Tag Archives: lectionary

Joseph – just, docile, free

Joseph, the silent actor, was just, docile, and free.

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Today, because March 19 fell on a Sunday, we celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Yesterday, however, we celebrated the feast of Saint Joseph in the village of San José Quebraditas, where I preached.

There is very little in the Gospels about Joseph. We never hear a word he might have spoken. He is the silent witness of the Incarnation of the Son of God. But he listens – even to dreams – and acts.

In the Gospel for the feast, Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a, we hear of a man who is just, docile, and free.

Matthew calls Joseph a “just man” or, as some translations put it, a “righteous man.” Joseph is just with the justice of God – not with a merely human justice.

The merely human justice of the law of his day would have condemned Mary to death by stoning – as an adulteress. But Joseph had already chosen a different kind of justice, the justice of mercy and compassion. He had planned to put her away privately.

But Joseph was also docile to the call of God. In a dream an angel calls him to take Mary as his wife. Joseph had proposed a good thing for Mary, but God calls his to go further. Joseph is open to God’s call; he is docile, teachable, and so takes on his role as guardian of Jesus, the Son of God make flesh. For Joseph, his pray to God is not “my will be done,” but “thy will be done.”

In all this we find a free man. Joseph was not so tied to his own ideas that he could not give them up to the dreams of God. Joseph was not so bound by his own culture or his own plans that he could not let God change his plans and move him to respond in an unexpected, loving, and free way to God’s call to change his plans. Joseph is free. As Father Alfred Delp, SJ, wrote from a Nazi prison, “Without complaint he lets his own plans be set aside.”

We would do well to imitate Joseph – the just, docile, and free person who listens and acts.


The photo was taken on March 19, 2017, in San José Quebraditas, Concepción, Copán, Honduras.

The quote from Father Alfred Delp, SJ, comes from The Prison Meditations of Father Delp  and is also found in Alfred Delp, SJ: Prison Writings,  p. 63.

 

Restoring the Samaritan woman to community

Many people in the world – mostly women – get up early and go to the community well or water spigot to gather water. I remember, when I spent several months in rural El Salvador, Esteban calling out very early, “Get up. It’s time to fetch water.”

Several months later, the community had a common spigot. I remember the first day that water came. People were lined up with their colorful water jugs, waiting in line, at the tap.

Fetching water is a communal event. The people, almost exclusively women, gather at the well or the community spigot in the cool of the morning to fetch water and to share the news (and the gossip) of the community.

Woman at the Well

in the Vatican Museum

And so in today’s Gospel (John 4) it is strange to find the Samaritan woman coming alone in the heat at noon. Something was wrong.

And then she encounters a solitary Jew.

Can you imagine her consternation when he addresses her and asks for water? The Jews despised and looked down on the Samaritans and considered themselves superior in many ways – not least of all in their religion. And he is a man and men do not talk in public to women.

Yet Jesus initiates contact with this woman who was probably alienated from her village. After all she had had five husbands. Perhaps she comes to the well alone and at noon to avoid the condemning looks and the remarks of the other women.

But a Jewish man does not command her to give him water but, as one in need, asks for a drink.

A spirited conversation follows and Jesus offers her living water.

How long had she come alone to fetch water? How long had she endured being marginalized? How long had she felt shame for her situation?

Perhaps she was tired of all this and when Jesus offers her living water, she realizes the deep thirst within her that cannot be sated by coming to the well or by her five former husbands or the man she’s now living with.

Jesus opens her up to her deepest thirst, her deepest desire.

The water Jesus gives her is different. It is the water that quenches our deepest desires, our deepest thirsts. But more than that, Jesus notes

the water I shall give will become in [the person] a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

It is not a water merely from the outside; it is a water that opens up a spring in our very hearts, where we can worship God in spirit and in truth.

And what does this water do for us? Note what this gift of water did for the woman.

She left behind her water jug and goes into town.

She leaves behind the sign of her lonely struggle to satisfy her own thirst on her own terms. She goes and tells the people about the Messiah she has experienced.

She is no longer isolated. She is an apostle, a missionary to her people. The one who had been an outcast becomes the one who brings news of great joy.

And then she returns to the well – not alone but with the people of the village.

A stream of living water is flowing out of her, watering her neighbors who no longer look on her as an outcast, but join her in going out to meet this Jesus, who satisfies our thirsts.

And when they encounter Jesus, they too have their thirsts satisfied and find in themselves springs of that living water.

We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.

May we recognize our thirsts and our ways of trying to satisfy them. Even more let us open our thirst to receive the living water, and let that Living Water of Jesus flood our hearts so that we too may find in ourselves “the spring of living water that wells up to eternal life” and share it with all who thirst for real Water.

How long will you be here?

I came to Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras, in June 2007.

Before I came, some people in the US asked me how long I planned to be there. My response was, “Until God calls me somewhere else.”

For the first couple of years here, people kept asking me, “How long will you be here?” My response was “Hasta que Dios quiere” – “As long as God wants.”

Now I am seldom asked that question, since I’ve been around for so long and now I have a house in Plan Grande. But it is still something I need to ask myself.

But now as an ordained permanent deacon, I am tied to Honduras, specifically to the Church in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. And so it is easier to say that I am here until I die or God calls me elsewhere.

Patrick copyThis was brought home to me this morning, reading a passage from Saint Patrick’s Confessions found in Vigils of Benedictine Daily Prayer. I felt that Saint Patrick was specking for me:

“I am ready, if found worthy, to lay down my life gladly and without hesitation for His sake, and I desire to spend it here until death if the Lord grant me that wish.”

That is my prayer – if God wills it.

I desire to spend my life serving in the Church for and with the poor

This is so especially when I have these morning visitors: chorchas – orioles.

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The economy kills Lazarus

There was a rich man who dressed in purple and fine linen, who dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his gate was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores. He longed to feed himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table.
Luke 16:19-21

Cristomendigo

The poor have names in the Kingdom of God. In the kingdom of money and power, we have the rich and famous. But with God, things are very different.

It is so easy to just dismiss the poor as a group and forget that they are real people, with names, with lives, with families. It is also so easy to fail to realize that an economy, the structures of an unjust economy that is based on inequality rather than solidarity, kills. An economy based on arms kills.

To help us make this real, I suggest we make our own the exercise that Bishop Robert McElroy shared with the US Regional World Meeting of Popular Movements on February 18, this year:

Now, when I quote the Pope that “this economy kills,” people very often say to me, “Oh come on, that’s just an exaggeration; it’s a form of speech.”
I want to do an experiment with you. I want you to sit back in your chair for a moment. And close your eyes, and I want you to think of someone you have known that our economy has killed: A senior who can’t afford medicine or rent; a mother or father who is dying, working two and three jobs, really dying because even then they can’t provide for their kids; young people who can’t find their way in the world in which there is no job for them, and they turn to drugs, and gangs and suicide. Think of one person you know that this economy has killed.
Now mourn them.
And now call out their name; let all the world know that this economy kills.

——

The full text of Bishop McElroy’s astounding speech can be found on the San Diego Diocesan site here as well as here in Rose Berger’s blog..

ARE WE BEING TRANSFIGURED?

On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus is revealed in his divinity – with Moses and Elijah – before three close apostles.

As Paul wrote to the Philippians (2: 6-7), Jesus did not grasp on to his divinity, but humbled himself to take on our humanity.

During the Offertory of the Mass, as water is added to the wine, the priest or deacon prays

By the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity.

The transfiguration should remind us that we are called to God’s life, divinity, which is our deepest nature – made, as we are, in the image and likeness of God.

Today as we contemplate Jesus transfigured on the mountain, we should recall that God calls us to be transfigured – and to be present with God in the transfiguration of all creation.

Today we also remember the martyrdom on March 12, 1977 – forty years ago – of a good priest, an old man, and a boy on the road between Aguilares and El Paisnal in El Salvador. Padre Rutilio Grande, a Jesuit,  was killed because he sought the transfiguration of the people of El Salvador, especially the people of his parish.

But he sought not merely a transfiguration political or social, but a transfiguration of the whole person.

Almost seven years before his death he preached a sermon in the San Salvador cathedral on the feast of the Transfiguration. With many people present, including political leaders of the country he gave an impressive and strong homily.

He noted:

Christ our Savior came to save the entire person, to transfigure it in this sense into a new person, authentically free of all situations of sin and misery, self-determining and free to enjoy all the privileges of being a child of God, conquered by the triumph of the resurrection of Christ. This transfiguration of the person so conquered, proclaimed, and demanded by Christ and his followers has its starting point in baptism, the holy commitment of each baptized with the resurrected Christ.

We are transfigured in our baptism, called to live a transfigured life.

But this was not for Padre Grande only something personal, least of all individualistic. He probed deeper:

And so we return to the question: Is the Salvadoran person transfigured?
Is the immense majority of the Salvadoran people, represented by our peasants, transfigured?
Is the minority transformed, the one that has in its hands all the economic power, decision-making power, control of the media, and means of communication?
There must be some painful confessions.
Many baptized in this country have not accepted the demands of the postulates of the Gospel that demand a transfiguration.
Therefore, those same people are not transfigured in their mind and in their heart and they put a dam of selfishness in front of the message of Jesus our Savior and the demanding voice of the official witnesses of Christ through the Church, the pope and his bishops!

As I look around me here in Honduras, I see many who are transfigured by their encounter with the Lord.

But what Padre Grande saw in El Salvador in 1970 I also see today in Honduras. I do not see a people transfigured. I see a people crushed under the weight of poverty and corruption. I see leaders who seek their own glory and don’t let the glory of God shine through in the people. I see a people despised by those with wealth and power who many times do not see their glory as children of God. I see a people who are treated as pawns in power struggles, handed “gifts” from party and government officials who only want their votes and do not want a people who think for themselves and seek to be the protagonists of their history.

This, for me, is evident today, primary election day in Honduras, a day where partisan politics takes a central place in the life of the nation. No public gatherings are allowed, but we will have Mass in several places.

Partisan politics here has taken on a role that the lack of real organization of the people has left empty. It has almost become a type of idolatry. I don’t see it transfiguring the people.

But I have hope since I see small signs of people who have been transfigured by their faith and are working quietly in the transfiguration of their communities.

This is the transfiguration Honduras needs and lacks.

And so I pray that as Christ came to share own humanity, we may share his divinity and live as children of God, brothers and sisters in Jesus, transfigured.

Mural-Rutilio-Grande-El-Paisnal

Painting in El Paisnal of Romero and Rutilio


The quotation from Rutilio Grande’s sermons was adapted from Thomas Kelly, Rutilio Grande, SJ: Homilies and Writings (Liturgical Press, 2015). The Spanish can be found in Romero-Rutilio: vids encontradas (UCA editores, 1992).

In the face of oppression

“You shall not stand idly by when your neighbor’s life is at stake.
Leviticus 19: 16

Martin Niemöller once wrote:

“If we had recognized that in the communists who were thrown into concentration camps, the Lord Jesus Christ himself lay imprisoned and looked for our love and help, if we had seen that at the beginning of the persecution of the Jews it was the Lord Jesus Christ in the person of the least of our human brethren who was being persecuted, and beaten and killed, if we had stood by him and identified ourselves with him, I do not know whether God would not then have stood by us and whether the whole thing would not then have had to take a different course.”

He was a decorated U-boat commander in the First World War. After the war he became a Lutheran pastor and later a pacifist, speaking out forcefully against war and especially the proliferation of nuclear weapons until his death on March 6, 1984.

Imprisoned by Hitler he did not stand idly by when his neighbor’s life was at stake. He recognized the call of God to respond to the forces of evil and protect the innocent.

I have since my high school days been plagued by the seeming indifference of many, including religious leaders, to the violence and racism of Hitler and Nazism. The witness of people like Martin Niemöller, the members of the White Rose, and the Austrian peasant Franz Jägerstätter who risked their lives in opposition to evil.

Will I continue to try to do this? Will I see the challenge that we followers of Christ face when we see the hungry, the refugee, the defenseless, the imprisoned? Will I, as todays Gospel notes, be among the sheep who respond to those in need or among the goats? (Matthew 25:31-46)

The fast of Mother Drexel

“If we live the Gospel, we will be people of justice
and our lives will bring good news to the poor.”
Saint Katherine Drexel

Katherine Drexel came from money, but also from a house in Philadelphia where prayer and open doors for the poor were part of her growing up.

She saw a need for responding to blacks and Native Americans (who were called “Colored and Indians” in her day) and asked the pope to send priests for them. Pope Leo XIII told her to be a missionary. And she did.

She founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament to work with blacks and Native Americans, founding schools and even Xavier University in New Orleans.

Though she and her sisters inherited millions, she never used the money for her congregation but assisted others in responding to needs of the marginalized.

Though it might seem that her approach was mostly what some would term “charity,” it is important to realize that Mother Drexel also spoke out against segregation before the civil rights movement. Her sisters were threatened for their commitment to blacks.

She is one of those who live out today’s reading from Isaiah 58:

This, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.

May we too be people who respond to those in need as missionaries of the love, justice, and mercy of God.