Category Archives: mission

Let my tongue loose

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.

How?

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.

Native peoples and the church

In the US and Canada, today is the feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680), In Perú and other parts of South America, and among the Franciscans, today is the feast of Saint Francisco Solano ((1549–1610).

Kateri, Lily of the Mohawks, was the daughter of a Mohawk pagan chief and an Algonquin Christian, who after becoming a Catholic left her village in what is now Auriesville, NY, and went to live in a Catholic village near Montreal, Canada. There she lived out her short life. She had hoped to found a convent, but was not permitted. Having made a public vow of chastity, she died young. She is a sign of the openness of the native peoples to Christ and the Church – but she also suffered from the misunderstanding of her native peoples who could not comprehend her refusal to marry and from the Church that was not open to her desire to further religious life among the native peoples.

Fray Francisco, after several years of positions of authority in his Franciscan order in his native Spain, went to South America and spent about twenty years among the peoples of Perú and Tucuman (in parts of Argentina and Paraguay). There he approached the native peoples with respect, often announcing his arrival playing his violin. He was transferred to Lima where he found disfavor among his superiors for his strong words against corruption and injustice.

These two very different saints remind me of the importance of a Church that is missionary but which respects the peoples and their cultures and recognizes the dignity of all people.

In the history of the Church there are many examples of a colonialism at the heart of some missionary activity which resulted in massacres of native peoples and destruction of native cultures. There is also the witness of people like the Dominican bishop Fray Bartolomé de las Casas who spoke out strongly against colonialism and slavery and other efforts to undermine the dignity of the native peoples.

And so today it is beneficial to meditate on the words of Pope Francis in 2015, speaking in Bolivia at the World Meeting of Popular Movements:

I say this to you with regret: many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God. My predecessors acknowledged this, CELAM has said it, and I too wish to say it. Like Saint John Paul II, I ask that the Church “kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters”. I would also say, and here I wish to be quite clear, as was Saint John Paul II: I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the Church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so- called conquest of America.
I also ask everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike, to think of those many bishops, priests and laity who preached and continue to preach the Good News of Jesus with courage and meekness, respectfully and pacifically; who left behind them impressive works of human promotion and of love, often standing alongside the native peoples or accompanying their popular movements even to the point of martyrdom. The Church, her sons and daughters, are part of the identity of the peoples of Latin America. An identity which here, as in other countries, some powers are committed to erasing, at times because our faith is revolutionary, because our faith challenges the tyranny of mammon.

Our mission

We must consider
how to rouse one another
to love and good works.
Hebrews 10:24

 These words from the letter to the Hebrews strike me today as a description of the essence of our mission as followers of Jesus.

How can we rouse each other to love?

How can we rouse each other to good works?

First of all, it’s not how I can rouse others to love and good works. It’s a community endeavor – how can we do it. We need each other to encourage and rouse each other.

My experience is that I am roused to love in my ministry with people here.

That doesn’t mean that it’s easy and that the people are always loving and easy to love. But I am continued called to rouse myself to love.

I also find myself roused – incited – to good works by the care and concern that people give me. A few nights ago two kids brought me plantains, after I had been a little brusque with them. A few weeks ago, a neighbor, Jesús, dropped by with patastes (a vegetable like a hard squash). Gloria has offered to wash my blankets, since they are hard to wash by hand for inexperienced people like me.

The challenge to rouse each other to love and good works is a challenge not only to offer encouragement to others but also to be willing to receive it.

We are in this together.

Perhaps that’s why the next verse in Hebrews is

We should not stay away from our assembly…