situation when I was working in Ames which led me to seek spiritual direction and a short period of therapy; any resentment I had against those responsible for my pain at that time is fading away.
I even reconnected with some folks. A woman who as a teenager had been part of the St. Thomas Charity, Justice and Peace commission, came up to me after Mass last. A friend whom I haven’t heard from in years sent me an e-mail (which I still have to respond to).
We are surrounded by people who are gifts of God to us, even if they cause us grief.
As I close this reflection, I call to mind the famous epiphany of Thomas Merton at Fourth and Walnut in Louisville, which he writes about in his diaries as well as in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. As he wrote in the latter:
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness….
“It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! To think that such a commonplace realization should suddenly seem like news that one holds the winning ticket in a cosmic sweepstake.
“I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.…
“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other….”
It is not easy to maintain this, in the midst of the hassles of daily life, but I now have another discipline to add to my spiritual life – remembering the people who have been part of my life. I need to recall that “they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
May we all shine – grateful for life, grateful for friends, grateful to God for life.
Towards the poor and lowly he felt a special compassion. He aided them in many ways – comforting them in their trials, instructing them in their religion, and dispensing material alms. A superior once warned him against being too generous to loafers who came to the monastery door; Paschal answered: “I give the alms for the love of God, and who knows whether Christ Himself might not be found among these needy brethren?”
He is another of the holy porters who found Christ in those who came to the door. I wrote about them in a previous post. They included the US Capuchin priest Blessed Solanus Casey, the Canadian Holy Cross Brother Saint André Bessette, the Dominican Saint Juan Macias, and the Spanish Jesuit brother Saint Alfonso Rodríguez.
Their holy hospitality embraced the poor as Christ. They lived the admonition in the Letter to the Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have entertained angels unaware.”
There is a story I read long ago. I don’t know if it was about Saint Paschal, but it seems to fit his character. One day he was praying in his cell and Christ appeared to him. But someone rang the doorbell. He was reluctant to leave Jesus but went. When he returned he found Jesus there. The Lord told him that He would have left if the saint had not gone to see the poor person at the door.
This story reminds me that not only is hospitality an important virtue for us deacons – and for all followers of Christ. We are also called to be available, ready to respond to the needs of those around us. Their calls are not interruptions but the call of God.
Christ is found in the Eucharist but also in the poor at our doorsteps.
That’s a hard message but all too important and saints like Paschal Baylon provide us examples.
May we be like Saint Paschal and all the other holy porters, attentive to the Eucharist and the poor where we can find Christ the Lord.
(Image of art work of Hank and Karen Schlau, found at this site.)
I had the blessing of being able to attend the Mass for the canonization of Monseñor Óscar Arnulfo Romero and to serve as one of the deacons at the Papal Mass. There were several others canonized at the same time, including Pope Paul VI and Mother Nazaria Ignacia March y Mesa who founded a religious congregation in Bolivia as well as the first women’s labor union in Latin America. But learning of the life of Nunzio Sulprizio, one of the others canonized, stirred me.
As we were preparing the murals in the Dulce Nombre Church we had decided to put Saints Isidore and Maria, patrons of farmers, on one part of the wall of the south chapel but had not decided what saint we wanted on the other part. One day I thought of Saint Nunzio, a young man, who suffered abuse as well as physical illness and who worked in a smithy. He seemd a logical choice.
He was a young man who endured hard work. He also suffered from abuse, violence, and illness, I thought of the children who suffer violence and abuse in much of Honduras as well as the children who endure the suffering of cancer and other diseases. I recalled the blacksmiths who abound in Dulce Nombre de Copán.
Saint Nunzio Sulprizio seemed a logical choice for the empty wall I mentioned this to the pastor and he agreed. He now appears opposite Saint Isidor and María in what might now be called the chapel of holy workers.
Nunzio Sulprizio died at 19, his body devastated by gangrene (and, as some sources note, from bone cancer).
Born in Abruzzo, Italy, his parents died when he was six years old. His grandmother raised him and nurtured a profound faith in Nujnzio, but she died three years later. An uncle, who was a blacksmith, took him in and forced him to work in his smithy, even though Nunzio was only nine. His uncle also beat him A wound in his foot developed gangrene.
He was hospitalized for a time; there he was a great comfort to other patients. Yet another uncle learned of Nunzio’s condition and presented him to Félix Wochinger, a military official in Naples, who secured some treatment for his wound. His health improved and he moved from a clinic to the house of Colonel Wochinger. But his health worsened, and he was found to be suffering bone cancer.
He experienced high fevers and intense suffering but maintained his faith. “Jesus suffered much for me. Why can’t I suffer for him?”
He died on May 5, 1836.
He is an apt patron of blacksmiths. But, more than this, I consider him a patron of young people, especially young workers, young people mistreated and abused, and young people suffering from cancer and other serious diseases.
Thoughts on the readings for the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Jonah 3: 1-5, 10; 1 Corinthians 7:29-3; Mark 1: 14-20
Evangelization, sharing the Good News, involves conversion, change. In fact, conversion is part of the Good News.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus begins his mission proclaiming “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus knows that “The world in its present form is passing away” and that’s good. That will be good for everyone of us.
Jonah flees the Good News. He is satisfied with the current situation.
He is called by God to go to Niniveh, the enemy of his people, to call them to repentance. No way, he says and flees to the ends of the earth. But God has other plans; a storm and a big fish intervene. The fish throws him up on the shore. When God calls him to go to Niniveh again, Jonah goes, probably reluctantly. There he gets a big surprise. Niniveh repents and is not destroyed. The enemy has a second chance. Jonah is not at all happy and goes out and pouts.
He is comfortable with bad news – the destruction of an unrepentant enemy. But he can’t tolerate good news – that they repented and lived.
He is content to point out the faults of the other and that’s what he preaches. I don’t think he really believes in the possibility of something good coming out of other people. It’s much easier to attack others, to point out their faults, to show where they are wrong – rather than showing them how they can turn away from what keeps them from really living as God wants.
Jesus is all so different. He begins by preaching that “the Kingdom of God is at hand.” He offers them an alternative. He shows them the way.
All too often I see people in the church pointing out the sins of others, their moral evils, their failings. This is easy to do – since
But the way to lead people to the Kingdom is, I believe, to show them the beauty of the Reign of God and what they what do to get there.
It is also easier to point out others’ faults and sins than to identify our own. Jesus spoke clearly about this.
Saint Thomas Becket is one of my favorite saints. The play by Jean Anouilh, Becket, later adapted into a movie, as well as T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral, are classics for me. I saw both plays and the movie and even acted in the play in high school.
What I find most remarkable about Saint Thomas Becket is that he was able to move from a position of privilege, as chancellor of the kingdom, to being a pastor of souls, praying and fasting, and looking out for the poor.
He refused to hold on to the power he had had as chancellor and didn’t seek to use his privileges, as well as his friendship with the king, as means to advance himself.
He was treading in the tricky swampland of the relations of the church and the state.
He was not willing to subjugate the church to the state, but insisted on the rights of the church and, doing so, he undercut the absolutism of the English monarchy. For that I am grateful.
But he insisted that clerics be tried by church courts and not by the courts of the realm.
I am not sure exactly why he did this – perhaps to avoid control by the state. But, from the perspective of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, I have a problem.
How often, in the face of clergy abuse of children and those in situations of vulnerability, have church leaders tried to hide the perpetrators from the news and from the courts? This has happened in the US and in other countries across the globe. I believe, it still continues, as the church doesn’t face the sexual, spiritual, and psychological abuse that church leaders have done not just to children and adolescents, but also to persons in situations of vulnerability, including women religious and seminarians. All too often this has been done to “protect the church,” but all it does is to hide the festering wounds of abuse.
I wonder that St. Thomas Becket would think of this. I have no idea, but today I pray that he may intercede for the church. May the church abandon all quests for power and prestige. May the church put itself at the service of the abused, the marginalized, the impoverished. May the church be a church that admits its faults.
This morning I came across this quote from St. Thomas Becket on a Facebook friend’s page. He is supposed to have said this to a friend on his way to being ordained archbishop of Canterbury.
Hereafter, I want you to tell me, candidly and in secret, what people are saying about me. And if you see anything in me that you regard as a fault, feel free to tell me in private. For from now on, people will talk about me, but not to me. It is dangerous for men in power if no one dares to tell them when they go wrong.
The last line is wise advice to the church, even today:
“It is dangerous for men in power if no one dares to tell them when they go wrong.“
Last Saturday we celebrated the feast of Christ the King in our sector of the parish, which includes four aldeas. We had a Celebration of the Word with Communion and then a short meeting. Padre German had hoped to have meetings in all the sectors; he would go to five; Fernando, a seminarian with us this year, would go to three; and I’d take the last three. Because of impassible roads, I didn’t get to the other two sectors that were assigned to me.
At the meeting in Plan Grande spoke of a few things and I mentioned that we should carefully on how we would celebrate Advent and Christmas.
Here there is a tradition of the Posadas, from the first Sunday of Advent to Christmas eve. People gather and, usually with images of Mary and Joseph, go to a house (and sometimes several houses) seeking posada, a place for the holy family to stay. There is a song that is sung, alternating with the people outside and those inside the house. Finally, the door is opened and prayer and celebration continue.
This is a very popular devotion and many people come out for it. Before the hurricanes, aware of the dangers of COVID-19, we were thinking that we would encourage villages to not have one big Posada but Posadas in several parts of each barrio at the same time. Each village will have to decide how to do this.
But then I started a discussion about celebrating Christmas. From somewhere, I was inspired to say that this year we need to think about celebration Christmas in light of the cave of Bethlehem – not in terms of the splendor with which we usually celebrate.
Jesus came among us in the poverty and simplicity of a manger, a place where animals feed. It may have been a stable, part of the house, or even a cave. But I think the image of a cave might be helpful for us this year.
I will try to develop this theme in reflections throughout Advent. I invite you to share your reflections with me.
I have been very careful during the last few months in my posts, trying to avoid anything that would be considered partisan. I did post critiques of policies I think have been disastrous and sinful. But I had decided, because of my status as a deacon, to avoid naming names.
But now the election is over and I feel no such reluctance.
No matter who is declared the winner of the presidential race, the US and the world have not won. Perhaps they may have lost less but they have not won.
The battle in the US is not of one party against another. I believe it is a battle of the principalities and powers of this world that encourage domination, violence, and division. This will demand ongoing resistance to all – and I mean all – the forces of evil and especially to the roots of these evils in the structures of our societies and in our hearts.
No party and no candidate can be the savior of the nation or the force that will make America great again. I object to the support a Catholic sister publicly gave to Biden as well as to the sometimes veiled, sometimes blatant, support of some priests and bishops for Trump.
I especially object to demeaning rhetoric of any kind – mostly that manifested by adherents of Trump but not lacking in some Democrats – that appears to have fomented diabolical divisions. I use the word “diabolical” intentionally, for many have demonized those who oppose them. It also makes the accuser appear to be claiming to be holy and correct. It is not irrelevant to note that “Satan” means, literally, the accuser. In a canticle used at Thursday Vespers from Revelations 11, we pray that “the accuser of our brothers and sisters be cast out.”
The Democratic party has lost much of its connection with much of the working poor and with many Catholics by some ideological stands, most particularly its stand on abortion. Many middle class workers, including Catholics, have lost faith in the Democratic party because they see it as a party of the elites. This opinion is not dispelled when some Democratic leaders speak disparagingly of the supporters of Trump.
Many in the Republican party have, in many ways, let themselves by captivated by a false religion that may say they is for the unborn but they support policies that promote disdain for those who are different and that discriminate against the poor, the refugee, and people of color. They may oppose abortion but they don’t see the evils of war, militarism, and the death penalty.
But adherents of both parties have let themselves be sold an ideology of power, of violence, and of individualism. Some Democrats have idolized choice when it comes to abortion and some Republicans have idolized individualized choice when it comes to economics and guns.
The sense of the common good seems to have been forgotten by some as has been the sense of responsibility for oneself as well as for one’s neighbor. It’s me, me, me.
In addition, many in both parties have not given up the idolatry of the US as the savior of the world – or, at least, the nation that calls the shots.
This can be seen in US foreign policy under both Democrat and Republican regimes. I think of the ways that Hillary Clinton supported the 2009 coup in Honduras as well as the way many politicians of both parties have supported wars, especially in the Mid-East. Many in both parties have applauded executions of opponents like Osama Bin Laden.
What is my politics? Not Republican, not Democratic, but very much inspired by my faith in a God who became poor, who healed the sick and hung around the wrong people, who suffered under an empire, and who rose from the dead to say that death and the powers of death do not have the final word. He also forgave those who killed him.
I cannot support demonization of anyone. I don’t hate Trump, though that is a temptation. More than anything, I want to cry when I hear what he says and does. I also wonder what he might have suffered.
But I can, and will, speak out against what I see as evil and unjust. That is the call of people of faith.
Saint Óscar Romero, the martyred archbishop of San Salvador, put it well, in his homily of January 22, 1978:
A preaching that does not point out sin is not the preaching of the gospel. A preaching that makes sinners feel good, so that they become entrenched in their sinful state, betrays the gospel’s call. A preaching that does not discomfit sinners but lulls them in their sin leaves Zebulun and Naphtali in the shadow of death.
A preaching that awakens, a preaching that enlightens – as when a light turned on awakens and of course annoys a sleeper – that is the preaching of Christ, calling: Wake up! Be converted! That is the church’s authentic preaching.
Naturally, such preaching must meet conflict, must spoil what is miscalled prestige, must disturb, must be persecuted. It cannot get along with the powers of darkness and sin.
The Violence of Love, pp. 45-46
Following Christ and listening to the prophets is essential.
But above all, I want to accompany those who experience the effects of the structures of sin in our world. And so, I will continue to be with the people in my little corner of the world, as they experience the death of children, the loss of livelihood, the lack of medical care, the corruption of leaders, and more.
Visiting the sick, burying the dead, preaching Good News of hope to the poor, helping people see their inherent dignity as children of God.
Above all, I want to make these two passages of Scripture real in my life.
“…what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly you’re your God.”
Micah 6: 8
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4: 8-19 (Jesus citing Isaiah)
It’s a lifelong task, requiring love and courage. I ask God to help me be faithful.