Theological Reflection

Pope Francis I is now the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church.  I invite all to reflect on his homily at his installation Mass as the successor of St. Peter.  Pope Francis invited us "to serve the poorest, the weakest, the least important.".  He urged world leaders to protect human life and the environment and use tenderness to inspire hope.  "We need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others."  "I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political, and social lfe, and all men and women of good will: let us be protectors of creation, protectors of God's plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another, and of the environment."  Francis is the first Jesuit pope;  He quoted Scripture to say as bishop of Rome, he was endowed with "a certain power." "Let us never forget that authentic power is service.  All must be inspired by the lowly, concrete, and faithful service which marked St. Joseph.  The successor of St. Peter must open his arms to protect all of God's people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important, those whom St. Matthew lists in the final judgment on love:  the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison." (Mt. 25. 31-46)

As citizens of the United States, I think we have positions of responsibility in economic, political,and social life.  I think it's valuable for all of us as individuals, communities, a nation, a world to form a vision of a world more in accord with God's Word. I think Jesus wants us to  develop and live a common ethic, promote an atmosphere of non-violence, a culture of basic human rights, widespread and democratic ownership of capital, and a world democratic federation. Each of these structures, of course, would have sub-structures.  I see our task with God's help  to craft the details of the vision and then work to implement our vision.  As Peter Maurin, the companion of Dorothy Day, said,  "We must create a world in which it is easier to be good."

We also need a way to proceed non-violently toward our vision.   I suggest getting in touch with our own experience, enlarging our experience by some kind of contact with the materially poor and the marginalized, organizing our experience through research and social analysis, engaging in theological reflection, practicing spiritual communal and apostolic discernment, making a decision beyond social service for social action according to a definite time-line, evaluating what is happening, and then beginning the cycle again.

Thus the third step in a process toward a peace with justice is theological reflection.  This does not mean searching Scripture for proof texts to support a decision we've already made.  Theological reflection means continually going to the riches of Scripture and the values of the churches and allowing God's values to interact with the real world in which we find ourselves.  We need to put our Faith into the middle of our world.  We need to reflect with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.

Our faith gives us a respite from the troubles of our world, a place of refreshment, light, and peace.  But if religion is only an escape, or a private matter--if religion does not play an essential role in our everyday lives, what is the purpose of God's special intervention through Revelation, the Incarnation, and Redemption?  A private religion is irrelevant, trivial, and a contradiction in terms.  The reign of God is by its nature social.

Some have argued that the role of the religious right proves that religion and politics should be kept absolutely separate.  However, church people are citizens; churches are legitimate voluntary organizations.  Churches indeed have the benefit of humanizing and moderating values and can often build bridges instead of walls.  But religious organizations should be subjected to the same standards of loving, rational and consistent presentation of their views as any other participant in the public debate.  We need to do our homework, which includes having our religious values interface with the situation we have analyzed.  And of course, we need sound theology.

Protestants say the the Bible is God's Word and infallible.  Catholics agree and add that the Magisterium is under certain conditions infallible.  But Christian churches are pilgrim churches, Christians are finite creatures.  Only God has absolute infallibility.  We cannot indulge in dogmatic imperialism, arrogantly thinking we have all the answers, that everything is nailed down, that we and only we have a direct line to God.

"In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race.  And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth."  John 1.1-4, 14)

Jesus is God's revelation to us par excellance.  Jesus comes to us today through finite human words, through prayer, the values of the churches, through our experiences, through nature, in countless ways.  Jesus says he is meek and humble of heart.  We need to listen together and discern together God's message to us.  I suggest for your reflection Richard R. Gaillardetz By What Authority?  A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful.  For those more advanced Richard R. Gaillardetz Teaching with Authority, A Theology of the Magisterium in the Church.

In America 9/27/10 p. 23 Fr. Drew Christiansen's "Conspiracy of Bishops and Faithful" is a timely comment on Cardinal Newman's "On Consulting the Faithful." Members of the Church freely remain or leave. The number who have left is large. All who have stayed deserve to be treated as children of God, created in God's image and likeness. Teaching rather than commanding, listening to all rather than following unacknowledged prejudices, following the principle of subsidiarity rather than deciding everything in Rome, will make a stronger and better people of God. Communal prayerful discernment will make a spiritually healthy church.

I would translate Pastorum et fidelium conspiratio, a breathing together of all the baptized. Many claim that we don't breath physically as deeply and as naturally as we ought. It doesn't seem to me that we are breathing together spiritually as deeply and supernaturally as we ought. America has a Readers Comments structure so that readers can respond in a civil and thoughtful way.

What structures are in place by which experienced and thoughtful laity or priests can breathe together with the bishops and Pope?  We need a shared breathing rhythm, a rhythm in harmony with the breathing of the Holy Spirit. In his introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II said that the Catechism was created through the collaboration of "numerous theologians, exegetes and catechists, and, above all, of the Bishops of the whole world, in order to produce a better text.  Various opinions were compared with great profit, and thus a richer text has resulted whose unity and coherence are assured. .  . the result causes John Paul II "deep joy, because the harmony of so many voices truly expresses what could be called the 'symphony' of the faith . .the Church's catholicity." 

Pope John Paul II says the Catechism should faithfully and systematically present the teaching of Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition in the Church and the authentic Magisterium, as well as the spiritual heritage of the Fathers, Doctors, and saints of the Church to allow for a better knowledge of the Christian mystery and for enlivening the faith of the People of God.  It should take into account the doctrinal statements which down the centuries the Holy Spirit has intimated to the Church.  It should help illumine with the light of faith the new situations and problems which have not yet emerged in the past.  The catechism thus contains the new and the old (cf. Mt. 13.52) because the faith is always the same yet the source of ever new light.  The contents are often presented in a 'new' way in order to respond to the questions of our age."

I engage thus in theological reflection on Scripture, the teaching of the churches, human and church history, and current events.  Europe developed a political theology because of the traumatic experience of the holocaust.  Latin America developed liberation theology because of the traumatic experience of massive poverty.  Should the United States develop a theology of honesty arising from the massive self-deception about our moral superiority?  I suggest that the US establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that examines our history and our present domestic and foreign policy in the light of theological values.  What has been the role of the U.S. for example in the establishment of the present make-up of the nation state of Israel or its continued actions?  What should our role be in the future?  A new philosophy or modus operandi in general in the world and in Israel/Palestine is described in No More Enemies, It's not the People. . .It's the Paradigm by Deb Reich, a Jewish Israeli citizen.

 

Philosophy

I think philosophy can be a complement and foundation for theology.   I became a philosopher, a lover of wisdom in 1950.  I enjoyed thinking deep thoughts, going down to the root of things.  Here I developed principles. I saw how people, events, and the world were connected.  As I learned to think and distinguish, I began to engage in rational discourse.

My background was Thomistic.  Actually I enjoyed the simplicity and profundity of St. Thomas Aquinas.  His philosophy was clear, logical, uplifting.  Thomas' concept of God gave me a sense of awe at the majesty of God.  Thomas's concept of the world was orderly, logical, and connected.

During philosophy I got a sense of natural law.  In God's mind is eternal law, a principle or rule of activity.  When God created, natural (born) law began.  There are physical laws like the law of gravity, the laws studied by physics, chemistry, and biology.  There are also natural moral laws, the relationships we have to God, our neighbor, the earth.  We are free, intelligent, loving, and social human persons.  We can love and be loved; understand and be understood.  We can communicate with one another.  If we lie, that breaks down communication.  We never know when an habitual liar is telling the truth.  Thus lying is contrary to the natural law.  Natural law is distinct from positive or civil lawCivil law is made by legitimate authority for the common good.  Civil law is promulgated by public decree.  Natural law is promulgated by God's act of creation.  Not all natural law needs to be enacted into civil law.  Education and persuasion should precede enactment into civil law.  A civil law not accepted by most of the people is difficult to enforce.

Through our reason, we can conclude that each human person has basic human rights.  Without the exercise of our basic human rights we cannot grow in our relationships with God, our neighbor, the earth.  Positive peace is the enjoyment of basic rights by each human person which allows us to become closer to God, one another, and physical creation.

Another part of my philosophical study has been courses in existentialism.  Existentialist philosophers gave me a whole new insight on how to approach reality.  Although I didn't give up reason, I did learn to value emotion, intuition, and experience.

I now have a master's degree in philosophy and a doctorate in philosophy with a concentration in peace studies.

Theology

In 1956 I began four years of study of  theology.  My spirituality and faith was strong.  Theology gave depth and scholarship to my faith.  In the midst of my theology, John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council.  I was fortunate to have progressive teachers like Fr. John L. McKenzie, S. J., Fr. LeSaint, S.J., Fr. Fortman, S.J., Fr. DeVault, S.J., and Fr. James Doyle, S. J. who helped me make the transition from pre-Vatican II to post-Vatican II days.

Since Scripture needs to be read in the context of the time and setting of its composition as does all of literature,  Scripture should be interpreted according to its literary form.  This made sense, but many resisted change because Scripture meant so much to them.  St. Augustine said that he who is ignorant of Scripture is ignorant of Christ.  

The Bible, the Book, is a misnomer.   Since Scripture contains history, short-stories, poetry, essays, proverbs, and sermons, the Bible is not a book but a library.  The Bible is written in different styles at different times.  While Nietzsche cursed the Bible, Gandhi praised it.  Scripture has been the blueprint for millions of Christians throughout history.  The Bible is a magnetic mountain, a vantage-point that gives one of our most far-reaching and penetrating moral visions.

But the Bible is more than an ordinary library; it is the Word of God.  Mere academic study is not enough.  We truly hear God's word only in a free, personal act of faith.  But unless we know the work of scholars, the Bible can become for us a mere subjective projection of what we want the Bible to mean.  The Devil tried to quote Scripture to his own advantage even to Christ.   Those justifying apartheid often based their rationalizations on Scripture! Some denying the basic right of Palestinians to self-determination base their self-deception on Scripture! Those who believe in Armageddon base their perverted theory on Scripture!

The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture itself.  We can't take one verse of scripture out of the total context of the bible or of Christian practice.  "The poor you have always with you" is interpreted in ways which are contrary to the total context of Christian teaching.  Jesus loved the poor and identified with the poor.  He certainly doesn't want them to remain poor today in such a rich and abundant technological abundance. (See fuller explanation of this verse below.)

When I studied scripture in theology, I found more unction and life than the abstractions of philosophy.  In scripture we see that God intervened and gave a totally new dimension to history.  History is meaningful and tending toward a goal.  St. Augustine said, "We are a paschal people and our song is alleluia!"

Dogma is exact and precise.  Philosophy prepares for doctrine. We have a need to try to spell out in human terms the content and implications of the divine message which is the role of the different pronouncements of the Magisterium, the popes, the Ecumenical Councils, and the ordinary teaching of bishops and of the whole Church. Only the infallibility of God is absolute.  We are a finite, pilgrim church.  We can always express doctrine in a clearer, more dynamic way.

The first mystery in the hierarchy of Christian truths is the Triune God.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 90) There are three persons in one God.  Three persons have the same identical nature.  In my theological studies I especially enjoyed the treatise on the Trinity and saw the connection between what I had studied in philosophy and what I learned in theology.  Some of the reasons for the arduous study of philosophy became clearer in theology.  St. Thomas' explanations of the Trinity were based in his philosophy.  The Trinity was intellectually stimulating and personally satisfying.  I find it stimulating that God is revealed as an active and fruitful community.  How the Father shares life with the Son or the Father and Son together share life with the Holy Spirit is, of course, a great mystery.  That this life of God is shared with us is a unique gift.

The Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith.  A mystery is ineffable, unable to be expressed adequately in words.  We fumble and stumble and mumble when we talk about God.  Yet, it is important that we try because it is better to know a little about God than a lot about anything else.  God is our roots, our origin, where we came from. God is our sustainer, our life now. God is our future, our goal, our happiness.  God is our past, our present, and our future.

All of us in our hearts yearn for unity and harmony with one another.  We want the common good, the good of all.  Yet we also want our own individual freedom.  We want to retain our own individual identity.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have perfect unity--the same identical nature.  Yet, each is a distinct individual person. The Trinity is a model of common harmony and individual freedom.

In our own lives there is always a tension between the common good and individual rights and personal dignity.  I think the solution does not lie in denying either part of the tension but in balancing both the common good and the individual in a responsible way.  Certainly if selfishness and greed mask themselves as individual freedom, I don't think I'm acting responsibly.  If the individual is absorbed in the collectivity, I don't think that's responsible either.    If one observes this issue in the larger world picture, one might conclude that in the U.S. we come down to a great extent on the side of individualism.  But whatever one's analysis, there needs to be a balance between individual freedom and the common good.

Sometimes I forget my problems and lose myself in praise and love and awe of the Holy Trinity.  I rejoice in the beauty and power, happiness and security of the three divine persons.  I give glory to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   Through Sanctifying Grace, within me at the core of my being the Father generates the Son; the Father-Mother and the Son spirate the Holy Spirit.  I regularly make acts of love to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus was fully man and fully God; one person with two natures. Mary is the Mother of God because she is the mother of Jesus who is one person.  Jesus is the high priest, uniting humankind to God.

"The Triune God desires this universe into existence in order to invite us into the intimate life of the Trinity.  The early Christian theologians who spoke Greek coined a wonderful phrase to describe the inner life of the Trinity: perichoeresis, peri-meaning 'around' and choeresis meaning 'dancing, hence, 'dancing around.'  So we need to think of music and dance and words together as a symbol of the inner life of God.  With creation, and especially with the incarnation of the Word of God, this dance becomes the ground of our universe.  The dance of the Trinity in some mysterious way pervades the universe.  At every moment of existence we are surrounded by this perfect dance.  At every moment of existence we are being drawn by the music of this eternal dance to become conscious participants in it.  The Triume God wants us to be partners in the dance, to be so intimate that we share the inner life of the Trinity.  (See Foreword by Fr. William A Barry, S.J. to God in the Moment, Making Every Day a Prayer by Kathy Coffey)

I believe the relationship between humankind and God is real.  Sin breaks that relationship.  Jesus redeemed us from original sin, the only Catholic dogma which I feel needs no proof.  I live with original sin each day.  Original sin is our group estrangement from God.  For example, prolonged unemployment leads to discouraged workers who remove themselves from the workforce.  If workers cannot find a living wage for many years, they drop out and are not counted in the statistics as unemployed.  (Daedalus, Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Winter 2002, Orlando Patterson, "Beyond Compassion, Selfish Reasons for being Unselfish" p. 33)  "Chronic poverty and unemployment in the midst of plenty is directly related to chronic drug use, criminality, the desolation of communities both urban and, increasingly, rural, and growing violence in all aspects of life.  A semiliterate and alienated lower class wastes much of America's potential manpower. . .What is true of the weather is equally true of the moral climate we share:  the rich winners and their children, can no more escape cultural pollution than they can escape air pollution.  . . there is growing evidence that America's lowest-common-denominator popular culture is having a damaging effect on middle-and upper-class children, even as early as kindergarten.  It has not gone unnoticed that the perpetrators of mass murder in our high schools have all been children from the families of privileged winners.  And it is now well known that the major audience for the most brutally misogynistic and violent of rap lyrics is composed of upper-middle-class Euro-American youngsters." (p. 28)

The Redemptive act of Jesus, His life, death and resurrection, frees us to grow.  The Redemptive act also did something for Jesus.  His life, death and resurrection was the gateway for Jesus from life in the flesh to life to God.

God does not want us to suffer. Suffering is rooted in finitude and freedom. God wants us to use our freedom to reduce and eliminate suffering. God did not require the death of Jesus as compensation for what we make of our history. God is not a God of ransom and atonement, but a God of compassion and non-violence, the God of Jesus. (See Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., Christ part four and below) We are redeemed by the message and mission of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled his mission and was crucified. We are redeemed not just by the death of Jesus but despite it. Jesus had a message of non-violence. Despite the message of non-violence that Jesus offered, he suffered a violent death. I think the general outlines of this web-page, developing and living a global ethic; promoting a culture of non-violence in all its forms; ensuring basic human rights including economic and solidarity rights; establishing economic democracy and a democratic world authority is part of the message of Jesus today.

Jesus balances off the mystery of evil with a totally generous and loving life.  Christ's life, death, and resurrection shows that life is stronger than death, and that goodness is stronger than evil.  Christ changed the thrust of our self-centeredness and put His Heart at the center of things.  Through redeeming us, Christ has put joy and hope at the center of things.  Let's us join Jesus in putting joy and hope at the center of our world.

The sacraments mean more when one studies their history and theology. At the various stages of our lives the sacraments make present the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, His redemptive act.  From my army days on, the Eucharist has been part and parcel of my everyday life.  I feel I have been called to be a co-redeemer with Jesus.

Life in physical creation is beautiful, complex, and wondrous. The many kinds of grace or supernatural life are a unique treasure.  I also affirm the dignity of free choice.  I am glad I have freely joined the Society of Jesus, in which I can follow Jesus more closely, know Him more intimately, and love him more ardently.

Trinity-Family

The central Christian mystery is belief in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The concept of the individual person is realized most perfectly and most mysteriously in the Trinity.  "Each of the persons is not 'in itself', nor does it belong to itself, except inasmuch as it simultaneously is related to and gives itself completely to the other two.  The being of each of the three Persons is a pure and complete extasis, a going out, a self-giving, a vital impulse toward the other two.  A circuminsession takes place, a mystery in which each of the three Divine Persons are wrapped in a dance of intimacy.  Without being confused, Father, Son, Holy Spirit compenetrate one another to the most intimate depths of their being. with a total gift of self and a total, complete openness to one another.  In the Divine Persons is found the ultimate model of woman and man for others.

The concept of person finds its most perfect and mysterious realization in the Trinity. We find a luminous synthesis of the nature, rights and duties of the person in Pope John XXIII"s Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth" ("Trinitarian Inspiration of the Ignatian Charism" Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., No. 83-87)

"The family is the foundation of society." (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, No. 52) Made in the image and likeness of the Trinity, the family is a community of love and support.  Secular culture often attempts to separate sexual expressions of love from marriage.  On this web page I have sketched a vision of peace: world democratic authority, democratic local community, economic and social stability.  This vision can only succeed with healthy sub-structures, the first being the family.     Of course, the closer we come to a Vision of Hope, the easier it will be for sub-structures like the family to function well.  

It may help devotion to the Holy Spirit to reflect on the fruit of the Spirit. . .love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, all of which help us in our relationships. (Galatians 5.22-23)

To counteract the widespread sexual and other abuse in our culture, I suggest a positive vision of what healthy relationships should be among those married, those single, religious, and celibate priests.

At the end of four years of theology, I reviewed the latter plus my three years of philosophy.  I had a comprehensive examination of all seven years.  I saw that Thomistic philosophy and theology was consistent, logical, and sound.  In 1960 I received the equivalent of another master's degree in theology, a licentiate to teach theology in a Pontifical Seminary.   

Theology is a Greek word meaning the study of God.  Faith is our relationship to God.  It's very appropriate, therefore, to reflect further on God.

What is God Like?

God is our past, our origin, our creator.  God is our present, our sustainer, the infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being.  God is our future, our pioneer, our trail-blazer, our goal, our destiny, our savior, the magnetic focus that draws all things  to himself/herself.

To the inspired Hebrew prophets like Isaiah and Ezekiel God is wholly other.  He is wholly other from the gods of the pagans.  Psalm 113.4: Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.  They have mouths and speak not; they have eyes and see not.  Like unto them shall be they that make them, everyone that trusts in them.  The house of Israel trusts in God; he is their help and their shield.  To the Hebrews no image could represent Yahweh.  God's reality could not be perceived with the eyes.  God's grandeur was unrivaled.  Yahweh alone was really God.  The Lord is high above all nations.  His glory is above the heavens.  Who is like the Lord, our God, who dwells on high?  Psalm 102.4.

God was wholly other from the visible universe of which we are a part; no cosmic force, nor all of them together, can be identified with Yahweh.  God stands above and beyond all things that are not God. Yahweh is not circumscribed by anything in nature or outside it.  Yahweh is supremely free and independent.  God is wholly other in the unmixed goodness which is God's own. (See Fr. John L. McKenzie, S.J., Two-edged Sword.)

The Trinity

The mystery of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; one God; is the central focus of Christian Faith.  The Father generates the Son; Father and Son together spirate the Holy Spirit.  The Father's personhood consists in his giving of himself completely to the Son and with the Son spirating the Holy Spirit.  The Son's personhood consists in receiving being from the Father and spirating the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit's personhood consists in receiving being from the Father and the Son.  What the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share is the same identical divine nature.  The difference of their unique personhoods consists in their relationships.  Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. "Trinitarian Inspiration of the Ignatian Charism"(86): "Each of the persons is not 'in itself', nor does it belong to itself, except inasmuch as it simultaneously is related to and gives itself completely to the other two.  The being of each of the three Persons is a pure and complete extasis, a going out, a self-giving, a vital impulse toward the other two. . .in each of the three Divine Persons the other two are present. . .the persons are three, and without being confused they compenetrate one another to the most intimate depths of themselves, since their person is 'ecstatis', with a total gift of self and a total and complete openness to the other two.

From that incomparable model the human person must take inspiration for his perfection and, analogically, for his fulfillment and consummation. . . a human personality should not close in on itself but perfect itself in its relationships and otherness. . .in the Divine Persons is found the ultimate model of women and men for others.

If we consider in a Trinitarian light all of man's selfishness: his exploitation, his violations of human rights, his injustice is the complete antithesis of self-giving. . are these not clearly the sin of atheism, inasmuch as they deny what God is in us and what we are for God?. . .Promoting justice means restoring in ourselves the model of the Trinitarian relationships.  Freeing the oppressed  means finding the sense of equality in which our condition as persons formed in the divine image places us.  There is no true person without true donation.  Whatever is opposed to donation--selfishness, exploitation, oppression--depersonalizes us in the Trinitarian sense of the word.

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me. . .Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?. . .The word you hear is not mine: it comes from the Father who sent me.  This much have I told you while I was still with you: the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will instruct you in everything, and remind you of all that I told you. . .When the Paraclete comes, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father--and whom I myself will send from the Father, he will beat witness on my behalf. (John 14, 15)

"Go and make disciples of all the nations.  Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28.19) "In Christ you too were chosen; when you heard the glad tidings of salvation, the word of truth, and believed in it, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit who had been promised.  He is the pledge of our inheritance, the first payment against the full redemption of a people God has made his own, to praise His glory." (Ephesians 1.13, 14)

"Now in Christ Jesus you Gentiles who once were far off have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  It is he who is our peace, and who makes the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart.  In his own flesh he abolished the law with its commands and precepts, to create in himself one new man from us who had been two and to make peace, reconciling both of us to God in one body through his cross, which put that enmity to death.  He came and announced the good news of peace to you who were far off, and to those who were near; through Christ we both have access in one Spirit to the Father."  (Ephesians 2.13-18)

Love in Truth  Pope Benedict XVI

"2. "Charity is at the heart of the Church's social doctrine. Every responsibility and every commitment spelled out by that doctrine is derived from charity which, according to the teaching of Jesus, is the synthesis of the entire Law (cf. Mt 22:36- 40). It gives real substance to the personal relationship with God and with neighbour; it is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones). For the Church, instructed by the Gospel, charity is everything because, as Saint John teaches (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16) and as I recalled in my first Encyclical Letter, God is Love (Deus Caritas Est): everything has its origin in God's love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is God's greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope.

I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued. In the social, juridical, cultural, political and economic fields  the contexts, in other words, that are most exposed to this danger  it is easily dismissed as irrelevant for interpreting and giving direction to moral responsibility. Hence the need to link charity with truth not only in the sequence, pointed out by Saint Paul, of veritas in caritate (Eph 4:15), but also in the inverse and complementary sequence of caritas in veritate. Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the economy of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practiced in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living. This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence.

3. Through this close link with truth, charity can be recognized as an authentic expression of humanity and as an element of fundamental importance in human relations, including those of a public nature. Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity. That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love. It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word "love" is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite. Truth frees charity from the constraints of an emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social content, and of a fideism that deprives it of human and universal breathing-space. In the truth, charity reflects the personal yet public dimension of faith in the God of the Bible, who is both Agápe and Lógos: Charity and Truth, Love and Word.

13. In addition to its important link with the entirety of the Church's social doctrine, Populorum Progressio is closely connected to the overall magisterium of Paul VI, especially his social magisterium. His was certainly a social teaching of great importance: he underlined the indispensable importance of the Gospel for building a society according to freedom and justice, in the ideal and historical perspective of a civilization animated by love. Paul VI clearly understood that the social question had become worldwide [25] and he grasped the interconnection between the impetus towards the unification of humanity and the Christian ideal of a single family of peoples in solidarity and fraternity. In the notion of development, understood in human and Christian terms, he identified the heart of the Christian social message, and he proposed Christian charity as the principal force at the service of development. Motivated by the wish to make Christ's love fully visible to contemporary men and women, Paul VI addressed important ethical questions robustly, without yielding to the cultural weaknesses of his time.

14. In his Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens of 1971, Paul VI reflected on the meaning of politics, and the danger constituted by utopian and ideological visions that place its ethical and human dimensions in jeopardy. These are matters closely connected with development. Unfortunately the negative ideologies continue to flourish. Paul VI had already warned against the technocratic ideology so prevalent today[26], fully aware of the great danger of entrusting the entire process of development to technology alone, because in that way it would lack direction.

Finding God in All Things

To process theologians, God is related to every being at one and the same time.  We can save a place for God at our table because God can be at each table wholly and completely.  God is reliable.  But God has persuasive not coercive power.  God encourages, persuades, and nudges us to do what we ought.  God does not cause all the tragedies and suffering that people experience; rather, God gives people the strength and courage to survive them.  God gives us the ingenuity and hope to draw good from evil.

We can approach God through nature.  Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.:  "Blessed be you, universal matter, immeasurable time, boundless ether, triple abyss of stars and atoms and generations:  you who by overflowing and dissolving our narrow standards of measurement, reveal to us the dimensions of God . . .  I acclaim you as the divine milieu."   Hymn of the Universe.

We can approach God through love and friendship.   "Our salvation is through love and in love.  I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.  In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way--an honorable way--in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment."  Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning.

"It is the love of my lover, my brother, or my child that sees God in me, makes God credible to myself in me.  And it is my love for my lover, my child, my brother, that enables me to show God to him or her in himself or herself.  Love is the epiphany of God in our poverty." The Message of Thomas Merton.

"I seek peace, let me BE peace. I seek justice, let me be just. I seek a world of kindness, let me be kind. I seek a world of generosity, let me be generous with all that I have. I seek a world of sharing, let me share all that I have. I seek a world of giving, let me be giving to all around me. I seek a world of love, let me be loving beyond all reason, beyond all normal expectation, beyond all societal frameworks that tell me how much love is "normal," beyond all fear that giving too much love will leave me with too little. And let me be open and sensitive to all the love that is already coming to me, the love of people I know, the love that is part of the human condition, the accumulated love of past generations that flows through and is embodied in the language, music, recipes, technology, literature, religions, agriculture, and family heritages that have been passed on to me and to us. Let me pass that love on to the next generations in an even fuller and more explicit way.

Source of goodness and love in the universe, let me be alive to all the goodness that surrounds me. And let that awareness of the goodness and love of the universe be my shield and protector. Hear the words of my mouth and may the meditations of my heart find acceptance before You, Eternal Friend, who protects and frees me. Amen.  The Tikkun Community.

Laughter is one way we can find God.  We don't need a reason to laugh.  Those who have participated in yoga laughter workshops know that laughing is natural.  But sometimes humor can get us started.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praise the Lord for this wonderful experience of the pious but naïve wife of Rev. Smith

              The other day I went to the local religious book store where I saw a Honk if you love Jesus bumper sticker.  I bought it and put it on the back bumper of my car, and I'm really glad I did. What an uplifting experience followed!

              I was stopped at the light of a busy intersection, just lost in thought about the Lord, and didn't notice that the light had changed.  That bumper sticker really worked! I found lots of people who love Jesus.  Why, the guy behind me started to honk like crazy.  He must really love the Lord, because pretty soon he leaned out his window and yelled "Jesus" as loud as he could.  It was like a football game, with him shouting, Go Jesus, Go!! Everyone else started honking too, so I leaned out my window and waved and smiled to all those loving people.  There must have been a guy from Florida back there because I could hear him yelling something about a sunny beach, and I saw him waving in a funny way with only his middle finger stuck up in the air.  I had recently asked my two kids what that meant.  They kind of squirmed, looked at each other, giggled and told me that was the Hawaiian Good Luck sign.  So I leaned out the window and gave him the good luck sign back.

              A couple of the people were so caught up in the joy of the moment that they got out of their cars and were walking towards me.  I bet they wanted to pray, but just then I noticed that the light had changed, and I stepped on the gas.  It's a good thing I did, because I was the only car to get across the intersection.  I looked back at them standing there.  I leaned out the window, gave them a big smile, and held up the Hawaiian Good Luck sign as I drove away.

              Praise the Lord for such wonderful folks!!

 On the tombstone of the hypochondriac:   I TOLD YOU I WAS SICK!

  We can approach God through our weakness.  In moments of weakness or situations of limitations, people acknowledge an awareness of something more which empowers them.  This grace gives one the experience of being lifted up, reborn, saved.  "Suddenly I remembered coming home from a meeting in Brooklyn many years ago, sitting in an uncomfortable bus seat facing a few poor people.  One of them, a downcast, ragged man, suddenly epitomized for me the desolation, the hopelessness of the destitute, and I began to weep.  I had been struck by one of those "beams of love" of William Blake, wounded by it in a most particular way.  It was my own condition that I was weeping about--my own hardness of heart, my own sinfulness.  I recognized this as a moment of truth, an experience of what the New Catechism calls our 'tremendous, universal, inevitable and yet inexcusable incapacity to love'  I felt so strongly my nothingness, my powerlessness to do anything about this horrifying recognition of my own hardness of heart, it drove me to the recognition that in God alone was my strength.  Without God I could do nothing.  Yet I could do all things in Him Who strengthened me.  So there was happiness there, too.  The tears were of joy as well as grief." Dorothy Day By Little and By Little.

We can approach God through tragedy.  "A person sits at a dying friend's bedside and stares into the abyss of death--and discovers there a loving Power, a holy Presence, which evokes trust and hope.  A family grapples with the pain of bereavement--and they sense consolation even in the darkness.  Tragedy occurs in so many ways: separation, oppression, mental illness, terrorism, starvation and floods, threats of nuclear war.  These events are overwhelming and yet at times, grace-filled. In La Plata Prison Adolfo was forbidden all books, even a Bible.  Faced with long days and nights of solitude he had time to appreciate what he calls "God's silence" the place where faith ripens.  Here in prison, everything Adolfo had ever received in the way of Christian culture began to come back to him in an uninterrupted series of insights, at once familiar and fresh.  A kind of spiritual nourishment took charge, and Adolfo found, for instance, that he could write out whole passages of the gospel by heart.  The lethal experience of prison paradoxically became an experience of interior liberation-- a kind of spiritual striking root." Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Christ in a Poncho.

We can find God through our choices, even our bad choices.  (See When Bad Things Happen to Good People Rabbi Harold S. Kushner.  I'm not sure I agree with every point of Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, but he does make good observations about the mystery of evil and God's creating us with human freedom.  We don't know all the answers, but we can go forward in peace, hope, and love.

We can approach God through religion.  The Christian sacraments celebrate the major moments of the life cycle and allow these moments to speak of something more, to point to Mystery present in all areas of life. Despite the negative aspects of religion--members of the church at all levels are sinners--many find in religion a privileged place for the encounter with God.

"By belonging to a community, by feeling part of its history and ideals, people come to an awareness of something more.   We believe in history.  The world is not a roll of the dice on its way toward chaos.  A new world has begun to happen since Christ has risen... Jesus Christ, we rejoice in your definitive triumph.  We march behind you on the road to the future.  You are with us.  You are our immortality."   Rev. Luis Espinal, S.J., assassinated for his human rights work in Bolivia.  I recommend small faith groups like Christian Life Community.

We can approach God through working for peace and justice.  We recognize the fundamental human dignity of all persons--and the need for action to heal the afflicted and to change unjust structures of society.   Those working for peace and justice sense God calling them and energizing their efforts.   Christian Life Community is dedicated to the mission of Jesus, the mission of justice.

"I have learned more about the Gospels from handicapped people, those on the margins of our society, those who have been crushed and hurt, then I have from the wise and the prudent.  Through their own growth and acceptance and surrender, wounded people have taught me that I must learn to accept my weakness and not pretend to be strong and capable.  Handicapped people have shown me how handicapped I am, how handicapped we all are.  They have reminded me that we are all weak and all called to death and that these are the realities of which we are most afraid.  They have shown me how much I need Jesus the Healer.  It is only when we accept these things that we can learn to open ourselves to the 'Spirit of love which Jesus promised us.  Jesus came to give life and give it abundantly.  He calls us from death to life, for He, the Lamb of God, took death on Himself and conquered it.  He came to preach good news to the poor, liberty to the oppressed and freedom to captives (Luke 4.18) Some of us are captives of our own misery and loneliness, others of false values and possessions; all of us are captives of our fear.  Jesus came to free us all by the gifts of His Spirit and calls us to a new life of the Beatitudes and of community."  Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, Be Not Afraid.

We can approach God through suffering.  Rabbi Harold S. Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. p. 147  "The question of why bad things happen to good people translates itself into asking . . .how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it has happened."  God can't give us human freedom and then stop a bad choice from happening.   We can only pause in the face of the mystery of evil and then go forward in hope with God's help.

We can approach God through conscience.  Only God can justify our feeling that a particular ethical claim is absolute and unconditional.  Jesus calls us to love of all, even our enemies.  I also feel Jesus calls us to begin to form the structures described on this web-page.

We can approach God through reason.  God is the first cause, the uncaused cause.  In a contingent world, God is the necessary being.

We can approach God through Faith.  Our Faith is stronger than our doubts.  Faith makes sense.  The alternative does not. 

The "cloud of witnesses" throughout history strengthes our own faith.

Sometimes God finds us.  We take a few tentative steps toward God, and God runs a hundred yards toward us!

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the Mother of God

Mary said yes at the Annunciation, not knowing exactly what that would entail, yes at the birth of Jesus.  Mary was there at Cana, on Calvary, at Pentecost.  Mary trusted.  in a sense Mary died when her Son died. 

The Assumption of Mary:  I think Mary will be with all of us when we die and helps us to be present with those we love in their last illness and death.  In his letter to the Corinthians 15.26 St. Paul says:  "The last enemy to be destroyed is death."  Mary encourages more improvements in medical science, in psychological and spiritual help; promoting things like hospice, helping one another to die at home.

At the Assumption we celebrate Mary's participation in her Son's Resurrection.  Mary has gone before us and gives us hope.  Mary is risen, body and soul.  Mary is alive and well, and we are glad. 

Let us celebrate the ministry of women in the Church.  Who has done more or is doing more for the Church than Mary?  Are there ways for us to facilitate ministry of women in the Church?

In the Magnificat I see Mary challenging the idea of vast differences in wealth as a lack of solidarity, a lack of community, a lack of democracy.  Mary wants all of us to share in her happiness.  We live in a world of technological and intellectual abundance.  (See Gar Alperovitiz, Unjust Deserts) There's really no need for there to be hunger or homelessness.  No need for us to hoard or fight over resources.  The Church moreover has an abundance of spiritual resources available for all.

When Mary looks at our world today she sees war, violnce, hunger, oppression.  There seems to be a huge dragon with seven heads and ten horns, his tail sweeping the stars from the sky, ready to devour us.  While we are making it easier for all to die, let's also make it easier for all to live.  Let us share the abundance of God's grace and the abundance of God's creation.

 Jesus, Mary, and the Poor

Jesus' commandment to love our neighbor begins at home with the needs of those closest to us.  But our love can't end there.  Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, new sight to the blind, and to set the downtrodden free.   To Jesus each human person is important.

Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick and afflicted and to comfort the victims of injustice.  We need to love the individual so much we are willing to re-examine any structure that may be oppressing her or him.  If the structures we have today have been set up by fallible and sinful men, they can be changed by all of us discerning together.  I think we need a revolution, a spiritual revolution, a peaceful revolution.  But one that will do more than put a Band-Aid on a gaping wound.  We need a radical change of the sinful social structures in our world today.

Mary made an option for the poor.  As we approached the present millennium, Pope John Paul II reminded us that "when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman." (Gal 4.4-6) The highest point in history, Jesus becoming man, followed Mary's initial act of faith at the Annunciation. Mary was blessed because she believed and continued to believe day after day despite the big trial of the journey to Egypt, despite the little trials of everyday life during the years at Nazareth, despite the reality that Mary and Joseph did not always understand what Jesus was saying to them. (Luke 2.48-50) Through faith Mary continued to ponder God's Word which became ever clearer in the self-revelation of the living God.

At Cana Mary began to point out our needs large and small. As a mother Mary wanted the messianic power of her Son to begin "To preach good news to the poor." (Lk 4.18) Not even beneath the Cross did Mary's faith fail. Like Abraham Mary believed and hoped even against hope.

Daughter of Mary, the Church journeys through time to meet Christ when He comes again. Mary, the Morning Star, has gone before us in her pilgrimage of faith, linking us to the rising of the Sun of Justice. "The pilgrimage of faith indicates the interior history, that is, the story of souls." (Mother of the Redeemer, On the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Life of the Church, Introduction, 6, Pope John Paul II)

There are many ways in which we meet Mary today, the first is to believe. We can meet Mary in "the land of Palestine, the spiritual homeland of all Christians because it was the homeland of the Savior of the world and of His Mother." (Ibid. II, 28) We can meet Mary today in the canticle of the Magnificat, which "ceaselessly re-echoes in the heart of the Church down the centuries."  "God my Savior has scattered the proud-hearted, has cast down the mighty from their thrones, has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty." (Lk 1:46-55)

Pope John Paul II concludes: "The truth about God who saves cannot be separated from God's love of preference for the poor and humble, that love which celebrated in the Magnificat, is later expressed in the words and works of Jesus. . .At the side of her Son Mary is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humankind and the universe." "The Catholic Church is thus aware--and at the present time this awareness is particularly vivid--that there is a duty to safeguard carefully the importance of the option for the poor which is intimately connected with the Christian meaning of freedom and liberation.   It is to Mary as Mother and Model that the Church must look to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission."  (John Paul II, Mother of the Redeemer, 78,79)
 
Was Mary active at the beginning of the new millennium when the nations of the world pledged to eradicate extreme poverty? Was Mary active when we raised the minimum wage? Is Mary at our side when we strive for a fair price for the small farmer and a fair wage for the farm worker?

Corporations are not governed by one member, one vote constituencies but by those who have the most money. Corporations have enormous staff and financial resources. Instead of encouraging stockholder participation, corporations often challenge stockholder resolutions; and the Security and Exchange Commission frequently rules in their favor. Consumers have limited choices, often inadequate information, and usually no way to communicate with other consumers on a large scale.

If there are huge disparities in income and wealth between those at the top and the rest of the population, the market produces more of the luxury goods and services wanted by those at the top and fewer of the goods and services needed by those in the middle. Although we live in an age of technological abundance, there is a limit to our economic and physical resources. If we use our resources mostly for luxuries for the wealthy, there will not be enough for necessities. My dream is that the world's resources be shared fairly by all.

Are the few who own and control the factories, farms, and banks making the important decisions which affect all of us? Enormous wealth affects even political democracy. If the wealthy contribute to both political parties, they have easy access to legislators. Since only the wealthy can hire expensive lawyers, wealth also influences justice in the courts. The existence of enormous wealth alongside great poverty is a lack of community, solidarity, and democracy.  St. Thomas More felt that as there is a bottom of bankruptcy for the wealthy, there should be a cap on the amount of wealth any individual or group has. To examine our mission, we must examine the mission of Mary and the Church.
 
"Thanks to science and technology, human society is able to solve problems such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or developing more just conditions of life, but remains stubbornly unable to accomplish this.  How can a booming economy, the most prosperous and global ever, still leave over half of humanity in poverty?  The Thirty-second General Congregation of the Society of Jesus makes its own sober analysis and moral assessment: 'We can no longer pretend that the inequalities and injustices of our world must be borne as part of the inevitable order of things.  It is now quite apparent that they are the result of what man himself, man in his selfishness, has done. . . Despite the opportunities offered by an ever more serviceable technology, we are simply not willing to pay the price of a more just and more humane society.' Injustice is rooted in a spiritual problem, and its solution requires a spiritual conversion of each one's heart and a cultural conversion of our global society so that humankind, with all the powerful means at its disposal, might exercise the will to change the sinful structures afflicting our world."  (Very Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, spiritual leader of the Society of Jesus, "Commitment to Justice in Jesuit Higher Education." 2000, Address to 28 US Jesuit Colleges and Universities at Santa Clara)

I asked Fr. Simon Hendry, S.J. to reconcile the above with what Jesus said to Judas, "The poor you always have with you."

"'The poor you will always have with you' can be understood in the light of Deuteronomy 15.11. 'there will always be poor in the land. . .', encouraging generosity to the poor.  Deuteronomy 15 is a discussion of the debt laws, the seventh-year release from debt, and the idea of sharing among the Hebrew people.  Deuteronomy 15.11 refers back to Deut. 15.4-5, 'There will, however, be no one in need among you, because the Lord is sure to bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession to occupy, if only you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing this entire commandment that I command you today.'

In Deuteronomy, the covenant requires sharing and respect for all.  Persons and membership in the community are more important than possessions.  The implication here is that if you keep the covenant, there will be no poor, because everyone will have a share in the prosperity of the land.  However, if you do not act in a manner consistent with the covenant, there will be poor.  Then since there are poor in the land, open your hands to give generously to them.  The laws about debt and the forgiveness of debt were an attempt to interpret the covenant in a society moving from a subsistence agriculture to a more commercial economy, aware that in many of the mechanisms of a commercial economy, the principles of the covenant were being violated.

Jesus' comment is an ironic reference to Deuteronomy, quoting part of Deuteronomy 15:11.  In John's gospel, Judas is a thief (Jn 12:6), someone who takes for himself what belongs to the community.  It's as if Jesus were saying:  'Come off it, Judas, the problem of poverty is not because this woman is anointing me with expensive perfumed oil.  Poverty exists because people are not paying attention to God and what a relationship with God requires.  She is doing that.  You always have the poor with you because you do not keep the whole covenant relationship and you are taking community property for yourself.  If you were more like her, there would be no poor.'

Viewed that way,  Kolvenbach and GC32 are in agreement with Jesus.  We have the poor with us because we have not been paying attention to what a relationship with God requires.  If we are serious about being believing Christians, then the results of technological and economic developments are to be shared.  An economy would function as the means for producing and distributing to all the goods and services that the community needs, instead of serving primarily as a mechanism for generating private wealth.  We have crafted an economy that violates the principles of the covenant.  Deuteronomy's critique and Jesus' are still applicable.

Ultimately, the reason we 'will always have the poor with us' is not some inevitable law of nature or economics or some divine plan or decree.  It is because we are not living the covenant (new or old) and are not sharing what we have.  It is because we don't really believe in God or Jesus or we don't act in a way that is consistent with that belief." Fr. Simon Henry, S.J.

Could I add that we don't believe in the human person, created in the image and likeness of God.  The Hebrews were asked not to make graven images of God because God is wholly other from creatures and cannot be represented by statues and paintings.  (Ex. 20.4-6; Dt 5.8-10; Lv 26.1; Dt 4.15-23)  The image of God is within us. We need to spend our whole lives creating that image in ourselves and helping others to do the same.  We are one human family.  There are not some created in God's image and others not.  Upper income persons are not more worthy of God's love nor of ours.  Indeed the church urges us to have a special love and option for the poor in order to give them equal opportunity to mirror God.

Isaiah 55.1:  "All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!"

Matthew 5.3:  "Blest are the poor in spirit: the reign of God is theirs."  Luke 6.20: "Blest are you poor; the reign of God is yours.  Blest are you who hunger; you shall be filled."  Matthew 25.34: "Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food.  I was thirsty and you gave me drink."  James 2.14  "My sisters and brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it?  Such faith has no power to save one, has it? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them, 'Good-bye and good luck! Keep warm and well fed,' but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that?  So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice.  It is thoroughly lifeless."  I John 4.20: "If anyone says, 'My love is fixed on God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  One who has no love for the brother he has seen cannot love the God he has not seen.  The commandment we have from God is this: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

America, Sept. 17, 2007:  "For decades scholars have called attention to Origen's description of Jesus as autobasileia (literally 'himself the kingdom').  Recent magisterial statements have frequently appealed to this text.  While reflecting on Matthew 18.23-35, Origen says that 'king' refers to the Son of God.  He goes on to ask:  Since Jesus is 'wisdom itself" (autosophia), 'justice itself' autodikaiosyne), and 'truth itself', autoasphaleia),  is he not also autobasileia 'the kingdom itself' (In Mt. Hom., 14.7) . . .The radical challenge of the kingdom is crystallized in a series of sayings on conditions for 'entering' the kingdom.  Rather than scandalize a child or commit other sins, one should be willing to enter the kingdom of God blind  (Mark 9.47) Those who wish to enter the kingdom should be powerless like children (Matthew 19.14) riches provide an overwhelming obstacle to entering (Mt. 19:23-25).  Disciples who seek the prestige of sitting at the right hand of Jesus in the kingdom are urged instead to become servants and slaves (Mt. 20.21-25).

St. Gregory Nazianzen, On Love of the Poor, PG 35, 887-890:  "You have been made a son of God, coheir with Christ.  Where did you get all this, and from whom? What benefactor has enabled you to look out upon the beauty of the sky, the sun in its course, the circle of the moon, the countless number of stars, with the harmony and order that are theirs, like the music of a harp?  . . .Is it not God who asks you now in your turn to show yourself generous? Because we have received from God so many wonderful gifts, will we not be ashamed to refuse God this one thing only, our generosity? Though He is God and Lord He is not afraid to be known as our Father.  Shall we repudiate those who are our kith and kin? St. Peter says: Resolve to imitate God's justice, and no one will be poor."

Acts 2.45   The early Christians shared all in common so that no one was needy.

If overcoming poverty seems too great a task, I recommend Dr. Helen Caldicott, The New Nuclear Danger, p. 185 ff "Under the banner Business Are Us, the Pentagon hosts a paper on their web site proclaiming that they are America's largest company, the next being Exxon with a budget of 165 billion dollars.  With 5.1 million, the Pentagon is the nations' largest employer.  It maintains 600 fixed facilities nationwide, with more than 40,000 properties and 18 million acres of land.  It stations employees in 130 countries out of a total 178 of the world.  Its global presence is ubiquitous.

America is a nation that spends only six cents out of every dollar on educating its children and four cents on health care for every fifty cents it spends on the military-industrial complex.  Overall, the Pentagon's 310 billion dollars per year dwarfs the 44.5 billion dollars for the education department and 20.3 billion dollars for the National Institutes of Health.

Globally the annual military expenditure stands at 780 billion dollars.  The total amount required to provide global health care, eliminate starvation and malnutrition, provide clean water and shelter for all, remove land mines, eliminate nuclear weapons, stop deforestation, prevent global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain, retire the paralyzing debt of developing nations, prevent soil erosion, produce safe, clean energy, stop overpopulation, and eliminate illiteracy is only one third that amount--237.5 billion dollars."

Give All To The Poor

"Jesus looking hard at him loved him, and said, 'One thing is lacking to you: whatever things you have, sell, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow me.' But the young man was appalled at the word, and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. . ." (Mark 10.17-31)  The young man goes away mourning because his possessions are great.  Wealth paralyzes the young man.  Wealth is a hindrance to hearing the gospel. (Matthew 13.22; Mark 4.18,19; Luke 8.14) Wealth deceives.  Wealth distracts from a following of Jesus.  Wealth becomes the primary object of attachment. "You cannot serve God and mammon"  (Matthew 6.24; Luke 16.13)  "Be on guard against every kind of greed." Lk. 12.15) "Money is a root of all evils." (I Timothy 6.10)(See Sondra Ely Wheeler, Wealth as Peril and Obligation, the New Testament on Possessions)
 
"Share with your neighbor whatever you have, and do not say of anything, this is mine.  If you both share an imperishable treasure, how much more must you share what is perishable. . Never hesitate to give, and when you do give, never grumble; then you will know the one who will repay you." (Attributed to Barnabas, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. IV, 71, 72)

Co-creators with God

In the summers from 1965 to 1970 I got another Master's degree at the Loyola University of Chicago Pastoral Institute.  Here began a new and exciting vision of progressive theology.  I saw that what I did in this life had eternal significance for the world to come.  It was this life, these relationships that would be transformed and transfigured.    I began to see the next life as the full-flowering of the way we live in this life. I felt called to develop my talents, my personality here and now, to be true to my inner self.  I feel I am a unique person with a unique mission.  When God created me, he decided against billions of other possibilities.  There's a true character inside me that should be operating.    I feel it's never too late to begin anew.  I can't erase the past nor the scars it has left on my character.  The past has also enriched me.  But it's my attitude toward the future that makes me what I am and what I can become.

"The divinisation of our endeavors by the value of our right intention infuses a precious soul into all our actions. . .if we love God our work will never be lost.  But will not the work itself of our minds, of our hearts and of our hands--our achievements, our products, our work--will not these too be saved?" The Divine Milieu, Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. p. 23 ff. "I love irresistibly all that your continuous help enables me to bring each day to reality.  A thought, a material improvement, a particular expression of love, a smile or a look, in me or around me, I cherish them like children.  Our work, our activity, follows us as we enter God's reign.  Each one of our works contributes to perfect Christ in His mystical totality.  In action I cleave to the creative power of God; I co-incide with it;  I become not only its instrument but its living prolongation.  I merge myself, through my heart, with the very heart of God.  God is there waiting for us at every moment in our action, in our work of the moment.  God is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle--of my heart and of my thought.  Nothing here is profane for those who know how to see.  Whatever you do, realize its significance and constructive value in Christ, and pursuing it with all your might.  What is sanctity if not to cleave to God with the maximum of our strength?"

William McDonough & Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the Way We Make Things.  Are we making things in a way that is sustainable, enhancing our lives, our planet, and all living things?  Are we designing structures more in accord with God's Word?  Are we growing food, manufacturing products in a healthy, sustainable way, with regard for safety for workers and farmers with adequate recompense for their work?  Do we have meaningful employment for each human person?  Do we pay workers a salary by which they can afford the products they are making?  Are we being cruel to animals?

Henry Ford's Model T was designed to make a product that was desirable, affordable, and operable by anyone, just about anywhere; that lasted a certain amount of time and that could be produced cheaply and quickly.  A philosophy of cradle to grave developed.  We really consume very little.  We put our products "away."  But now "away" has gone away.

To design products and grow food from cradle to cradle requires cooperation rather than isolated competition.  It requires an interdisciplinary vision of how we can go forward in a integrated and inter-connected way.  Instead of brute force and universal design, we need to tailor our production to the locale. Nature is our partner, not our enemy.

In Spe Salvi, Saved by Hope No. 35 Pope Benedict XVI states: All serious and upright human conduct is hope in action. This is so first of all in the sense that we thereby strive to realize our lesser and greater hopes, to complete this or that task which is important for our onward journey, or we work towards a brighter and more humane world so as to open doors into the future. Yet our daily efforts in pursuing our own lives and in working for the world's future either tire us or turn into fanaticism, unless we are enlightened by the radiance of the great hope that cannot be destroyed even by small-scale failures or by a breakdown in matters of historic importance. If we cannot hope for more than is effectively attainable at any given time, or more than is promised by political or economic authorities, our lives will soon be without hope. It is important to know that I can always continue to hope, even if in my own life, or the historical period in which I am living, there seems to be nothing left to hope for. Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and to persevere.

Certainly we cannot build the Kingdom of God by our own efforts.  What we build will always be the kingdom of man with all the limitations proper to our human nature. The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope. And we cannot to use the classical expression "merit" Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something "merited", but always a gift. However, even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit, it will always be true that our behavior is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history. We can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good. This is what the saints did, those who, as God's fellow workers, contributed to the world's salvation (cf. 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Th 3:2). We can free our life and the world from the poisons and contaminations that could destroy the present and the future. We can uncover the sources of creation and keep them unsullied, and in this way we can make a right use of creation, which comes to us as a gift, according to its intrinsic requirements and ultimate purpose. This makes sense even if outwardly we achieve nothing or seem powerless in the face of overwhelming hostile forces. So on the one hand, our actions engender hope for us and for others; but at the same time, it is the great hope based upon God's promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad."

 

Some are need-centered.  They need certain sense and emotional gratifications.  They look on others to fulfill their needs.  Unfortunately, they often use others as tools to manipulate and maneuver, to impose upon and take advantage of.  I'm not saying I have been free from this.  Others are growth-oriented.  They have reached a stage of self-actualization and self-integration that they do not have as great a need to depend on others and use others as a crutch.  They have learned to grow, to appreciate the arts, to find satisfaction in their work, in their family and friends, in their work in the parish and in the community.  They enjoy the greatest of all happiness, to love and be loved, to understand and be understood, to trust and be trusted.  Although I can't say that I have reached the fullness of self-actualization, I feel I have had a rich family life and a rich religious life.  I have been loved and been able to love.  I have always found satisfaction in my work.

But we will never be fully ourselves unless we reach out to God who transcends our own partialness.  Some look on God as a Big Daddy up in the sky, an over-indulgent father who always gives them everything they want and who always yields to special pleading.  I'm not saying I have abandoned the prayer of petition, but I feel much of our unhappiness is of our own making.  I also believe God acts through us.  I think God looks upon us as mature sons and daughters, partners in God's work of creation and redemption, real women and men who are willing to face life and its realities, willing to face themselves and their own deficiencies.  I feel I am called to grow to be true to myself.  What I am is God's gift to me.  What I become is my gift to God.

At the Loyola Pastoral Institute I had further readings in existentialism and was introduced to process theology.  I was fascinated by the lectures of Fr. Alfonso M. Nebreda, S.J., Director of the East Asian Pastoral Institute.  Fr. Nebreda stressed pre-evangelization, not trying to preach the gospel to those who are not ready for it.  

I learned to distinguish clock time, what Aristotle called the measure of motion, according to before and after, and temporality, or my grasp of time, my assimilation of my own experiences. All of us have clock time in common.  Each of us has a different temporality.  There is also liturgical time, how God is present in the various liturgical seasons.  We cannot live all of life at once.  Our lives have to be an integration of past, present, and future.

I also became aware of God's presence in signs, the witness of the saints, physical nature, the sacraments, the events of our lives.  Fr. Jose M. Calle, S.J. presented a theology and a philosophy of signs.  Only persons can make a material thing into a sign. Words are signs.  But sometimes words are not needed.  And sometimes words are too explicit.  I became friends with women students during the Loyola Pastoral Institute, and I felt they helped me to understand the importance of the use of implicit signs.

Fr. Calle saw the following six fundamental tensions at the base of human existence:

  1. A yearning to live is in tension with the anxiety towards one's own contingency.
  2. A sense of responsibility is in tension with the temptation towards escapism.
  3. A yearning for freedom exists in tension with the awareness of partial slaveries.
  4. A need for union and communion of life with others is in tension with the constant danger of egocentrism.
  5. A need for a loving and protective presence is in tension with the very human pain of loneliness.
  6. A need for a collective solidarity is in tension with the common attraction to exclusive ghettos.

God speaks to us in signs, the witness of others, the sacraments, scripture, physical creation.  The tensions in our lives can also be a sign, a call from God to resolve that tension in a responsible way.  An awareness of these basic tensions confirmed in me the need for on-going Ignatian discernment.   God can be a rock of security for us in the midst of our insecurity.  I certainly have felt this in the periods of insecurity I have experienced.  God can redeem and free us.  This freedom has come to me in unexpected ways.  I am thankful for the graces I have received.    God's Covenant calls us to live in community.  However imperfect, Jesuit religious life has been a blessing and solace to me.

Spiritual Discernment

If you look at the sub-section on this web-site "Spiritual Discernment," you'll see that discernment is an integral part of Ignatian spirituality.  Though an important separate step, discernment is a helpmate to theological reflection and vice versa. Thus these two sub-sections need to be read together.  What follows below is part of both theological reflection and spiritual discernment.

Christians and Muslims Invited to Work for World Peace

In his first encyclical God is Love, Pope Benedict XVI  reminds us that Mary, the mother of Jesus, ?is a woman who loves.?  Mary brought the love of God to her cousin Elizabeth and to John the Baptist in Elizabeth?s womb.  Mary recognizes the need of the spouses at Cana and tells her Son.  At the Cross Mary stays with her Son.  After the Resurrection as they wait for the Holy Spirit Mary prays with the apostles. Mary is our mother today and brings us God?s love and reconciliation. 

?Teach us to know and love God so that we too can become capable of true love and be fountains of living water in the midst of a thirsting world.?  Pope Benedict XVI tells us that the parable of the Good Samaritan teaches that ?anyone who needs me, and whom I can help is my neighbor.  Despite being extended to all humankind, neighbor is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now.? Recently the Cincinnati Catholic Telegraph recounted how Julie Hagerty, a former student of mine here at Xavier, went across the ocean and across faith boundaries to connect with Muslims in Kosovo.

Recently Muslim scholars of the world wrote an open  letter to Pope Benedict XVI and other Catholic leaders emphasizing how central love of God and love of our neighbor is to each of our faiths.  The scholars invited Catholic and Muslims who together are more than half the world?s population to work together for peace.  (See www.acommonword.com)  Christian scholars  responded with Loving God and Neighbor Together (www.yale.edu/faith) ?When anyone or anything besides God commands our ultimate allegiance?a ruler, a nation, economic progress, or anything else?we end up serving idols and inevitably get mired in deep and deadly conflicts.?

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 16, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Christians and Muslims alike believe that it is their duty to show compassion toward every human being, given that God is compassionate, concluded the Islamic-Catholic Liaison Committee.

This was one of five conclusions from the 14th meeting of the committee, which was held in the Vatican last Wednesday through Friday.

The Catholic delegation was headed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, while the Islamic delegation was headed by Professor Hamid bin Ahmad Al-Rifaie, president of the International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The pontifical council released a statement Sunday about the meeting, which had the theme "Christians and Muslims as Witnesses of the God of Justice, of Peace and of Compassion in a World Suffering From Violence."

The Vatican statement reported, "The topic was treated from a religious point of view according to the teaching of our two religious traditions."

The committee agreed on five points, the first being that "from the inherent dignity of each human being stem fundamental rights and duties."

They added: "Justice is a priority in our world. It requires, beyond the implementation of the existing legal provisions, the respect of the fundamental needs of individuals and peoples through an attitude of love, fraternity and solidarity. There can be no true and lasting peace without justice.

"Peace is a gift from God and also requires the commitment of all human beings, and particularly believers, who are called to be vigilant witnesses to peace in a world afflicted by violence in many forms.

"Christians and Muslims believe that God is compassionate and therefore they consider it their duty to show compassion towards every human person, especially the needy and the weak."

Finally, the committee affirmed that religions, "if authentically practiced, effectively contribute in promoting brotherhood and harmony in the human family."

The Vatican communiqué concluded by explaining that Benedict XVI received the participants in audience. He "encouraged them to continue their endeavors for the promotion of justice and peace."

In my own prayer I make acts of love to the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit and am conscious of their love of me.  I make acts of love to Mary who can bring all of us together despite our different faiths, cultures, and philosophies.  I also make acts of love to my fellow religious, my family and friends in this life and the next, those who oppose or disagree with me.  Such acts of love take the edge off any differences I experience.

Holy Saturday

The Catholic liturgy for Holy Saturday night traces how God has acted in history: the creation story, the gradually evolving Covenant with Abraham, Moses, David. Reading V is from the prophet Isaiah 55.1-11:"Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!  Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what fails to satisfy?  Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.  Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.  I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.  As I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of nations, so shall you summon a nation you knew not, and nations that knew you not shall run to you, because of the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.  Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.  Let the scoundrel forsake his way, and the wicked man his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God who is generous in forgiving.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. For just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."

God's grace is a gift, we don't have to pay for it.  Our parents give us life and raise us freely.  We should be ready to give ourselves to one another in service and solidarity.  God is near, often in our neighbor.

Since our thoughts are not always God's thoughts, we need spiritual discernment to separate God?s thoughts from our rationalizations and self-deceptions.

 Ezekiel 36.25-28 "I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.  I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.  You shall live in the land I gave your fathers; you shall be my people, and I will be your God."  The latter was the formula for marriage, e.g.  "I, Isaac, shall be your husband.  You Rebecca, shall be my wife."

Light and Dark Graced Story

A classic example of Graced Story is the Confessions of St. Augustine.  As Augustine reflects on his story, he bursts into prayer to God:  "Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!. . You were with me, but I was not with you. .  You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.  I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more.  You touched me, and I burned for your peace."

The Deists thought the world was created by God, the Grand Architect, with natural physical and natural moral laws.  Once created, the world was left on its own to evolve according to those natural laws.  Creating the world was like winding up a clock, setting it on a shelf to unwind by itself. In contrast, the Hebrews and Christians believed that God acted in history.  God intervened in three main ways.

First, God revealed Himself\Herself to the Hebrew people as one friend reveals herself/himself to another, slowly, gradually, but intimately.  Psalm 146 says Yahweh "keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry."  We know God through prayer and meditation on Scripture.  But there is no facile way to know God.  We should not presume we have God in the box of our abstract definitions.  "God's ways are not our ways."  We learn more about God by doing justice.  (Cf. Jeremiah 22, 13-16; Isaiah 55.1-ll)

Secondly, God intervenes in history by revealing principles and values to live by.  In the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus we find that the jubilee year is part of the first covenant.  Land and wealth are to be redistributed.  In the fifteenth Chapter slaves are to be released.  Debts are forgiven.  Liberty is proclaimed.  The land itself is to have a Sabbath.  "The land shall not be sold in perpetuity.  The land is God's."  In the book of Ruth we see the value of family love is cherished.  Ruth says to her mother-in-law, "Wherever you go, I will go."  These are all values God revealed in the first covenant and values which I think very much still apply today.

The third main way God intervenes is by entering history, being with us and for us, helping us on our journey.  "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  In verdant pastures he gives me repose.  Beside restful waters he leads me.  He refreshes my  soul.  He guides in right paths for His name's sake.  Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give my courage.  You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.  Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come."  Psalm 23 

In the book of Exodus the notion of covenant expands as Moses is commissioned to lead God's people to freedom and the promised land.  God is the liberator of the oppressed.  The Hebrews were poor and powerless and the Lord freed them, leading them as a column of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night.  As Yahweh didn't stay neutral in the conflict between the Hebrews and the Egyptians, so God is not neutral today in the struggle for freedom and human rights, including human rights in Israel-Palestine. ("Scholars today say the Promised Land was not so much a land conquered by outsiders as a land united by people already there.  There is no evidence to indicate that the Hebrews were immigrants or invaders rather than simply, or at least primarily, descendants of the area?s natives, whom the Bible calls Canaanites.  On the contrary there is positive evidence indicating that the Hebrews are simply or at least primarily descendants of these Canaanites, rather than a blend of Canaanites and incoming Hebrews." John W. Mulhall, CSP, America and the Founding of Israel, An Investigation of the Morality of America's Role.)

Part of our journey includes using our imagination, our talents to create a world more in accord with God's Word. We are invited today to interact with God, receiving Revelation in Faith and responding  by being co-creators with God, preparing the earth for its final transformation and transfiguration at the end time.  We are co-creators when we use our talents and our person to make this a better world in some small way or in some more significant way.  I first felt the call to be a co-creator in the 1960's, and the mission still energizes me today.  Before that I was concerned mainly with the rules of my religious life, with study and prayer.  Since my participation in the Loyola University Pastoral Institute, I feel that my pioneering efforts have made a difference; and I find satisfaction in my work.

Graced history is more theology than history.  Faith history deals with discerning God's action in history.   We can discern God's action in the larger picture of the world, in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us.   Our faith response is best done in a small faith community or with a spiritual director or companion.  If we're alone when we try to discern God's will, we can too easily distort gospel values and  make serious mistakes.   Some of those who favored apartheid in South Africa thought they were following scripture.  Although we are called to be responsible stewards, vast differences between those who are rich and those who lack basic necessities are not a sign of  virtue, nor is poverty a punishment for vice.

Graced story can be divided into the light and dark aspects.  The light graced story recalls God's love for us and how we have taken that love to others.  We need to savor the light graced story because we tend to pass lightly over the light graced story and move quickly to the dark graced story.  We have been loved, and we have loved others.  Others have understood us, and we have understood others.  We have known genuine friendship.

"I seek peace, let me BE peace. I seek justice, let me be just. I seek a world of kindness, let me be kind. I seek a world of generosity, let me be generous with all that I have. I seek a world of sharing, let me share all that I have. I seek a world of giving, let me be giving to all around me. I seek a world of love, let me be loving beyond all reason, beyond all normal expectation, beyond all societal frameworks that tell me how much love is "normal," beyond all fear that giving too much love will leave me with too little. And let me be open and sensitive to all the love that is already coming to me, the love of people I know, the love that is part of the human condition, the accumulated love of past generations that flows through and is embodied in the language, music, recipes, technology, literature, religions, agriculture, and family heritages that have been passed on to me and to us. Let me pass that love on to the next generations in an even fuller and more explicit way.

Source of goodness and love in the universe, let me be alive to all the goodness that surrounds me. And let that awareness of the goodness and love of the universe be my shield and protector. Hear the words of my mouth and may the meditations of my heart find acceptance before You, Eternal Friend, who protects and frees me. Amen. "
The Tikkun Community

One witness to the closeness of God, someone who knew of loneliness and dark nights, the Jesuit priest Fr. Alfred Delp.  Delp was arrested and sentenced to death during the Third Reich in Germany because he had contacts with the resistance movement against Adolf  Hitler.  On Nov. 17, 1944, Fr. Delp writes:  'One thing is preciously clear and tangible to me: the world is so full of God. . In everything, God wants to celebrate encounter, and asks and wants the loving answer. The challenge and the charge is only this: to make--or allow to develop--out of these insights and graces a permanent consciousness, and a permanent attitude.  Then life becomes free, with the freedom we have so often sought."  ( Fr. Willie Lambert, S.J. Directions for Communication, Discoveries with Ignatius Loyola, p. 176)

In the First Covenant one generation remembered its past at the Passover and interpreted the past to the next generation. "And when your children ask you, 'What does this ritual mean?' you will tell them, 'It is the sacrifice of the Passover.'" (Exodus 12.26)  In the Second Covenant Jesus asked this remembrance or anamnesis in the Eucharist, "Do this in memory of me."  (Luke 22.19) Since the light graced story gives us courage and confidence, I recommend praying over our light graced story first.  This puts our dark graced story in perspective.

We do experience evil.  We have inflicted evil on others.  Can this evil story be graced?  I think it can.  God can be present in the dark graced story revealing that it is evil, calling us to move from evil to good, helping us to move from dark to light, giving us strength, consolation, and hope in our suffering.

We are not simply passive spectators in this story.  We make history ourselves by making decisions.  St. Ignatius Loyola had a method of making a decision in the Spirit.  Put simply, we make good decisions at a time when we are in spiritual consolation.  We make bad decisions when in a period of spiritual desolation.  In a time of spiritual consolation we are moving toward God. In a period of spiritual desolation we are moving toward selfishness and neglect of our neighbor and the earth.

Our decisions need to be in continuity with our past.  If we have assimilated our past, we are more genuinely present and can make better decisions about the future.  Although we find God in our bodies and in our emotions, spiritual consolation and desolation are not always the same as psychological consolation and desolation.  If our mourning is moving us to alleviate the suffering of others and bringing us closer to God and our neighbor, we can be sad, mourning for those who are suffering, and still be in spiritual consolation.

By reading and reflecting on Scripture and history, we can discern after a time the main ways in which God has acted in our world.  When we read history, perhaps it is better if we look at the point of view of the poor and the powerless as well as that of the rich and the powerful.

By reflecting on our own lives we can see how God has been present to us as individuals and as groups in similar ways.  Has God helped us to draw good out of evil? Have we achieved much more than anticipated?  Are we really doing all of this ourselves?

At the last supper Jesus tells the Apostles He will send the Holy Spirit who will instruct them and remind them of everything.  (John 14.26)  The Holy Spirit can help us to remember in God and help us to determine our forward direction.  Life may be understood backwards into the past, but it is lived forward into the future.
 

I feel I need my faith to calm my fears, to energize me for the work ahead, to help me to be honest with myself.  St. Ignatius wanted the Society of Jesus to think with the church but also to challenge the church.   In the 1530's the Society of Jesus was an innovative idea.  St. Ignatius struggled to get approval of his spirituality.  In the end, Ignatian spirituality was accepted with enthusiasm.

I personally like big thoughts and enjoy the sweep of Scripture and history.  If that's not your thing, you can find value in your own story and in the stories of those about you.  Certainly Scripture is a privileged place to find God's ways, and I will attempt to show briefly some main ways in which God has acted in scriptural times.

God's Action in Scripture

In both the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, God's relationship with His people is described as a covenant.  A covenant  is different from a commercial contract.  Since a covenant deals more with personal relationships than with things, marriage is better described as a covenant rather than a contract.  Athletes enter into a contract which deals with an exchange of  services.  Those who buy a home or a car enter into a contract for the payment of a specific amount of money over a particular period of time.  A covenant relationship grows rather than stays static.  In a covenant there is more sharing than winning or losing.  Even in our giving we receive.  A covenant relationship includes God as the most important person in the covenant.

God's Action in the Hebrew Covenant

In the first book of the Bible, Genesis tells us that God created the world because Yahweh wanted to share with us.  Since we have been created in the image of God, we can love and be loved.  We can understand and be understood.  We have intelligence and free will.  Since God can recognize each one of us as a daughter or son, each one of us has dignity, value and worth in God's eyes.  I don't think a human person has to justify her/his  usefulness or productivity.  Each one of us is important because we are persons. At the same time each person is called to help unfold God's act of creation, to be a co-creator.  We are called to use our intelligence and ingenuity to make this a better world for those journeying with us and for those who will come after us.  Since every living thing was a part of God's covenant with Abraham, each person is called to be a steward of God's creation.  The unity and harmony of the community extends to all of creation.

Justice is fidelity to the demands of relationship.  If persons neglect their family or are unfair to their neighbor, worship of God is not true worship. "If you would offer me holocausts, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream." (Amos 5.21)

God takes humankind's freedom seriously.  The human race neglects the covenant mediated by Moses and sins.  By sin we separate ourselves from God, from one another, and from physical creation.  When we sin, we need to acknowledge our sin, repent, and move forward.  God forgives and saves from the flood, from the Egyptians, from sin.  Liberation theology points out that this salvation is not simply spiritual but includes freedom from physical oppression.

Some judge Israel to have been mediocre in relationship to surrounding cultures, but they agree that the Hebrews excelled in their religious sense and morals.   The gods of other contemporary cultures were very human: fighting, lustful, often cruel, capricious and unpredictable, needing to be placated by magic or human sacrifice, with cults that often glorified war, pillage, the degradation of women, and incest.  Israel's God is wholly other in the unmixed goodness which is uniquely Yahweh's.  Israel's God takes the initiative, is a source of awe and wonder, can neither be controlled by magic nor manipulated by sacrifice.  Yahweh asks total commitment.  God is Lord of all history, yet is loving, good, always faithful to Yahweh's people.   (Cf. John L. McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible, 317)

Israel was a people of God, a community.  Each Israelite related to God as a member of that people.  Each individual's identity is found in the community's covenant with God.  No individual can live a holy and full life while ignoring other members of the community.  No individual can worship God and be unjust to his/her neighbor.  Nor were foreigners or sojourners to be excluded from care.  "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19.33, 34)

Chapter 25 of Leviticus describes the Jubilee year during which wealth and property were redistributed.    The Jubilee year may not have been observed perfectly, but the ideal was there.

God gave Joseph the grace to forgive his brothers who had plotted to kill him and who sold Joseph into slavery.  Joseph was not vindictive.  Later Joseph fed his brothers in time of famine.  (Genesis, Chapter 45)

Fidelity to the covenant brings land and security.  (Deuteronomy Chapter 5) The Lord frees the Hebrews when the Egyptians maltreat and oppress the Hebrews, imposing hard labor on them.  (Deuteronomy  26.6-9)

The notion of the covenant is a concrete picture rather than an abstract definition.  The idea of the covenant expands to include the reign of David and Solomon.  We see the covenant as a kingdom.  The relationship of God is to Yahweh's people as a nation not to isolated individuals, separate from one another.  (Second Book of Samuel, Chapter 7)  Solomon does not ask for riches but to discern right from wrong.  Although Solomon does get material goods, his priority is to be able to judge morally.   God is pleased with Solomon?s prayer.  (Third Book of Kings, Chapter 3)

Tobit  feeds the hungry and clothes the naked.  God hears the cry of the poor not necessarily directly but through Tobit.

The psalms are sacred hymns, a summary of Hebrew belief, the result of God?s revelation.    Since the earth is the Lord's, we become stewards of God's earth.   God resists and puts down the proud.  Although the arrogant shut themselves off from God and their neighbor, the meek shall possess the land.    Because God's anointed cherishes the poor as an object of special love, the anointed of God saves the poor and the oppressed.  God loves us and frees us.  (Psalms 24, 37, 72, 82, 113, 73, 135)

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  In verdant pastures he gives me repose.  Beside restful waters he leads me.  He refreshes my  soul.  He guides in right paths for His name's sake.  Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give my courage.  You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.  Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come."  Psalm 23 

July 3, 2012
The Psalms of Peace, Part I, Psalm 33  BY JOHN DEAR

"A king is not saved by a mighty army, nor a warrior delivered by great strength. Useless is the war horse for safety; its great strength, no sure escape. But the eyes of the God of peace are upon the reverent, upon those who hope for God's gracious help." (Ps. 33: 16-18)

Psalm 33 is a hymn of praise to the God of peace and a warning to those who place their hope and trust in the false gods of war. You can?t serve both the God of peace and the weapons of war, it announces. It?s one or the other. Show reverence to the God of peace and live in peace, gratitude and joy, or show reverence to the weapons of war and their false security and die. That's the message I get from the text. It's more radical and helpful than any spiritual writing you'll find today.

No, you say, this is just pious Bible talk. A king, an emperor, a president, yes even Barack Obama as well as George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, are saved by a mighty army, by bombs, by drones, by Trident submarines, by nuclear weapons. That is the logic of every nation, every military, every war. The God of peace cannot save us. Only our weapons and warriors can save us. This is what we have been taught, what we hear preached, why we wave the flag, why we pay taxes to the Pentagon, why we risk radioactive waste, why we threaten to destroy the planet, why we spend nearly all our money on warfare instead of on schools, healthcare, affordable housing, food for the hungry and environmental cleanup. This is what most of us believe. Might makes right. Violence saves us. War is the will of God.

Not too long ago, one U.S. archbishop said these exact words to me: God cannot save us. Only nuclear weapons can protect us. They are our only hope.

Trust in the weapons of war and the U.S. military has now reached unimaginable heights. According to the 2012-2013 budget, U.S. military spending will exceed the military spending of all other countries in the world--combined. Over one half of this year's budget (54%) goes to the Department of Defense (that is, the Department of War)--$686 billion. China's budget spends $114 billion for war; France $61 billion; the United Kingdom $57 billion; Russia $53 billion; and Canada $20 billion. Iran pays $8 billion; North Korea, $7 billion; Pakistan $5 billion; Venezuela $3 billion and Syria $2 billion.

Meanwhile, U.S. taxpayers will pay $121 billion alone for our ongoing warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq. That specific amount could have provided 1.8 million U.S. elementary school teachers for one year, OR 15.5 million people with low income healthcare for one year, OR 15.4 million one year scholarships for university students. Instead we trust in the weapons of war, and our economy is crashing, our schools are crumbling, millions have no healthcare, billions suffer in extreme poverty around the world---and we keep building and maintaining weapons that cannot protect us from terrorist attack.

Since 2001, we have spent $1.4 trillion for war in Iraq and Afghanistan. That same amount of money would have provided universal health care for all Americans for those same ten years. What has this war brought us? Over 6400 U.S. service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, over 300,000 with traumatic brain injuries and PTSD. Civilian deaths estimated in the hundreds of thousands. And still, the U.S. ranks 25th in the world in infant mortality; 37th in the world in overall healthcare; 17th in the world in terms of life expectancy; the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world, and so forth. (For more information about these statistics and to order cards with them, go to www.mapm.org).

Psalm 33 presents a stark challenge. Reliance on war, funding for war, and waging war are futile. If you place your hope in war, then know that you are not placing your hope in the God of peace. If you trust in weapons and warfare for your security, then know that you are not trusting in the God of peace and you are doomed to failure and death.

This truth is presented as if it is a law of nature, like a law of gravity. Jesus picks up on the message when he says: If you live by the sword, the weapon, the bomb, you will die by the sword, the weapon, the bomb. Therefore, do not live by the sword, the weapon or the bomb. Live by the way of peace, he says, and you will live. This is the first requirement of the spiritual life, the politics of the spiritual life: renounce warfare and take up the way of peace.

Can we build our lives upon this sacred text? Could we fashion a culture?dare I say a Judeo/Christian society---after these words? If we did, then we would be blessed with a new spirit of peace in our hearts and lives.

The nonviolent Jesus must have studied and prayed through this text because it provides the basic foundation for his Sermon on the Mount. If we likewise pray over and ponder these words, then we would become Sermon on the Mount people, who seek to end war, create justice, make peace, offer universal love and welcome God?s reign of nonviolence on earth.

Let all who dwell in the world show reverence... The God of peace foils the plan of the nations?From heaven, the God of peace looks down and observes the whole human race, surveying from the royal throne all who dwell on earth. The One who fashioned the hearts of them all knows all their works? (Ps. 33: 13-15, 8, 10)

Psalm 33 calls us to turn back to the God of peace who sees the violence we commit and to live in God?s peace, with gratitude, joy and praise. But the specific word it uses is reverence.

Twice, Psalm 33 invites us to become people of reverence. That was one of Albert Schweitzer?s favorite words. Webster?s defines reverence as ?a feeling or attitude of deep respect, love and awe for something sacred; veneration. Or a manifestation of this respect, love and awe.? As people of reverence, we maintain an attitude of deep respect, love and awe for the God of peace. We venerate the God of peace. We manifest our respect, love and awe for the God of peace in the way we live. That means, we are focused on the God of peace. We bow toward the God of peace. We live in, and through, and for the God of peace. We defer to the God of peace. We seek the God of peace. We breathe in the God of peace, and speak and heed the words of the God of peace.

The eyes of the God of peace are upon the reverent, we are told, "upon those who hope for God?s gracious help."

In this spirit of reverence, we take time each day for silent adoration of the God of peace. Then we go through our day with one eye--our third eye, the Buddhists would say--on the God of peace. As we keep our eye on the God of peace, the God of peace keeps both eyes on us. What a blessing!

People of reverence are people of mindfulness, peaceableness, nonviolence, love and compassion. Living in reverence leads to equanimity because we are rooted in our attitude of respect, love and awe for the God of peace. This is a good way to live. We need not support the culture of war, or be tossed about the media?s glorification of violence, war, or stupid politics, or our own day to day worries and anxieties. We remain centered, mindful, conscious, and alert.

I think many of us want to be people of reverence but we also want at the same time to maintain our American culture, its weapons, its wars, its armies, and the Pentagon. Psalm 33 insists that we cannot have it both ways. Reject the culture of war, it commands. Learn new ways to resolve conflict nonviolently, and return to the God of peace. Then you will be able to reclaim your soul, and discover a deep foundation for peace, joy and gratitude as you wait on the God of peace. That?s the conclusion:

Our soul waits for the God of peace who is our help and shield.  For in the God of peace our hearts rejoice.

In your holy name we trust.  May your kindness, God of peace, be upon us.  We have put our hope in you.

This is a pledge and a prayer. Instead of trusting in America, its military, its drones and its nuclear weapons, we pledge to wait on the God of peace and trust in this peacemaking God to help us and protect us. As we do, we will be given a quiet, inner joy.

And so we pray: may your kindness be upon us. That could be a new mantra for us. It invites us to imagine the kindness of God?and then to feel it upon us, within us, and around us. Maybe then we will become kinder people, and practice the politics of kindness.

Psalm 33 suggest that if we turn away from the culture of war, renounce our reliance on weapons, and practice a new reverence for the God of peace, one another and all creation, then the kindness of the God of peace will rest upon us all. That, dear friends, is the best goal worth pursuing.

The Psalms of Peace, part 3 (Ps. 34)by John Dear SJ on Jul. 17, 2012 On the Road to Peace

Editor's note: This meditation is the third of a five-part summer series on the peace writings in the psalms.
"Come, children, listen to me. I will teach you awe for the God of peace. Who among you loves life, takes delight in prosperous days. Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it." (Ps. 34: 12-15)

Psalm 34 was the daily prayer of my friend and teacher of nonviolence, Billy Neal Moore, during his nearly two decades on Georgia's death row. He was granted clemency in 1990 and now ministers to prisoners in Georgia. Throughout the 1980s, during our near-weekly correspondence, he often wrote about Psalm 34 as his guide to the God of peace and the way of nonviolence. He taught me the beauty and power of Psalm 34, how it can be a guide for us through the door way to peace.

The psalm is a poem. Each line begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Its message and teaching are so simple that we can easily miss its life-changing wisdom. I suppose it would take the daily attention of a prisoner over the course of 20 years to realize it as a path to peace and the God of peace. It reads as a hymn of praise, a guide to daily living, an invitation to wisdom, and a testimony to God's liberation of the poor and oppressed.

The first part is an invitation to join in praising the God of peace:  "I will bless the God of peace at all times; praise shall be always in my mouth. My soul will glory in the God of peace that the poor may hear and be glad. Magnify the God of peace with me." (Ps. 34:2-4)

Luke probably used this psalm as a basis for Mary's Magnificat. Both offer a hymn of praise, political denunciation of the rich and powerful, and a call for justice and liberation of the poor. "The powerful grow poor and hungry, but those who seek the God of peace lack no good thing," we read in verse 11. There is the promise for those who seek the God of peace: Everything we need will be provided for.

The second part testifies to God's help in our time of need:
"I sought the God of peace who answered me, delivered me from all my fears ... In my misfortune I called, the God of peace heard and saved me from all distress ... Look to the God of peace that you may be radiant with joy." (Ps. 34: 5-7)

If we trust in the God of peace and turn to the God of peace in good times and in bad, God will help us -- that's the message and the testimony. We're told God delivers the poor, the oppressed, the broken-hearted and the crushed. God is on the side of the poor, the oppressed, the broken-hearted and the crushed. That means, of course, that we are called to be on the side of the poor, the oppressed, the broken-hearted and the crushed; that we are not meant to be rich, oppressors, heart-breakers or spirit-crushers. One day, when our turn comes to be impoverished, oppressed, broken-hearted and crushed, we know God will be there for us. Anyone who seeks to be just, live simply and make peace in this culture of violence and war, we're told, will have "many troubles," but the good news is that the God of peace will be there for us.
The God of peace has eyes for the just and ears for their cry. God's face is against evildoers to wipe out their memory from the earth. When the just cry out, the God of peace hears and rescues them from all distress. The God of peace is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. Many are the troubles of the just, but the God of peace delivers from them all.

The third part is the lesson:
Learn to savor how good the God of peace is ... Come, children, listen to me; I will teach you awe for the God of peace. Who among you loves life, takes delight in prosperous days? Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from speaking lies. Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it.

I like the word "savor." Imagine savoring a delicious meal, fine wine or a gorgeous sunset. Here, we're invited to "savor" the goodness of the God of peace.

It's consoling to ponder the goodness of God. I remember a moment as a young teenager, lying awake at night, pondering God, savoring God's goodness, when I consciously realized I was pondering God's goodness and that God was indeed very good. That was a spiritual breakthrough for me. I knew God was good, and therefore, that God was trustworthy.

The more we ponder the goodness of God, the more we come to know God as only goodness, with not a trace of evil, or mean-spiritedness, or war, or oppression. The act of savoring God's goodness can heal our brokenness and help us to reclaim our own inherent goodness, to re-center ourselves in our own goodness, and then to live our lives in that goodness. In the process, we begin to resemble the God of peace.

Do not speak evil or lies. In the Gandhian framework, that means we speak the truth nonviolently, with love. We choose our words carefully so they do not spread the culture's untruth and hurt others. We use our words wisely, because words have power to heal or destroy. Some of us may have to go back to square one and practice the art of not-speaking for a while, to cultivate the wisdom of silent reflection, thoughtfulness and mindfulness, so that the words we speak become only words of peace, hope and love. Over time, as we pursue the truth of God, we try to speak only the truth. A good Gandhian "experiment with truth" is to try to speak only the truth, and then reflect on how well we did and what it felt like.

One way to practice this nonviolence of tongue and heart in our ordinary day-to-day lives is to use the language of affirmation, which seems to be losing ground in our culture of violence. I think we need to try to affirm one another, to tell others how good they are, to point out the good they do and thank them. We're pros at criticizing one another, putting each other down and hurting each other, especially in our families and in the church. But we're novices when it comes to affirming one another. To encourage others to be their best is to help others become nonviolent and make peace. Using the language of affirmation, we can help one another along the road to peace and nonviolence and build a stronger presence of peace in the world.

That is the one of the lessons I've learned firsthand from the saints I've known -- people like Dom Helder Camara, Cesar Chavez, Mother Teresa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Coretta Scott King, Glenn Smiley, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Berrigans. They all affirmed and encouraged me, and everyone they met. While speaking the hard truths about war, poverty, racism and nuclear weapons, they also spoke positive words to those around them. Over time, I began to see a common thread in their practice.

Turn from evil. Do Good. Seek Peace. Pursue peace. This is the call of the psalm and the God of Psalm 34. Conversion, or metanoia, means "turning around." Every day, we're called to turn away from evil. That's our daily "conversion." It's not so much a project or a task -- though there may be dramatic moments in our lives when we have to quit an unjust job, stop participating in some form of cultural violence or realize the need to resign from the U.S. military. Turning from evil and doing good becomes an attitude of nonviolence that we carry through our lives. Through our work with various movements for justice and disarmament, we then try to "organize goodness," as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, and "create a society where it is easier for people to be good," as Peter Maurin said.

To seek and pursue peace is the heart of the spiritual life. To live at peace with oneself, to cultivate interior peace, and to live in peace with others are the necessary ingredients for our search for the God of peace. Along the way, we try to seek peace with the whole human race, which means we join efforts to oppose our wars in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan, dismantle our weapons, and fight corporate greed, extreme poverty and environmental destruction. The church, the sacraments and the Mass are aimed, I believed, at sending us out into the world as peacemakers, "God of peace-seekers." If we're not part of this search, then we're stuck like everyone else in the culture of violence. We become war-makers and "false gods of war-seekers."

If we are unconsciously seeking and pursuing war -- in our hearts, our families, our relationships, our work, in the church, and in the world -- then we are not following the wisdom of Psalm 34, much less the Gospel of the nonviolent Jesus. We need to turn from all that is not peacemaking and seek peace and pursue peace every day, every step, every moment for the rest of our lives. As the psalm suggests, we will land in trouble for our peaceableness, but that will be our chance to test our nonviolence.

I think the combination of these teachings is crucial: Speak the truth, and turn from evil, and do good, and seek peace. We need to undertake each one of these steps on our journey -- to speak, turn, do and seek all at the same time.

Ultimately, seeking and pursuing peace means seeking and pursuing the God of peace. That, of course, is our highest calling. Jesus promised us in the Sermon on the Mount, "Seek and you will find." With that assurance, we know that one day we will find peace -- and the God of peace, too.

Psalm 34 makes that promise as well: "Blessed are those who take refuge in the God of peace." When all is said and done, that beatitude is enough to go by.

The Psalms of Peace, part four (Ps. 85) by John Dear SJ on Jul. 24, 2012 ? On the Road to Peace
Editor's note: This meditation is the fourth of a five-part summer series on the peace writings in the psalms.
"I will listen for the word of the God of peace. Surely the God of peace will proclaim peace to God's people, to the faithful, to those who trust in the God of peace ... Love and truth will embrace; justice and peace will kiss. Truth will spring from the earth; justice will look down from heaven." (Ps. 85: 9-12)
Psalm 85 is one of the most beautiful prayers, one of the most imaginative poems, one of the greatest pieces of writing in all of literature. Better than Shakespeare, Yeats and Eliot rolled into one. It combines our best prayer for God's mercy upon humanity, our best hope for God's word of peace, and our best vision of what that peace might look like.
I think this psalm is the hope and vision of the nonviolent Jesus. He dreams this dream and acts upon it, and in his Sermon on the Mount, teaches us how to make this hope and vision come true. His prayer fulfills Psalm 85: "Your reign of peace, your will of justice, be done on earth as it is in heaven."
The text instructs us in the basics of prayer, and in doing so, gives us a way forward. All we have to do is listen attentively every day in our contemplative prayer for the word of the God of peace, and then act on that word. If we do, good things will follow.
That means we sit in silent meditation and ask the God of peace to speak, wait for God to speak, hear exactly what God has to say, and try to fulfill that word. This is the journey of a lifetime. This is what we will be doing in heaven, so meditation is actually just practice for the new life of peace to come.
The psalm urges us to build our lives around that word of the God of peace. We let God give us peace and say peaceful, loving words to us, and we thank God for this kindness. Next, we go forward and speak that word of peace to others. We teach that word of peace, and help each other unpack that word of peace. And we try to create the conditions where that word can take root, bear good fruit and eventually come to a new harvest of peace.
Psalm 85 calls us to live and breathe God's holy word of peace. It presumes we want to be the people who are faithful to the God of peace. As people who trust the God of peace, we spend our energies heralding a new world of peace without war, injustice, poverty, violence, killing or nuclear weapons and promoting a new world of nonviolence.
In light of the violence in our world -- the horrific movie theater massacre last week in Aurora, Colo., that killed and injured 70 people; the ongoing U.S. drone attacks and killings in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan; the massacres in Syria and Iraq; the slow death by starvation of thousands of children each week; the maintenance of our nuclear terrorist arsenal -- we have our work cut out for us. In such a world of permanent violence and war, the God of peace can only proclaim peace to God's people.
But I've often wondered what this poem means. What does it mean to say that love and truth will embrace, and justice and peace will kiss? How does truth spring up from the earth and justice look down from heaven? These are beautiful, poetic images, and well worth pondering.
We can all name the countless ways hatred and untruth have embraced, that injustice and war have kissed, the myriad times when lies have sprung up and injustice looked down upon us. But it's harder to imagine love, truth, justice and peace coming together like some cosmic breakthrough.
I think this beautiful, poetic image makes sense only if we are attentively listening to the word of peace from the God of peace, and if we are trying to be the God of peace's faithful peacemakers.
Psalm 85 always makes me think of Coretta Scott King, whom I so admired and knew slightly. I remember her description of the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. announced his famous dream of reconciliation. She wrote after his death that the sight of hundreds of thousands of people, standing before them at the Lincoln Memorial, was the most extraordinary experience of her life. For a brief moment, she wrote, that sea of smiling, hopeful black and white faces revealed to her the reign of God here on earth.
Perhaps there are moments when love and truth embrace, when justice and peace kiss, when the fruit of our work suddenly becomes a harvest of peace. The joyful fall of the Berlin wall; the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and his election as president of South Africa; the People Power movement in the Philippines; the hammering of nuclear weapons in a plowshares action; the victory of Leymah Gbowee in Liberia; and so forth. These historic moments fulfill Psalm 85.
Psalm 85 invites us to attend to the word of the God of peace, to hear that word of peace, to base our lives on that peace, to speak only that word of peace and to do our small part to help make real that great unforeseeable, unimaginable moment when love and truth embrace, and justice and peace kiss.
But if you go back and read Psalm 85, it does not start that way. I've jumped ahead to the good part. It begins as a lament. It pleads with God to relent, to forgive us, to let go of anger because of our rejection of God's way of love and peace, and to give us the gift of life once again. It begs God to save us from our own our violent self-destruction.
Once, God of peace, you favored your land, restored your faithful people's fortune, forgave their guilt, pardoned all sins, withdrew your wrath and turned away from anger, the psalmist writes. "Restore us once more, God our savior ... Please give us life again, that your people may rejoice in you. Show us, God of peace, your love; grant us your salvation."
Scholars say the psalm evokes the prophetic voices of the post-exilic period, around the fifth century B.C. In other words, it was written the same hopeless, violent, imperial context we suffer through today. In light of our wars, weapons, greed, massacres and environmental destruction, we, too, need to cry out to the God of peace to have mercy on us and help us reclaim the wisdom and sanity of peace and nonviolence.
Certainly, that's my prayer these days. Like many, I spent July 20 mourning those killed and injured during the insane massacre in Colorado. The sick young man who killed and injured all those people just walked into a gun shop and bought weapons of mass destruction and ordered thousands of rounds of ammunition legally online. Toys are regulated, but thanks to the National Rifle Association, weapons intended for mass murder are not.
We have to ban AK-47s, handguns and bullets, but also, drones, Trident submarines, nuclear weapons and every weapon of mass destruction. We have to fight the greed and domination among us that leaves billions in poverty and despair. As we ponder this impossible challenge, we realize once again our need for the God of peace. We sense our complete global rejection of the God of peace and God's gift of peace and turn back on our knees in repentant prayer.
Psalm 85 leads to a whole new kind of prayer, a prayer not just for ourselves individually, but for all humanity:
God of peace: We don't deserve it, but give us your peace anyway. We've rejected your gift of nonviolence, but give us your gift of nonviolence anyway. We've renounced Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, but teach us to live by its principles and practices anyway. Give us the gift of your reign of peace on earth. End our wars in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan. Help us to dismantle our nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. Help us to close the Pentagon, Los Alamos and all our military bases, and to invest instead in nonviolent methods of conflict resolution. Help us to feed the hungry, heal the sick and abolish poverty so the causes of war are eradicated and everyone can live in dignity with equal justice, that we might welcome your reign of peace here on earth. Make us once again, your faithful people, your holy peacemakers.
If we can return to the God of peace and pray for God's gift of peace for the whole human race, like Coretta Scott King and the psalmist, we might be given the vision of truth and love embracing, justice and peace kissing. But we have to lament our wars and violence. We have to take up God's way of nonviolence. We have to beg the God of peace for the gift of peace. We have to listen attentively each day for the holy word of peace from the God of peace.
Only then might we be ready for those breakthrough moments when love, truth, justice and peace meet in joyful celebration.
 

The Psalms of Peace, part five (Ps. 115) by John Dear SJ on Jul. 31, 2012  On the Road to Peace

"Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
They have mouths but do not speak, eyes but do not see.
They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell.
They have hands but do not feel, feet but do not walk,
and no sound rises from their throats.
Their makers shall be like them, all who trust in them." (Ps. 115: 4-8)
Psalm 115 may not seem like a psalm of peace, but for me, it gets right to the heart of the matter. Peacemaking requires faith and trust in the living God of peace, as opposed to faith and trust in the culture of war and its idols of death.
Over the last three decades, I have heard both Daniel and Philip Berrigan reflect on Psalm 115, and their words surprised and unsettled me. I expected reflections on peace, and heard instead a denunciation of the idols of war. It has taken me a long time to understand what they were teaching. They were testifying to their faith in the living God of peace, but they insisted that such faith needs boundaries. Belief in the God of peace in a culture as sick as ours requires simultaneously publicly renouncing belief in the culture's false gods of war -- the idols of nuclear weapons, Trident submarines, drones, AK-47s and other instruments of killing. In other words, as we name our faith in the God of peace, we likewise denounce the culture's faith in the idols of war. We have to do both if we want to live in peace.
As we approach Hiroshima Day on Aug. 6, when many of us will join local anti-war, anti-nuke protests, I thought this text was worth pondering for further clarity about our stand for peace in faith and our stand against war and idolatry.
"The great sin, the source of all other sin, is idolatry and never has it been greater, more prevalent, than now," Thomas Merton wrote one Good Friday shortly before his death. "Yet it is almost completely unrecognized precisely because it is so overwhelming and so total. It takes in everything. There is nothing else left. Fetishism of power, machines, possessions, medicines, sports, clothes, etc., all kept going by greed for money and power. The bomb is only one accidental aspect of the cult ... We should be thankful for it as a sign, a revelation of what all the rest of our civilization points to. The self-immolation of humanity to its own greed and its own despair. And behind it all are the principalities and powers whom humanity serves in this idolatry."
"I hold that those who invented the atomic bomb have committed the gravest sin," Mahatma Gandhi said shortly after the U.S dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. "The atomic bomb brought an empty victory to the Allied arms, but it resulted for the time being in destroying Japan. What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see."
These days, we see the effect of the bomb upon us everywhere -- from the collapse of our economy, our destruction of the environment, all our wars, our corporate greed, our president beginning his day by reviewing his assassination list, to the horrific massacre two weeks ago in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater. We have no meaning, no love, no sense of truth, no understanding of our basic humanity. We are soulless. We have become as dead as the metallic weapons we have created and idolized.
The way to reclaim our soul is to stop making these nuclear weapons and other weapons of war, and to spend those billions instead on food for the hungry, homes for the homeless, health care, jobs and education for everyone, and teaching the whole human race the methodologies of nonviolent resistance. As we do, our faith in the living God of peace and love will grow and strengthen.
Psalm 115 begins by repeating the taunt that every peacemaker in history has heard: Where is your God? How does this God of peace protect you? Why do you obey your God's way of nonviolence?
"Our God is in heaven," the psalmist answers calmly, "and does whatever God wants to do." The psalmist then proceeds to deconstruct the culture's false gods as empty, lifeless shells, which we insanely worship, and then saves the punch line for last: Those who make these idols become as empty and lifeless as the idols themselves.
Those of us who build and maintain weapons of war, greed and violence, Psalm 115 suggests, become like our idols. Those who make peace and serve the living God of peace, Jesus will teach on the other hand, become the sons and daughters of the God of peace.
Is this too harsh? The language of the psalms can be very harsh, and the question of idolatry is one that no one wants to face. As Merton writes, idolatry has reached unparalleled heights. We don't even realize we're idolaters. Our national idols are gold and silver and the weapons we make with our hands to protect the gold and silver we have stolen from the world's poor. Idolatry has become the new norm, our ordinary spirituality.
It's a cliché to speak, for example, of the Golden Calf that is worshipped on Wall Street. But many of us were struck last fall by the 5-foot-tall papier-mâché golden calf that an activist friend made. It was used to lead an interfaith procession from a church in Greenwich Village in New York City down to the Occupy encampment on Wall Street. It was a sight to behold. Everyone got the message.
Fewer get the message about our idolatrous nuclear weapons and the spiritual consequences of this idolatry. These empty, metallic machines bring only death, yet we pour all our money, energy and prayer into these metallic death machines in the hope they will protect us. As the psalmist writes, it's as if these weapons have eyes and ears and mouths and noses and hands and feet -- and yet ,they are blind and deaf and mute and cannot smell or feel or walk.
"The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democratic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that humans have ever made," Arundhati Roy writes. "If you are religious, then remember that this bomb is humanity's challenge to God. It's worded quite simply: 'We have the power to destroy everything that You have created.' If you're not religious," she continues, "then look at it this way. This world of ours is 4 billion, 600 million years old. It could end in an afternoon."
Last week, the war-makers announced that the Pentagon's 30,000-pound bunker-buster "superbomb" was "ready for use."
"The biggest conventional bomb ever developed is ready," the spokesperson said.
The Pentagon has spent $330 million to develop and deliver more than 20 of these precision-guided Massive Ordnance Penetrator bunker-busters, which are designed to blast through up to 200 feet of concrete.
"They have mouths but do not speak, eyes but do not see ... Their makers shall be like them, all who trust in them."
The lesson? Don't worship the idols of death. That's what Dan and Phil Berrigan taught. Be clear where you stand. Know whom you worship and what you do not worship. If you worship the living God of peace, then do not also worship the false gods of money and power, the idols of war and death.
That might be our greatest problem. We Americans have deluded ourselves into thinking we can have both. We can have God and nukes, God and money, God and Wall Street, God and empire, God and weapons of war. The psalmist, and the Berrigans, insist it's one or the other. God does not allow for other gods. The minute we give in to our worship of these false gods, we reject the living God of peace. Then we continue further down the path of spiritual death.
The psalmist names the idols as inhuman and ungodly, and the idolaters as inhuman and ungodly, too. We need to name the idols of today as inhuman and ungodly, too, and help each other resist the culture's idolatry so that we can become more human and more Godly.
Dan and Phil taught me, like the psalmist, that the surest way to know you are living life to the full and not giving in to the culture's idols of death is by our nonviolent resistance to the idols. That's why many of us will stand up this week to commemorate Hiroshima and say "no" to the idolatry of nuclear weapons. Our resistance helps us exercise our faith. It can help us become more aware of our need for the God of peace, and live more consciously in relationship with the God of peace.
So we might ask ourselves: Do we really believe in the God of peace or not? Do we really trust the God of peace or not? What form would greater trust, deeper faith, in the God of peace take in our day-to-day lives? What boundaries do we need to set so our faith and trust in the God of peace and the consequences of peace, hope, love and nonviolence are protected and held firm for the rest of our lives? What do nuclear weapons, drones, Trident submarines, handguns and other idolatrous weapons tell us about our supposed faith in the God of peace? What does our faith demand in the context of these idols of war?
Psalm 115 is a prayer of hope and trust in our quiet, gentle God of peace who does not violently intervene, who mourns our common disbelief and idolatry, and who blesses our small peacemaking efforts, even though we might see few tangible results.
"Not to us, God of peace, not to us, but to your name give glory because of your faithfulness and love," we read. For the psalmist, and the rest of us, our main focus becomes the God of peace. God is the one who is faithful and loving, not us. As we try to remain faithful to the God of peace, we will be blessed with peace.
"May you be blessed by the God of peace who made heaven and earth," the psalmist concludes. That is the hope and prayer of the psalms of peace, of all peacemakers. As we reject the idols of war and death, choose to be people of faith and trust, look to the God of peace, and practice God's way of nonviolence, we know we will receive the blessing reserved for peacemakers.

God interacts with Job and teaches that wealth is not a reward to the honest and the hard-working nor poverty a punishment to the sinful and lazy. Job is not a patient man but a rebellious believer.  Job's acceptance of God's will cannot be described as resignation.  Job's full encounter with God comes by way of complaint, bewilderment, and confrontation.  Those who suffer unjustly have a right to complain and protest.  Although Job complains that the wicked prosper, his complaints do not outweigh his hope and trust.

He who does not feed the hungry is a murderer.   "The bread of the needy is life itself for the needy; he who withholds it is a man of blood.  He slays his neighbor who deprives him of his living; he sheds blood who denies the laborer his wages." (Sirach, Ecclesiasticus, 34.21-22)  Job on the contrary is mindful of the poor.  (Job 31.16 ff) Job is willing to acknowledge he is a sinner, but he finds no sin that deserves the suffering he is undergoing.    God answer?s Job?s complaint. No human work however valuable merits grace.  God's love is not handcuffed by our merited deeds.  We cannot manage God's action.   "Then Job answered the Lord and said:  I know you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be hindered. I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.  I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you.  Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42.1-6.  For a fuller treatment of the above I recommend Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, the Father of liberation theology, Job, God-talk and the Suffering of the Innocent)

Peace is a special characteristic of the Hebrew Covenant, a gift from God and the fruit of God's saving activity.  We don't make peace simply by human calculation and human efforts.  We need to pray for God?s grace.  Nor can we separate peace from justice. Ezekiel from the Hebrew covenant condemned the false prophets who said there was peace while injustice continues.   "They led my people astray, saying, 'Peace!'  when there was no peace, and that, as one built a wall, they would cover it with whitewash.  When the wall has fallen, will you not be asked:  Where is the whitewash you spread on?"  (Ezekiel 13.16)    Isaiah also makes clear the connection between justice, fidelity to God's law and peace.  "There is no peace for the wicked, says the Lord."  (Isaiah 48.18-22)

From the first covenant Jeremiah (37) and Isaiah (7) both condemned the leaders when, against true security, they depended upon military strength or alliances rather than trusting in God and God's plan.  Psalms thirty-three and thirty-seven have the same theme. "The war horse is a vain hope for victory."

True worship must be an expression of justice.  "Take away the noise of your songs."  If you are unjust, do not raise your arms in prayer.  Your hands are full of blood.  (Isaiah 1.11-19)  When you fast, loose the bonds of injustice.  If you fast but practice injustice, your fast is not a true fast.  (Isaiah 58.6,7)

I have only given a glimpse of what I see as God's action in the Hebrew Covenant, but my glimpse can lead you to examine the first covenant on your own.

God's Action in the Christian Covenant

The Hebrew Covenant was a gradually unfolding reality.  In it was love, solidarity, forgiveness, family, and community.  God revealed herself/himself as faithful, loving, and just. Schooled in the first covenant, Mary was greeted by an angel of God and asked to say yes to a proposal she could not fully understand.  Mary trusted God and said yes.

Mary's concern for others prompted her to set out immediately to help her cousin Elizabeth whose unborn developing baby was John the Baptist.  John leaped in Elizabeth's womb when Jesus came in the womb of Mary.  Mary then proclaimed her Magnificat.  "God has shown might with his arm:  he has confused the proud in their inmost thoughts.  He has deposed the mighty from their thrones and raised the lowly to high places.  The hungry he has given every good thing, while the rich he has sent empty away."  (Luke 1.46 ff)  Mary is a model of loving confrontation.

Much of our culture today is obsessed with upward mobility.  But the Incarnation of the Word becoming flesh is the paradox of downward mobility.  Jesus becomes weak and vulnerable.  In the gospel of Luke we see that Jesus was not born of a wealthy, powerful family.  Although Joseph and Mary were of the house and family of David,  Joseph is a craftsman.

Sharing was a value in the Christian covenant.  When the crowds asked John the Baptist what they ought to do, John replied:  "Let the person with two coats give to him who has none.  Those who have food should do the same."  (Luke 3.10) ?The chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.? I take ?unquenchable fire? to mean God?s burning love for us which we can take to others and through God?s love burn away the chaff of evil.  (Luke 3.17)

Although sharing material goods are important, faith and the spirit are primary.  "Not on bread alone does one live.  God alone shall you adore." (Luke 4.4-8) Jesus is to continue the Jubilee Year of the Hebrew Covenant. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me.  He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord." (Luke 4.18, 19)  In the spirit of the Jubilee Year the Christian Our Father repeats the notion of forgiving debts.

In Luke we read the usual "Blest are you poor."  We also find: "But woe to you rich, for your consolation is now.  Woe to you who are full; you shall go hungry.  Woe to you who laugh now: you shall weep in your grief.  Woe to you when all speak well of you.  Their fathers treated the false prophets in just this way."  (Luke 6.20-26) Those who have claimed that wealth is a sign of favor by God must have read only selected passages of the Old Testament.

When asked how to pray, Jesus responds with the Our Father.  "The year-long celebration of the Jubilee was to begin on the Day of Atonement, which signified salvation through the forgiveness of sins.  However, Jesus used words in the Our Father that did not limit forgiveness to sins only.  He extended the meaning to include the cancellation of monetary debts as well. . . the word opheilema of the Greek signifies precisely a monetary debt."  (Fr. Michael H. Crosby, OFM Capuchin, Thy Will Be Done, Praying the Our Father as Subversive Activity p. 138)

The apostles asked Jesus to dismiss the crowd so they could find food.  Jesus answers, "Why do you not give them something to eat yourselves?"  (Luke 9.13) Why pass the responsibility to someone else?  Jesus fed others through his followers.

When Jesus sent the apostles forth to preach the reign of God, he urged them to travel light. "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, no bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics." (Luke 9.3)   Following a simple life-style is to follow Jesus.

A discussion arose among the apostles as to which of them was the greatest.  Jesus replied: "The least one among you is the greatest." (Luke 9.46-48)  The wealthy and the powerful were not among Jesus' inner circle.  Jesus wanted his followers to be humble and open.  Jesus advises us to "invite beggars and the crippled, the lame and the blind." to our events.  We shouldn't be courting favor just with the wealthy who can repay us.  Jesus expressed a preference for the poor, preaching to the poor, giving to the poor, inviting the poor to banquets, doing for the poor.  (Matthew 11.5; 19.21; Mark 10.21; 12.42,43; Luke 14)

When the very rich young man who had kept the commandments said he wanted more, Jesus told him to sell all he had and give to the poor.  "You will than have treasure in heaven."  As the rich man grew melancholy and withdrew,  Jesus observed that it was with difficulty that a rich man could enter the reign of God.  "I repeat what I said: it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle's eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."  (Matthew  19.21-27)

Jesus said life was found in the great commandment:  "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."  (Luke 10.27) Although some debate what the service of faith and promotion of justice is, I think it means basically love of God and love of our neighbor.

Jesus says, "Avoid greed in all its forms." (Luke 12.15)  I have heard legislators argue that greed was a virtue that guided the invisible hand of the economy. But Jesus tells us not to grow rich for ourselves, but in the sight of God.  If we put the pursuit of God's reign first, the rest will follow.   God is our never-failing treasure.  We shouldn't set our hearts on an abundance of consumer goods that use up the resources of the earth in a non-sustainable way.

Jesus wanted his followers to interpret the signs of the time.  "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say immediately that rain is coming--and so it does.  When the wind blows from the south, you say it is going to be hot--and so it is.  You hypocrites!  If you can interpret the portents of earth and sky, why can you not interpret the present time?" (Luke 12. 54-56)  I think we too need to engage in social analysis of present structures. Responding to individual needs can be an unending task.  Seeking the causes of suffering can do more long range good.

"No servant can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other or be attentive to the one and despise the other.  You cannot give yourself to God and money." (Luke 16.13) It is in this chapter that we read the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Jesus takes the bread and breaks it, a symbol of sharing.  The Catholic Church uses this symbol in the Mass.  If there's someone hungry anywhere in the world, the Eucharist is incomplete everywhere in the world.

The followers of Jesus are to serve at table as Jesus did.  "Let the greater among you be as the junior, the leader as the servant.   I am in your midst as the one who serves you."  (Luke 22.26-27)

Jesus prayed that we be one as He and the Father were one.  Jesus preached that this unity must include even enemies. (Matthew 5.33-34)

Jesus identifies with the poor.  "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink.  I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me.  I was ill and you comforted me, in prison and you came to visit me. . . as often as you did it for one of my least sisters and brothers, you did it for me." (Matthew 25.31-40)

At the heart of the Christian Paschal Mystery is the life, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Through the redemptive act of Jesus where sin abounds, there grace does more abound.  Jesus heals divisions, has a ministry of reconciliation.  We are called to that same ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5.16-21)

The redemptive act of Jesus, the power of the Resurrection is made present to us in the Christian sacraments.  Through the power of the death and Resurrection of Jesus the forces of evil outside us and within us can be healed.  The power of the Resurrection gives us hope.

The early Christians shared.  They had a sense of the common good.  "The community of believers were of one heart and one mind.  None of them ever claimed anything as his own; rather everything was held in common."  "All who owned property were in the habit of selling and giving to the poor."  (Acts of the Apostles 2.44-46; 4.32) This would indicate that Christians had property but would sell it as the need arose.  They also shared their hearts and their minds.  "St. Ignatius of Loyola lived the experience of Christian Life Communities in the Church.  He was a member of the Confraternity of the Holy spirit that can rightly be seen as a precursor of the CLC.  Long before the establishment of the Marian Congregations in 1563, ecclesial life found expression in the confraternities.  As the word suggests, they were an initiative of the laity in the Church.  While organizing themselves in guilds, according to their professions, as artists, workers, merchants, they sought to model themselves on the first Christian communities whose members, believers in the resurrected Christ, put everything they owned in common, selling their properties and their goods and distributing the proceeds to each according to need.  Each day they gathered to pray and to share a common meal in joy and simplicity of heart.". Very Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., General Assembly of Christian Life Community, Nairobi, Kenya, 8/4/03.

St. Paul continually asked the churches who were better off to take up collections for needy churches.   Paul tells the Galatians of his visit to the leaders of the early church. "Those who were the acknowledged pillars, James, Cephas, and John gave Barnabas and me the handclasp of fellowship, signifying that we should go to the Gentiles as they to the Jews.  The only stipulation was that we should be mindful of the poor--the one thing that I was making every effort to do." (Galatians 2.10)

St. Paul says we should be content with a sufficiency.  "Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and a trap. . The love of money is the root of all evil." (First Letter to Timothy 6.6-10)

Vision of Hope in Scripture

Hebrew Covenant

Jeremiah 29.11  ?I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord. .plans to give you a future full of hope.  When you look for me, you will find me, when you seek me with all your heart.?

30.22  ?You shall be my people and I will be your God.?

Isaiah  11.1-10  ?The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, the leopard lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.  The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.  The baby shall play by the cobra?s den and the child lay his hand on the adder?s air. .There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea.?

25.6  ? on this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.  On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever.  The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces. .The Lord has spoken.?  

12.2  ? God indeed is my savior.  I am confident and unafraid.  My strength and courage is the Lord.?

30.18-26  ?God will give rain for the seed that you sow in the ground, the wheat that the soil produces will be rich and abundant. .your cattle will graze in spacious meadows. . Upon every high mountain and lofty hill there will be streams of running water. .the light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater.?

31.4-9  ?You will sing as on a night when a feast is observed and be merry of heart, as one marching along with a flute toward the mountain of the Lord, toward the Rock of Israel, accompanied by timbrels and lyres.?

32.1-8  ?The eyes of those who see will not be closed; the ears of those who hear will be attentive.  The flighty will become wise and capable, and the stutterers will speak fluently and clearly.  No more will the fool be called noble nor the trickster be considered honorable.?

32.15 ff  ?The Spirit from on high will be poured out on us.  The desert will become an orchard.  Right will dwell in the desert and justice abide in the orchard.  Justice will bring about peace; right will produce calm and security.  My people will live in peaceful country, in secure dwellings and quiet resting places.?

45.1-13  ?Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.  Let the earth open and salvation bud forth.  Let justice also spring up!?

Psalm 19  ?The decrees of the Lord are truth and all of them just.  They are more to be desired than gold, than the purest of gold and sweeter are they than honey, than honey from the comb.?

Psalm 96  "Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice!  Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all you lands.  Sing to the Lord.  Bless His name.  Announce His salvation, day after day.  Tell His glory among the nations; among all peoples his wondrous deeds."

Psalm 98  "Sing praise to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and melodious song.  With trumpets and sound of the horn, sing joyfully before the Lord."

Christian Covenant

Jesus indicated that his peace is unique. "Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you.  I do not give it to you as the world gives peace.  Do not be distressed or fearful." (John 14.27)

Although I have always tried to live the peace of Christ, I don't identify the peace of Christ with political and economic peace.  I look upon integral peace as grace and mystery.  Comprehending peace can be as elusive as God, the author of peace, or the human person, who never fully reaches peace, or the human family, who at this stage groans and is in agony as it searches for peace.  I don't think we should be too quick to conclude that we fully understand what the peace of Christ is or can be.

St. Paul in prison about 63 AD to Colossians  3.1 ff  "Since you have been raised up in company with Christ, set your heart on what pertains to higher realms where Christ is seated at God?s right hand. . When Christ our life appears, then you shall appear with him in glory. . What you have done is put aside your old self with its past deeds and put on a new personality, one who grows in knowledge as we are formed anew in the image of our Creator.  There is no Greek or Jew in the Christian community, circumcised or uncircumcised, foreigner, Scythian, slave, or free.  Rather, Christ is everything in all of you.  Because you are God?s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive whatever grievances you have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you.  Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect.  Christ?s peace must reign in your hearts, since as members of the one body you have been called to that peace.  Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness.  Let the word of Christ, rich as it is dwell in you.  In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another.  Sing gratefully to God from your hearts in psalms, hymns, and inspired songs.  Whatever you do, whether in speech or in action, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Give thanks to God the Father through him."

St. Paul to the Philippians 3.21  "God will give a new form to this lowly body of ours and remake it according to the pattern of his glorified body  4.4-5  "Rejoice in the Lord always! I say it again.  Rejoice!. .the Lord is near."

1 Thessalonians 3.12-13  "May the Lord make you overflow with love for one another and for all, even as our love does for you."

Luke 2  Simeon: "Jesus is a light of revelation for all nations."

Mark 1.11  "You are my beloved Son: with you I am well pleased."

Divine Office

p. 169  St. Bernard:  There are three comings of Jesus.  In the first coming He was seen on earth.  In the final coming we will see the salvation of our God.  In the third coming between the first and the final, Jesus comes in spirit and in power, like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the final coming.  In the middle coming Jesus is our support, our food for the journey, our consolation and rest.  "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him."

Let God's Word take possession of our desires and our whole way of life.

p. 163  The Lord will dawn on you in radiant beauty.  You will see His glory within you.  "From the root of Jesse a flower will blossom.  The glory of the Lord will fill the earth and all creation will see the saving power of God. p. 304  If one hopes, even though his tongue is still, he is singing always in his heart.

p. 385  Unto us a Child is born, a new splendor has appeared; you have brought to us abundant joy; as with the joy at harvest. .every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak that rolled in blood will be set aside, will go to feed the blazing fire.

We look to Scripture not just for even an accumulation of texts, but for a Spirit, an attitude, an atmosphere.  Modern social teaching of the popes and bishops and theologians is relatively new.  It is a response to the signs of the times, the events that followed the industrial revolution.  But the social implications of the gospel has always been there.  Love your neighbor as yourself. To help discern how God is acting in our lives, we can reflect on how God has acted in scripture.  Then we can ask whether God is acting in our lives today in a similar way. When I am opposed by those close to me as well as by the principalities and powers, the passion of Jesus seems very real to me.  If I am belittled as being too idealistic, I take comfort in the vision of Scripture.

Communal Discernment

Like individual discernment, communal discernment can also begin with reflection of God's action in scripture.  The group can reflect on its own light and dark graced story.  Both group and individual discernment are part of an on-going process.  We can compare our own individual or group graced story with the history of Israel, of Jesus, and of the Church.  I like to know the group's collective past as well as my individual past because I think the past helps me and the group to make better decisions about the present and the future.  Jesus felt some of his listeners were not hearing him because they had not successfully assimilated their collective past.  "Moses will be your accuser."  (John 5.45-47)   "You do not know God. . Your father Abraham rejoiced to think he would see my day." (John 8.55-56)

Spiritual consolation, reconciliation, discernment are part of a piece.  Recognition of group and individual sin is unpleasant, but the light graced story gives us more courage to look at the dark graced story.  Reconciliation with God, our neighbor, and should I say with ourselves, leads us back to spiritual consolation.   Discernment helps us to determine whether we are in spiritual consolation or desolation.  As we reflect on our light or dark graced story, we are not interested in a catalogue of each event, but in a heart-felt appreciation of God's love for us in both the light and the dark graced stories.

There is a reluctance to admit sin.  "The light came into the world, but men and women loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were wicked.  Everyone who practices evil hates the light; he does not come near it for fear his deeds will be exposed."  (John 3.19-20) To admit sin, to acknowledge our dark graced story is a grace.  Only God can reveal our sins to us.  Only God can reveal our dark graced story.

Appreciation of our dark graced story is not to be identified with sin.  Our dark graced story deals with evil we have done and evil that we have experienced from others. Normally we can separate our dark graced story from sin.  Although we need to deal with sin and guilt,  the dark graced story is not just about sin and sinfulness, and especially group discernment prescinds from individual sin and guilt.  We know both that we have been hurt by others and that others have hurt us.  The guilt involved is another matter and is best dealt with separately.

I think that if we immerse ourselves in Ignatian discernment, we can make a unique contribution to our nation and to the world.  We need a way of becoming more honest with ourselves individually and as groups.  Ignatian discernment can start us on that path.  We can then share that process with others.

Graced Story of History

I will give a brief and admittedly selective sketch of the light and dark graced story after biblical times.  This brief picture is meant to be descriptive of how morals and culture can deteriorate or grow.   My hope is that you will create your own sketch of the light and graced story after biblical times, that my humble beginning will get others started.

The Fathers of the Church speak of the resources of the earth being one common banquet to be shared by all.  If a few are gorging themselves on seconds and thirds before others have their first helping, there is a lack of unity in the human family.  St. Gregory of Nyssa taught:  "If one should seek to be absolute possessor of all, refusing even a third or a fifth of his possessions to his brothers, then he is a cruel tyrant, a savage with whom there can be no dealing, an insatiate beast gloatingly shutting its jaws over the meal it will not share."  (See Pemberton and Finn. Towards a Christian Economic Ethic, 37; The Faith That Does Justice, 113-151)

St. John Chrysostom in a homily on the gospel of Matthew, chapter twenty-five, joins the liturgy and those in need. "Do you want to honor Christ's body?  Then do not scorn him in his nakedness, nor honor him here in the church with silken garments while neglecting him outside where he is cold and naked. . . What we do here in the church requires a pure heart, not special garments; what we do outside requires great dedication. . God does not want golden vessels but golden hearts. . Of what use is it to weigh down Christ's table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger?. . Do not adorn the church and ignore your afflicted brother, for he is the most precious temple of all." ( The Divine Office, Vol. IV, 181)

St. Gregory Nazianzen, On Love of the Poor, PG 35, 887-890:  "You have been made a son of God, coheir with Christ.  Where did you get all this, and from whom? What benefactor has enabled you to look out upon the beauty of the sky, the sun in its course, the circle of the moon, the countless number of stars, with the harmony and order that are theirs, like the music of a harp?  . . .Is it not God who asks you now in your turn to show yourself generous? Because we have received from God so many wonderful gifts, will we not be ashamed to refuse God this one thing only, our generosity? Though He is God and Lord He is not afraid to be known as our Father.  Shall we repudiate those who are our kith and kin? St. Peter says: Resolve to imitate God's justice, and no one will be poor."

St. Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604 said that everyone deserved the necessities of life:  "When we minister the necessities of life to those who are in want, we are returning to them their own, not being bountiful with what is ours:  we pay a debt of justice rather than fulfill works of mercy." (Liber Regulae Pastoralis, III, 129)

In medieval times St. Thomas Aquinas said that one who lacked necessities could in justice take from those who had a surplus and such an act would not be stealing.  (Summa Theologica II-II, question 66, aa 2 & 7) Whether today's culture would countenance such an act is another matter.

John Calvin in the sixteenth century thought that earning profit under certain conditions was a sign of God's approval of one's enterprise.  Productive credit was encouraged under certain conditions but not usury credit, living off interest.  Later too often Calvin's ethic became an individualist ethic. Lutherans and Presbyterians today are leaders in the work for peace and justice and for the dignity of each human person. But Luther and Calvin's ethic was basically interior and individualistic and neither seriously critiqued the commercial revolution.  (Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 50-56)

In response to the Lutheran emphasis on faith alone, it was persistent good works springing from faith on which I think St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus.  "Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words." (Spiritual Exercises, No. 230)

In the seventeenth century came a radical shift from the biblical economic ethic. John Locke, a Deist, stressed strong individual liberty in politics and in economics. Individuals contract together to establish civil government and protect their property from covetous rivals.  "The preservation of property being the end of government and that for which men enter into society."  (John Locke, "Second Treatise on Government" Of Civil Government, Chapter 8, sec. 95)

Man earns property through his labor.  When a pioneer clears a space in the wilderness, that property becomes his.  Although spoilage limits the amount of perishable goods one can own, money mutes this objection.   Society becomes free, equal individuals related to one another as property owners. Locke advocated minimal taxes to finance small, laissez-faire government.  That government governs best which governs least. Contractual bargaining ruled the day.  Let the buyer beware!  Although the workers were free to own their bodies and labor, the owners had the greater freedom, to hire or not to hire such labor.  Locke upheld civil liberties and advocated tolerance of minorities, but his philosophy led to unlimited restraints on the accumulation of wealth.

The eighteenth century brought the industrial revolution. In 1776 Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations.   Adam Smith advocated division of labor.  The individual develops greater skill in doing one specialized task.  Competition checks abuse.  If one baker sells me shoddy bread at a high price, I go to the baker around the corner who sells me quality bread at a fair price.  The market choices of free consumers leads to economic efficiency.  In this era of free market forces and laissez-faire capitalism, conscientious employers had to compromise on wages and safety conditions to compete.

Winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics, Professor Amartya Sen, in Development as Freedom pp. 270 ff, says that Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, has been quoted incredibly often quite out of context as a single-minded prophet of self-interest.  It is true that we do not need benevolence to motivate us for a mutually beneficial exchange.  "In dealing with other problems--those of distribution and equity and of rule following for generating productive efficiency--Smith emphasized broader motivations. 'Humanity, generosity, and public spirit, are qualities most useful.'  Some men are born small and some achieve smallness.  Adam Smith has had much smallness thrust upon him."

In the eighteenth century John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, had serious reservations about wealth: "I fear wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. As riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches." (Weber, Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 175)   John Wesley was influenced by Ignatian spirituality.  St. Ignatius? meditation on the Two Standards in the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises used quite similar phraseology.  (Spiritual Exercises, No. 136-147)

The United States Declaration of Independence of 1776 refutes the position that might makes right, that a government can violate natural unalienable rights with impunity.  It undercuts simplistic slogans like "My Country, right or wrong."   The Declaration of Independence castigates King George of Great Britain because he let loose on the colonists "the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."  Setting aside the indiscriminate and prejudiced assessment of all native Americans, we can see that principles of moral conduct were recognized even in war.

The nineteenth century brought Karl Marx who said that workers were being exploited by capital and were alienated from their work.  Marx philosophized that since human nature could project a plan in consciousness and imagination and then carry it out, we can express ourselves through labor and meet a human need.  Because the product of labor is used by the owner for his own purposes, labor no longer is the celebration of our work.   Man's labor is alienated.  History is a story of class struggle.  Since the dominant ideas of a society are those of the dominant economic class, those who own and control the means of production, Marx eventually wanted a classless society.  Marx's economic theory was accepted by intellectual radicals in the Manifesto of the Communist Party in 1848.  Critical Marxists today say Stalin was an aberration and perversion of Marx's philosophy.  (See Fr. Arthur McGovern, S.J., Marxism, an American Christian Perspective)

At the same time Catholic leaders like Bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler of Germany were condemning laissez-faire capitalism.  Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI agreed on the sickness, but proposed a reform of capitalism rather than central state ownership of most of the means of production as advocated by some socialists.

The Catholic Church has shown a remarkable vitality throughout history because its growth has been organic, from within, rather than an external accretion from outside.  The Catholic Church has swung back and forth between liberalism and conservatism and has been able to embrace both though at times one or the other has been prominent.  Conservatism prevailed in the nineteenth century when Pius IX published his Syllabus of Errors which condemned a socialism that would subject the family totally to the state and liberal capitalism that had material gain as its goalIn 1891 Pope Leo XIII swung the Catholic Church from its state of siege mentality and issued the Magna Charta of social Catholicism, Rerum Novarum, On the Condition of Labor.

The popes and the bishops defined socialism by its extremes of materialism, atheism, and central state ownership.  Anti-communism reached its peak in Catholic social teaching under Pius XII.  Pope John XXIII led the Catholic Church to a more open position by emphasizing basic human rights including economic rights.  Both he and Pope Paul VI began to distinguish and accept some forms of democratic socialism but with great caution.  Groups of Christians began to say that democratic socialism was more Christian than capitalism, but the official church favored reform of capitalism. (See John Cort, Christian Socialism and Marxism, An American Christian Perspective, Fr. Arthur McGovern, S.J.)

Moderating influences moved laissez-faire capitalism into a period between 1900 and 1968 called social-welfare capitalism.  In social-welfare capitalism the government has a more active role than in laissez-faire capitalism.  Government corrects some abuses of capitalism by helping the poor and the workers through laws to protect human rights and provide basic needs, e.g., minimum wage laws, laws to insure safety in the workplace, the forty-hour work week, child-labor laws, and social security.  Since government insures fair and equal competition through anti-trust laws, a few large corporations are not permitted to dominate the market. English economist John Maynard Keynes led the theory of social-welfare capitalism in which government intervenes actively in the boom and bust cycles. During periods of depression the government spends more and taxes less.  During periods of prosperity government spends less and taxes more.  The economy is also controlled by interest rates which are set in the US by the Federal Reserve Board.

Driven by anti-communism, the national security state began to gain strength after World War II.   United States corporations became transnational and moved south, west, and overseas where wages and taxes were lower.  This translated into fewer safety standards for workers and fewer social services.   United States economist Milton Friedman returned to the philosophy of John Locke as he pushed for a minimal governmental role in the economy.   The excessive military spending after World War II sacrificed some of the social gains begun by social welfare capitalism. The over-emphasis on national security through military means developed into excessive secrecy, classifying documents, and destroying open democracy.  Often covert operations were not known even by the United States Congress, and a secret government developed within the US government.  National security became the focus rather than common world security.    Since those who criticized the government were suspected of communism and harassed in various ways, freedom of speech became difficult in practice.  The media tended to give the point of view of the government, the military, and those who own and control the means of production.  In foreign policy, the US was governed by the economic interests of US corporations.  In the Third World, the US government was not above supporting right-wing dictators who suppressed labor unions, had few environmental restraints, asked little taxes, favored a rich oligarchy, and often gave no protection from death squads to dissenters.

Catholic Social Teaching

Although the Catholic Church certainly taught love of neighbor from the beginning and did respond at times to the new philosophies that followed the industrial revolution,  Catholic social teaching in a systematic way is considered to have begun in 1891 with the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, On the Condition of Workers. One of the key elements of Catholic Social Teaching has been the dignity of each human person and the dignity of human labor performed by the human person. Workers have the noble destiny of being called to be co-creators with God.  Because each person has human rights including economic rights, each of us has the right to meaningful employment that will serve the common good.  Since a human laborer is not a tool or a material commodity, workers should receive a living wage, enough to support the breadwinner of the family.

The popes and bishops have also supported the right of the workers to organize into unions.  Even if the workers did not need the power of the unions to offset the greater power of the wealthy, unions are valuable because through the organization of the unions, workers are better able to contribute to the common good.  Unions are valuable members of the community.

Because the basic social unit is the family, it is important to support the integrity of family life.  If families are weak, neighborhoods and the larger community will be weak.  If family life is vigorous, we will tend to have a healthy society.

The principle of subsidiarity states that a larger unit should not do what a smaller unit can do.  If government need not be involved, private intermediate groups should address the issue.  If the city can handle an issue, the state should not be involved.  If the state can deal with a problem, the federal government should not be involved.  But if the smaller unit cannot handle it, the larger unit should take over.  If an issue cannot be handled well by private groups, the government should intervene.  If the city cannot address an issue, the state should handle it.  If the state cannot handle it, the federal government should be involved.  The next logical step our world has not yet taken.   If the individual nation state or groups of nation states cannot adequately address the problem, then an effective international body should take care of it. The principle of subsidiarity demands that the world should have international law and order.  There are global problems such as war and peace, fair trade, human rights, care of the environment  that can only be handled by a public authority with sufficient resources to deal with them on an international basis.

The popes have supported widespread ownership of the means of production, i.e, the farms and factories.  The right to ownership of productive property is valid only if capital serves labor and the goods produced are for the common good.  (Pope John Paul II, On Human Work, III, No. 14, 45)

The state cannot provide for the common good without taxation. Taxation should follow the principle of ability to pay.  Enormous wealth existing alongside poverty is contrary to Christian solidarity.  We need a commitment to the common good of the whole human family.

Catholic teaching has recognized the value of private property to respect the dignity of individual persons, to guarantee freedom, and to provide for basic needs.  But the title to private ownership is only legitimate if productive property serves the greatest number, is democratically controlled, and is treated with responsible stewardship. Failing to respect the integrity of creation is a violation of the Seventh Commandment.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2415)  The goods of creation are destined for all.  The common good takes precedence over an individual's right to private property.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2402,3).  Private property has a social aspect.  I can own an automobile, but I have no right to drink and drive.

St. James thinks work in social action flows naturally from our faith.   "My brothers!  What good is it for someone to say, 'I have faith' if his actions do not prove it? Can that faith save him?  Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don't have enough to eat.  What good is there in your saying to them, 'God bless you!  Keep warm and eat well!' if you don't give them the necessities of life?  So it is with faith:  if it is alone and has no actions with it, then it is dead."  (James 2.14-17)

In 1971 the International Synod of Bishops stated:  "Action on behalf of justice and participation in the transformation of the world fully appear to us as a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel."  ?Constitutive? had a technical meaning. Justice is essential to a genuine participation in the life of Faith.  Until we have as many Catholics lining up to participate in social justice as we have lining up to go to Communion, the faith life of the Church will not be integral.  If justice is constitutive, it's not extra, not tacked on.

Catholic Evaluation of Socialism and Marxism

Although I  know some of the general themes of socialism and capitalism, my general background is the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church.  I think we should take the best of socialism and capitalism and create a new vision more in accord with God's Word.  

We live, work, and breathe in a culture of capitalism.  It's hard to critique a way of life that we are so much a part of and which is so much a part of us.  Ignatian discernment described on this web-page can help.  I suggest we ask what capitalism is doing for the human family and the planet on which we live.  What is capitalism doing for the dignity, value, and worth of each human person?  How democratic is capitalism?  Are all of us able to participate in basic decisions that affect all of us? What groups within capitalism are doing most for the above?

Those who agree with the vision presented on this web-page are welcome to help develop it.  Or you can develop a new vision of your own.  I encourage you to read Dr. Gar Alperovitz:  America Beyond Capitalism, Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy; Making a Place for Community, Local Democracy in a Global Era; Unjust Deserts, How the Rich are taking Our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take It Back. Also Dr. Ronald Glossop: Confronting War, An Examination of Humanity's Most Pressing Problem

In the Front Page article mentioned in "Current Events" I am described as "contemptuous of the idea of a nation state."  I have a combat infantry medal from service in General Patton's Third Army in Europe during World War II.  I was also in the Philippine Islands.  As a priest, an educator, and active citizen, I have served my country all my life.  Because I am a patriotic citizen of the United States, doesn't mean that I am not also a citizen of the state of Ohio.  The social teaching of the Catholic Church, many philosophers, political and religious leaders have said the nation state, even a group of nation states is not enough.  There are global problems like war, terrorism, fair trade, basic human rights, environmental integrity, that can only be solved on a global level.  Following the principle of subsidiarity, a new democratic global entity will not eliminate the important role of the nation state nor eliminate local democracy.  Besides patriotism I favor humatriotism, service of the common good of the whole human family.   

In the early days of socialism the Catholic Church was naturally critical because socialism often presented itself as materialistic and atheistic. In the years after World War II Communists dominated Eastern Europe and even had a strong presence in France and Italy.  Pope Pius XII resisted Communism and forbade Catholics to join the Communist party or to encourage it in any way.

Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council put less emphasis on the meta-historical natural law approach of German theologians and more emphasis on the historical and inductive views of the French.  In Mater and Magister (nn. 59-68) Pope John XXIII used the term "socialization"  In Peace on Earth n. 159 John XXIII distinguished between "historical movements" containing positive and deserving aspirations within them and the "false philosophical teachings" from which these movements arose.  Christian and Marxist philosophers engaged in dialogue during this period. In 1971 in "80 years After" n. 26 Pope Paul VI said a Christian "cannot adhere to the Marxist ideology, to its atheistic materialism, to its dialectic of violence and to the way it absorbs individual freedom in the collectivity" But neither can a Christian adhere, the Pontiff continues, to the ideology which promotes individual freedom without limits.  Pope Paul VI in Octogesima Adveniens n. 31 says:  "Distinctions must be made to guide concrete choices between the various levels of expression of socialism: a generous aspiration and a seeking for a more just society, historical movements with a political organization, and an ideology."  n. 33  "at times Marxism presents itself in a more attenuated form, one more attractive to the modern mind: as a scientific activity, as a rigorous method of examining social and political reality."

In the 1970's in Europe and in Latin America some groups called themselves Christians for Socialism or Christian Marxists.   In 1976 the Catholic Bishops of the Antilles in "Justice and Peace in a New Caribbean" Latin America Documentation Vol. VI, no. 33 stated: "The Catholic Church does not condemn indiscriminately all forms of socialism.  In the past it denounced three particular aspects of socialism: the denial of God and the spiritual, the need for class warfare, the suppression of all types of private property.  In so far as these are to be found in some forms of socialism, a true Christian cannot accept them.  But today there are other forms of socialism in the world and the very word "socialism" is used in many different ways.  Past Church statements referring to socialism must be understood in the light of new developments.  When looking at socialism, or Marxism, or capitalism for that matter, it is important to distinguish carefully between a) basic aspirations b) ideologies or systems of thought and c) concrete historical movements."

 To see some of the positive aspects of socialism and Marxism I suggest John Cort's Christian Socialism and Fr. Arthur F. McGovern, S.J.  Marxism: An American Christian Perspective.

The Catholic Church has been the main opposition to the Cuban government. Yet the Cuban Bishops have praised the positive aspects of the Revolution, growth in health care, education, an adequate diet for all, etc.  It certainly is legitimate for those claiming to be following a capitalist philosophy to give reasons for endorsing a particular position.  As we saw above Adam Smith is often mis-interpreted.  But someone who treats socialists and leftists as intrinsically evil are not intellectually honest.  To say "socialist" and expect the discussion to end is anti-intellectual.

God gave us hearts and ears to listen carefully but minds to distinguish. At times I hear arguments like "Environmentalists are for clean air and pure water. But Communists are for clean air and pure water. Therefore clean air and pure water are bad. And environmentalists are Communists." Such sloppy logic is unworthy of thinking citizens or responsible journalists.  When we have enough economic interests, dogmatism about socialism doesn't stop the US from extensive trade relations with countries like Communist China.

I am outraged by the feeble response of the United States Government to the Pope's visit to Cuba in 1998. The Pope called for the end of the US embargo of Cuba. "In our day no nation can live in isolation. The Cuban people therefore cannot be denied the contacts with other peoples necessary for economic, social and cultural development, especially when the imposed isolation strike the population indiscriminately.. All can and should take practical steps to bring about changes in this regard. .oppressive economic measures--unjust and ethically unacceptable--are imposed from outside Cuba." US policy toward Cuba is likewise opposed by the Cuban Catholic Bishops, the US Catholic bishops, the European Parliament and the United Nations. If the US is successful in starving the people of Cuba into submission, will that prove the US has a better system?

Christian Scripture speaks of the principalities and powers, the world as opposed to the values of Jesus.  Those who are making the decisions today have an ideology.  To recognize and analyze the dominant culture today we need to have the spiritual freedom to acknowledge our own immediate vested interests. To change our attitude isn't easy.  To have a complete change of attitude is a spiritual challenge.  I think a long-term vision more in accord with God's Word is in everyone's interest.  But to even consider such a change requires spiritual discernment.

The present principalities and powers use "globalization" as an ideology.  To them, the operation of the market has an absolute value.  The market is not for people, but people are subordinated to the market. The unrestricted "free" market assumes a religious character, as greed becomes a virtue, competition a commandment, and profit a sign of salvation.  Dissenters are dismissed as non-believers at best, and heretics at worst.  Economic fundamentalism is as bad as religious fundamentalism.

In the present structures capital flow across borders is rapid and uncontrolled. Trade relationships may be "free" but whether they are fair depends on factors of power, size, experience, skills, etc.

(See Africa in the Age of Globalisation:  What is Our Future? Presentation by Fr. Peter J. Henriot, S.J., Arrupe College, Harare, Zimbabwe, 31 March 2001)

One way to give the people a voice in global trade decisions is by democratic international law.  The common good cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces. Although the market can be a useful tool, it is not a god.  Made up of all of us sinners, the market can often be motivated by greed and selfishness.  (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus No's 35 and 52)  A companion direction would be community ownership of the means of production.  (See my section on Economic Democracy)  Smaller units of production would provide sufficient checks and balances and better serve local, national and world trade. (Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, No. 23, 24  See also Making a Place for Community. Local Democracy in a Global Era, Thad Williamson, David Imbroscio, and Gar Alperovitz, Routledge, 2003. Dr. Gar Alperovitz, America Beyond Capitalism, Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy)

The ideology of conspicuous consumption has moved to conspicuous equity.  If a few have enough capital, the few can retire and follow whatever pursuits they wish.  Although I think return on investment and interest rates can be excessive, capital can have value if there are structures by which capital can be shared by all.

Do we take our values from the dominant culture?  Or do we taking our values from God, the churches, common decency?  Do we have enough spiritual freedom to see alternatives to the present structures?

God's Action in the Church

Archbishop Romero said the Church is all of us.  Sinners that we are we go forward humbly together toward the future.  Throughout history the Catholic Church has swung back and forth between conservatism and liberalism.  Do we need the best of both?  Many today want all members of the church to listen, especially to the poor, the marginalized, the alienated.  All should participate in service-learning experiences with the poor.  We also want all of the baptized to be active.  If the Church is to be vibrant and grow, does it not need the experience, thinking, and creativity of all?

Are there not actions which are best done regionally and locally?  Fr. Richard P. McBrien (America p. 10, 4/25/05) suggests that with the participation of laity, clergy and religious, bishops be selected at local, regional and national levels.   Can bishops not trained in active listening and communal discernment help the Church today to grow and lead our church and our world to structures more in accord with God's Word?

Richard R. Gaillardetz By What Authority?  A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful, especially Chapter 7 "What is the Sense of the Faithful?" makes clear that all of the baptized share in the prophetic ministry of the Church."The people unfailingly adhere to the faith, penetrate it more deeply through right judgment, and apply the Faith more fully in daily life." (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium #12)  The appreciation of a work of art is influenced by each one's life story.  The appreciation of the Faith is influenced by each individual's and each group's graced story.  "Each believer, by virtue of baptism has a supernatural instinct or sense of the faith (sensus fidei) that allows each to recognize God's Word and to respond to it. . . we can also speak of the sense of the whole faithful (sensus fidelium). . The sense of faith is a kind of spiritual sense or sixth sense. . an imaginative grasp of divine revelation.  P.

Can we imagine that the faith and revelation we received from God develops through "the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts.  It comes from the intimate sense of spiritual realities which they experience." Vat. II, Revelation # 8. in his essay, "On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine" (1859, Reprint 1961) Cardinal John Henry Newman speaks of all the baptized "breathing together" and with the Holy Spirit who is the Holy Breath of God.  The whole Church can be teachers and learners if we breathe together.

Richard R. Gaillardetz, Teaching with Authority, A Theology of the Magisterium in the Church. p. 105.   Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio No. 6.  "In its pilgrimmage on earth Christ summons the Church to continual reformation, of which it is always in need, in so far as it is an institution of human beings here on earth.  Thus if, in various times and circumstances, there have been deficiencies in moral conduct or in church discipline, or even in the way that Church teaching has been formulate--to be carefully distinguished from the deposit of faith itself--these should be set right in the proper way at the opportune moment."  St. Thomas Aquinas distinguises between a propositional statement and that reality to which the statement refers.  All faith statements are concerned with that divine mystery that transcends any human articulation.

The Making of a Local Church, Bishop Francisco F. Claver, S.J.  Bishop of the Philippine Islands

Bishop Francisco Claver studied in the U.S.  Xavier U. gave him the St. Francis Xavier medal, and I hosted him while he visited.  His book above tells how God has acted in the Philippines and especially in Basic Ecclesial Communities.  I re-visited the Phillippines where I had been in 1945-46 in the 1990's and "Cisco" hosted my visit.  I was encouraged by the Faith of the people and by their involvement in social justice.  From a BEC:  " We Christians have our faith to guide us in the decisions we take for our life. . .(unlike Marxists) At every step we take, we have to pause and ask whether what we decide to do is according to our faith's demands for moral action or not.  This way things are not too clear.  But that's what the life of faith is all about.  Faith is a light that we have to make shine on our life to find out which way is God's way.  And often we just have to walk in darkness."  (pp. 106-107)

 

Graced Story of Israel-Palestine

Although I'm sure there are other interpretations, one version of what has happened in Israel-Palestine is found in America and the Founding of Israel, An Investigation of the Morality of America's Role by Fr. John W. Mulhall, CSP.  Is the Bible a "Deed of Ownership" to Canaan?  Abraham and Isaac are not depicted as displacing the natives but as enjoying generally a peaceful existence using Canaan's less populated regions.  When Moses' people arrived, they would have had close relatives in Canaan.  Extensive genetic, religious and cultural blending occurred.  The Canaanites were not driven out but lived on as Israelites.  The "Promised Land" was not so much a land conquered by outsiders as a land united by people already there.  Reductionists see the first books of the bible as religious stories, a literary devise, rather than history in the modern sense.  Relying on archaeological evidence they conclude that the Hebrews are primarily descendants of the Canaanites rather than a blend of Canaanites and incoming Hebrews.

Fundamentalists and biblical literalists see a "God of fire and brimstone who has its own terrifying code of justice unfettered by human concepts of human rights or of justice between humans.  God can therefore authorize human beings to destroy other human beings--soldiers, civilians, little children--and take over their land.  Some fundamentalists are also premillennialists.  They believe that one condition for the second coming of Christ and for the Millennium to follow is the 'ingathering' of all Jews into the Promised Land."  Some TV evangelists are premillennialists. Universal moral principles like "fairness" "do to others as you would have them do to you" "help those in need" "do not kill unjustly" "do not steal" should speak to all people including biblical literalists.

Mainline Protestant, Jewish and Catholic scripture scholars do not consider the bible as a deed of ownership..  They say the  promises made to Abraham were not about real estate today but about spiritual values.  Did Abraham have the boundaries of a nation promised to him?  Four thousand years ago national boundaries were not known.  We cannot take a book written several millennia ago for a peoples' spiritual growth and apply it literally to a political reality today.

Palestinians who had definite possession of land for countless generations have a definite, clear right to it.  "To take away a  definite right from one person to make way for at best a doubtful right of another person does not seem morally just." Human rights today are not determined by individual religious beliefs but by international law.

Were the Jews in Israel-Palestine first and therefore have a moral right to return?   Most Jews did not choose to return to  Palestine after the Babylonian Captivity ended. In the succeeding centuries most Jews opted for life in the Diaspora rather than in Palestine, even when it was ruled by the Jewish Hasmonians.  In the decades and centuries after the deportation by the Romans in AD 135 many Jews freely emigrated from Palestine, and most Diaspora Jews did not choose to immigrate to it. This gradually reduced to the vanishing point their descendants' moral hereditary right to Palestine.  Today it would be difficult even to identify Jews who are biologically descended from the Jews of the Babylonian Captivity or from the exodus of A.D. 135.  Many if not most Palestinian Arabs' ancestry also probably goes back in part to the Canaanites. Long term presence seems to add more weight to the Palestinian Arab side.

Did modern Jews have the right to immigrate?  There were about 13,000 Jews in Palestine in 1850.  Because of pogroms in Russia the first wave of immigrants to Palestine came from 1882-1903.  A Russian Jewish immigrant, Ze'ev Dubnov, wrote in 1882 that his final purpose was "to take possession in due course of Palestine and to restore to the Jews the political independence of which they have now been deprived for 2000 years."  Political Zionism won its first prominence when championed by Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) a Jewish Austrian playwright and journalist.  He had seen virulent anti-Semitism in Vienna and Paris and was convinced that Jews could protect themselves from it only by moving from anti-Semitic countries to a land that would be their own.  Herzl considered both Palestine and part of Argentina desirable sites. In 1897 Palestine had 529,500 Arabs and 21,500 Jews.

What if at the beginning of the so-called advanced 20th century the family of humankind had insisted on basic human rights for each human person? What if all nations had accepted its share of immigrants?  What if enough Zionists had been content to develop a spiritual and cultural center in Jerusalem and set up a sovereign state elsewhere?

In light of the graced story of Palestine-Israel, the land where Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose, the land where Jews and Arabs lived together peacefully for centuries, the land sacred to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the land torn by so much conflict and suffering since 1880, what is God calling us to today?

Review of Graced Story of Scripture and History

I give this brief and selected sketch to show how historical and social analysis can add to group and individual discernment.  Should at least some of us follow the foregoer ethic of Jesus and St. Paul in Scripture?  A simple life-style today puts us in solidarity with the poor and shows our care for the earth.  A simple life-style can also mean a healthier and more human life. Too many consider life to be a ladder where we climb over those ahead of us.  Would it not be better to look on life as a circle where we share with one another and cooperate with one another?

In 1992, some were getting ready to celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of America.  Others thought it was a little much to consider the last five hundred years of colonialism as an unmitigated triumph of capitalism and Christianity.  I'm not ready to say that all of colonialism was a dark graced story.  The technology of the Industrial Revolution  developed dramatic improvements in farming, manufacturing, and communication.  But it certainly wasn't a completely light graced story either.  Exploitation of native peoples and of the earth at times reached massive proportions.  (Fr. Albert Fritsch, S.J., Renew the Face of the Earth, 46,47)

As we look back on the Cold War, were not some forms of anti-communism worse than communism?  Not all communists, socialists, Marxists, capitalists think the same.  Name-calling is not a substitute for critical thinking.  Today we substitute terrorists and traitors when we used to say communists.  Some would say the Natural Resource Defense Council is for clean air and pure water.  But Communists are for clean air and pure water. Therefore clean air and pure water are bad.  And the Natural Resource Defense Council are Communists!  Such lack of discernment is unworthy of the Jesuit and Catholic tradition.   I suggest Fr. Arthur F. McGovern, Marxism: an American Christian Perspective.  "I recommend it enthusiastically as the most impressive work of its kind in the English language."  Msgr. George G. Higgins.

Following the flag St. Ignatius attributes to Lucifer, the Enemy of our human nature, have nations as well as individuals gone from riches acquired by economic or military force to arrogance and conceit and thus to all other vices?

I suggest that we especially critique the present structure of national security states which depends on a balance of import and export payments, a balance of arms among nations, and access to natural resources.  Would not a structure of common security be better able to insure fair trade? More capable of creating a minimal international police force? Common security would be more secure, much less expensive, and fairer for all.

Do some forms of  socialism deserve a second look?  It's easy to say atheism and materialism are wrong, and that excessive concentration of power in the central government is oppressive.  But isn't excessive concentration of power by multinational corporations just as bad?  Can't there be moderate forms of socialism where local community ownership is the norm?  Instead of becoming hung up in names and symbols, I suggest we discern together and freely take a new direction for our world, different from the mistakes of the past.

As individuals and as groups we have a responsibility for creating a more human earth.  I fear the world today is not one with which God is well pleased.  As we celebrate a jubilee year and the beginning of a new millennium, I hope we can move forward in the spirit of Dorothy Day and with her values.  "God did not intend that there be so many poor.  The class structure is of our making and by our consent, not God's, and we must do what we can to change it.  So we are urging revolutionary change." (Dorothy Day Selected Writings, 111)

Since much of anti-communism was propelled by a fear bordering on hysteria,  I think our greatest threat was not the Soviet Union but our own internal weakness, ignorance, and fear. "Do not be afraid. . Yahweh carries you, as a man carries his child, all along the road you traveled on the way to this place."  (Deuteronomy 1.29-32) Perhaps today we need to choose the better elements of both socialism and capitalism and create a new order.

International Congregations of Jesuits

The past four hundred years has seen the Jesuits continue their work as missionaries and educators.  The Second Vatican Council in the first half of the 1960's was a major event, however, and turned the Catholic Church in new directions.  This caused the Society of Jesus to re-examine its priorities. During its development and growth the Society of Jesus did not operate in a vacuum.  The Jesuit general congregations built on Catholic Social Teaching which as we have said is considered to have begun in 1891 with Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII.  The Church in the Modern World of the Second Vatican Council that ended in 1965 was the immediate predecessor to the Thirty-second Jesuit General Congregation as far as peace and justice are concerned.  The Second Vatican Council stated that 'the split between the faith that many profess and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age'   In 1971 and 1974 the International Synod of Catholic Bishops make an essential link between faith and justice.

In 1975 the thirty-second international congregation of the Society of Jesus placed new emphasis on joining justice to faith.  Decree Four of the Thirty-second General Congregation of Jesuits explains why the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement for the service of faith.  Reconciliation within the human family and reconciliation with God go together.  We can't have one without the other.

We start the journey toward justice by getting in touch with our own light and dark graced story.  Then we enlarge our experience by contact with the materially poor.  No. 35 32nd "Too often we are insulated from any real contact with unbelief and with the hard, everyday consequences of injustice and oppression. .  A greater willingness to be in the world--the world that cries for justice--and thus to know it by experience will therefore be a decisive test of our faith, our hope, our love."

Thirty-second Jesuit General Congregation

The Thirty-second Jesuit General Congregation suggests new ways of loving our neighbor. Like the corporal works of mercy, social service meets immediate needs, as for example the Red Cross when it helps victims of a flood.  Social action engages in social analysis and tries to analyze the causes of suffering.  Is it strip mining that is the origin of sudden flooding?  If it is, we engage in social action. When dialogue with the coal companies gets us nowhere, we lobby for strip mining legislation.  Both social service and social action are necessary and complement one another.  But social analysis and social action moves us beyond social service.  We need to love our neighbor so much and so well that we're willing to examine and re-examine any structure that may be oppressing her or him.

A structure is the way things are, the way we do things.  Although society once had barter, now we use currency.  Since there were not many horseless carriages in the beginning, automobiles managed on their own.  Now we have stop signs and traffic laws.

Business corporations today are structures with a life of their own.  Corporations become objects that live on long after their founders have died.  Today we have schools, advertising, sports, forms of government, attitudes, cultures that have become social structures.  Present structures can be graced social structures or sinful social structures or mixed with some of both graced and sinful.  Racial segregation in the United States was a sinful social structure.  Small social action communities are graced social structures.  Advertising can be a mixed social structure.  There is an advantage in letting others know what you have for sale and the quality and price of the product.  But the almost frantic push for greater profits leads 5th Avenue to put greater emphasis on material possessions than on personal relationships.

To examine social structures, society needs social analysis.  Jesuit training and education can engage in this analysis of the signs of our times.  The Thirty-second General Congregation recognizes that one of the strengths of the Society of Jesus has been its training in spiritual discernment.  Retreat work has always been a priority.  Now spiritual direction can give the resources to discern what direction small social action communities can take.   We need the courage to see the evil in ourselves and in our world.

Decree Four of the Thirty-second Jesuit General Congregation advises Jesuits therefore to deepen their prayer life, to practice discernment, to analyze the structures, and to work to promote the basic rights of all, especially the poor and the powerless.

Decree Four also calls Jesuits to theological reflection, "carried on in a context which is both interdisciplinary and genuinely integrated with the culture in which it is done." This I think leads Jesuits to peace studies which is now in several Jesuit Universities.

The 32nd international meeting of the Society of Jesus decreed: "The grace of Christ enables and impels us to seek 'the salvation and perfection of souls'--or what might be called, in contemporary terms, the total and integral liberation of all, leading to participation in the life of God . .the local Jesuit community is an apostolic community, not inward but outward looking, its concern being the service it is called upon to give others."
 
Not only does the Thirty-second Congregation list goals but a way of proceeding, communal apostolic discernment, "a transformation of our habitual patterns of thought through a constant interplay of experience, reflection and action." (no. 40)  Jesuits need to be involved in the lives of the poor in order to know their joys and hopes, their grief and anxieties.    Jesuits need to use intelligently social and cultural analysis.   If Jesuits are faithful to the process, "we will then understand better how the service of faith and the promotion of justice are not two juxtaposed, much less conflicting, goals but a single commitment which finds its coherence and deepest expression in that love of God and love of neighbor to which God calls us in the One Great Commandment.?   "One cannot act justly without love.  Even when we resist injustice we cannot prescind from love, since the universality of love is, by the express desire of Christ, a commandment that admits of no exceptions."   "To attain this universal love, we must continually learn how to seek God in faith, both for his own sake and as the abiding source of all justice and love." (no. 45)

Truly we are technological giants, but are we moral infants?  The Jesuits at the Thirty-second General Congregation again and again point to our free choices as the true cause of injustice.  It's not the laws of economics which we have freely created.  It's not our human nature.  It's not our lack of intelligence.  It's our lack of will.  That's a spiritual problem.

Thirty-third General Congregation

In 1980 Very Reverend Father General Pedro Arrupe wanted to call a general congregation and resign as Superior General.  Pope John Paul II wanted him to wait.  In 1981 Fr. Arrupe had a stroke.  Pope John Paul II intervened here and appointed his own delegate, Fr. Paolo Dezza to prepare for the general congregation.  Fr. Giuseppe Pittau the pope named as the Delegate's Coadjutor.  Fr. Dezza summoned the General Congregation on September 1, 1983.

The Congregation cautioned about overwork, even in the cause of peace and justice.  Like St. Ignatius Jesuits were urged to find God in all things, to have a discerning attitude, to practice self-abnegation, and to be interiorly free.  Jesuits were to allow time for solitude and silence, relaxation and joyous celebration.

Should there be more talk of love than of justice?  The Thirty-third Congregation makes clear that faith means our relationship to God; justice means our relationship to our neighbor.  If we love our neighbor, we treat them justly.  To better love our neighbor, we must love God.   Friends have a relationship that grows or deteriorates over the years.  Friendship means we at least treat our friends fairly.   If we have common friends, we perhaps tolerate more from one friend out of consideration for another.   Justice and love is part of friendship and part of our relationship to God and to one another.

The Thirty-third Congregation recognizes the value of research, of intellectual growth.  It also urges interaction between educational institutions, social and pastoral ministry, and use of the communications media.  In other words, various apostolates in the Society of Jesus should not be isolated from one another, but benefit from cooperation with one another.

The Society of Jesus is international.  It is especially capable of addressing  two important structures, world order and non-violence.  We can't give in to fatalism.

As an international body, the Society of Jesus commits itself to that work which is the promotion of a more just world order, greater solidarity of rich countries with poor, and a lasting peace based on human rights and freedom. At this critical moment for the future of humanity, many Jesuits are cooperating more directly in the work for peace as intellectuals, organizers and spiritual leaders, and by their witness of non-violence.  Following the example of recent Popes, we must strive for international justice and an end to an arms race that deprives the poor and threatens to destroy civilization.  The evangelical call to be genuine peacemakers cautions us to avoid both naivety and fatalism.


The Thirty-third General Congregation made its own the preferential option for the poor of the Catholic Church.  The Thirty-third General Congregation confirmed "the service of faith of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement" enunciated by the Thirty-second General Congregation.

Thirty-fourth General Congregation

The Thirty-fourth General Congregation began in January, 1995.  Its goal was to update the law of the Society of Jesus and complete the thrust of the mission of the Society which is the mission of Jesus.
           
Previous Congregations have called attention to working for structural changes in the socio-economic and political orders as an important dimension of the promotion of     justice.  They also urged working for peace and reconciliation through nonviolence. Recently we are becoming increasingly aware of some other dimensions of the struggle for justice.  Respect for the dignity of the human person created in the image of God underlies the growing international consciousness of the full range of human rights.  These include economic and social rights to the basic necessities of life and well-being; personal rights such as freedom of conscience and expression and the right to practice and share one's faith; civil and political  rights to participate fully and freely in the processes of society; and rights such as development, peace and a healthy environment.  Since persons and communities are intertwined, there are important analogies between the rights of persons and what are sometimes called the 'rights of peoples", such as cultural integrity and preservation, control of  their own destiny and resources. The Society, as an international apostolic body, should work with communities of solidarity in supporting these rights.

I don't want to give the impression that all our attention is to be given to sinful social structures.  "Poverty is a matter not only of structures but also of cultural attitudes which harden in a person like a crust of indifference towards the sufferings of others." The Thirty-fourth General Congregation also confronts the world's present culture of death: abortion, capital punishment, violence, war.  They urge a culture of life, converting the resources squandered on war and the arms trade towards providing for the needs of the poor.

The Thirty-fourth recognizes, too, the need to preserve the integrity of creation by care of the earth.  We need a sustainable, equitable use of the world's resources.

Our involvement in the promotion of justice takes place in a world in which the problems of injustice, exploitation and destruction of the environment have taken on global dimensions.  Religions have also been responsible for these sinful elements.  Hence our commitment to justice and peace, human rights and the protection of the environment has to be made in collaboration with believers of other religions.  We believe that religions contain a liberating potential which, through inter-religious collaboration, could create a more humane world. Through this process the divine Spirit overcomes the structures of sin and creates anew the face of the world until God will be all in all.

The faith-justice mission of the Thirty-second Congregation expands to faith-justice-culture-dialogue. Cultural attitudes need to be changed toward compassion and solidarity.  Dialogue with all those of goodwill is essential for the achievement of social justice.

The Thirty-fourth General Congregation used a collective examen as part of its process.  Delegates asked, "Where have we found God in the light and dark graced story of the Society?"  The votes were almost always unanimous. There was a deep unity. Delegates concluded, "We did not work alone.  The Holy Spirit was with us."  The document on women was not even on the agenda.  Yet it became one of the highlights of the Congregation.

The mission toward faith and justice springs from the mission of the Catholic Church to bring the reconciliation of Jesus to the human family.  It is a mission for all Jesuits and for all those following Ignatian spirituality.

The struggle to live faithfully includes the struggle to bring about justice.  The unity is a mission for the entire Society of Jesus.  It is not simply one ministry among many, but the integrating factor of all Jesuit ministries.  Faith doing justice belongs to the entire Church.  It helps define the Church and is essential to the Church's mission in our time. Its roots lie in the prophetic and healing ministry of Jesus and deep in sacred scripture.  The Second Vatican Council, recent popes, and over a century of Catholic social teaching give this linking of faith with justice weight and depth.  In this mission, the Society of Jesus thinks and acts in full accord with the Church. .. . . The service of faith and the promotion of justice calls us to rigorous study, analysis, and discussion on a broad variety of topics.

Not Perfect Agreement

I wouldn't want someone to conclude that all Jesuits immediately and fully accepted the formulation of the international meetings of the Society of Jesus regarding faith and justice. Especially in the period between the Jesuit Congregations in 1975 and 1983 there was considerable consternation as to the meaning of the service of faith and the promotion of justice.

In contrast to Fr. Arthur McGovern, S.J. who saw positive elements in liberation theology, Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.  took a very negative view of this new theology.

The  basic view that shall be argued here is that liberation theology is, in its essential outlines, itself a cause of continued underdevelopment, that its eventual growth and success would institutionalize in Latin America a life of          low-level socialist poverty enforced by a rigid party -- military discipline in control of economic enterprise and the movement of peoples. . .  Poverty, as Christianity       taught, has its salutary aspects.  The poor state is not the worst kind of moral state available to men. (Liberation Theology in Latin America,7,124)

In 1989 Jesuits and their lay colleagues from all the twenty-eight Jesuit universities in the United States met to see how Jesuit and Catholic universities could respond to the call of the international meetings of the Society of Jesus for the integration of faith and justice.  In one of the sessions Fr. Avery Dulles, S.J., son of Foster Dulles, former US Secretary of State, opposed the new statements of the Jesuit General Congregations as far as faith and justice was concerned.  He argued against the terminology of justice as an absolute requirement of faith.  He also saw practical drawbacks to the new formulation of Jesuit mission.  "Jesuits dedicated to the pure sciences, the classics, and the arts feel that their work has been marginalized."

Fr. G. David Hollenbach, S.J. responded that Jesuits can no longer pretend that education can be separated from nuclear war, the holocaust, genocide, and massive poverty.


Ignatian spirituality enabled the first Jesuits to appropriate the humanism of the Renaissance and to found a network of educational institutions that were innovative and responsive to the urgent needs of their time. . .faith and humanistic cultural development was at the origin of Jesuit education in the United States. . . .the root issue is this: what is Christian humanism in the face of Dunkirk and Dresden, Auschwitz and Hiroshima, the teeming streets of Calcutta and the broken bodies in Tiananmen Square? What is Christian humanism when we see the homeless that roam American cities and the growing underclass who are reduced to permanent hopelessness. . . late twentieth- century Christian humanism is necessarily social humanism. . . This will call for creativity in every area of thought, education, and spirituality. (Assembly 1989: Jesuit Ministry in Higher Education)
Besides helping all of us to become more human, Ignatian education strives to make the world more humane.  It's hard to be human in an inhumane world.
 

Fr. Martin R. Tripole, S.J. points out that justice in Scripture means our relationship to God as well as our relationship to our neighbor. A better formula for the Jesuit mission is faith and culture rather than faith and justice.  If we change our hearts and our values, the structures will take care of themselves, and we will avoid the accusation that our work has become secular rather than spiritual.  If we try to change the structures and ignore the inner life, new laws will be ineffective.  We should be working to change the value structures of our society.

Although we certainly we need to try to open our hearts to the values of God's Word, I don't think the principalities and powers will change by themselves.  If our spirituality takes the form of Jesus and me in private prayer, the economic and social structures will not only remain the same but deteriorate and worsen.  Faith and justice go together. We can't have one without the other.

"In recent times, the Roman Catholic Church has become more visible in the entire world than ever before; it is enough to think of the two million young people celebrating the jubilee in Rome.  Its administration is well ordered and efficient.  Should trouble arise at any place, it is able to intervene with speed.  Those entrusted to speak in the name of the church are loyal in words and deeds.  The secular principalities and powers admire us as never before; they are sending their ambassadors to the strongest moral power on earth.  And the church stands in the forefront of the struggle for human rights.  For these things we must be grateful. . . Pope John Paul II asks for fresh ideas and creative insights. . .the principle of subsidiarity is not a luxury; it is not an option. The principle of subsidiarity is the intrinsic law of any organic body.  For the body to operate well, each of its members must function to its normal capacity."  Ladislas Orsy, S.J., "The Papacy for an Ecumenical Age," America,  Oct. 21, 2000, 9-15.

Usury

In the Hebrew Covenant Israelites were not permitted to take interest in goods or money from fellow Israelites.  Full remission of debts were given every seven years in Deuteronomy 15 and every fifty years in Leviticus 25.

Jesus told the story of the official who put a fellow servant in jail rather than allow the servant to defer payment on a loan. (Matthew 18.35) In the spirit of Leviticus Jesus urges in the Our Father that we forgive monetary debts. (Matthew 6.5  Greek is opheilema. For a fuller discussion see Fr. Michael H. Crosby, OFMCap. Thy Will Be Done, Praying the Our Father as Subversive Activity, pp. 138 ff )

The church fathers, Tertullian, Cyprian, Chrysostom, Augustine, The Councils of Nicea, Carthage, Third Lateran, Lyons all condemned usury.  Following Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas condemned usury as unnatural. Money was made for exchange.  To get money on an investment or loan is to get wealth without creating anything of value.  Interest leads to inequality.  In 1524 Martin Luther said usury is "grossly contrary to God's word, contrary to reason and every sense of justice, and springs from sheer wantonness and greed."  Pope Benedict XIV reiterated warnings against usury in 1745.  Paper wealth is created without working, without producing anything of real value.  (See Dictionary of Ethics, Theology, and Society, pp. 861,2)

William Grieder's Secrets of the Temple, How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country argues that although capital deserves a just return, it cannot produce a toll that guarantees failure for the borrower.  If interest rates are too high, economic stagnation is produced and there is further concentration of wealth as debtors fail and forfeit their property to the usurious lender.  Usury ruins the borrower. (pp. 173, 707)  Real interest rates exceed real economic growth.  The share for the creditor is compounding faster than new wealth can be generated.

In economic democracy, we are equal.  Each person has dignity, value, and worth.  Adam Smith saw value in a mutually beneficial exchange.  Our economic system should not be an abstract mental construct by which we justify domination of many by a few.  As sinners, we all need checks and balances.  As persons, we deserve equal respect and dignity.  There needs to be some way to reward extra labor, frugality, and saving.  But I don't think that way now exists.  We need to rethink what is currently happening, and creatively devise a new system that works, a plan more in accord with God's Word.

Current Catholic Thought



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaudium et Spes # 92 (The Church in the Modern World)  "The church shows itself as a sign of that amity which renders possible sincere dialogue and strengthens it.  Such a mission requires us first of all to create in the church itself mutual esteem, reverence and harmony, and to acknowledge all legitimate diversity; in this way all who constitute the one people of God will be able to engage in ever more fruitful dialogue, whether they are pastors or other members of the fruitful. For the ties which unite the faithful together are stronger than those which separate them; let there be unity in what is necessary, freedom in what is doubtful, and charity in everything."

  To access current Catholic sources see New Advent  http://www.newadvent.org/

A Campus Guide to Catholic Social Teaching in Action http://www.accunet.org/peaceandjustice
For the Campaign for Human Development  http://www.povertyusa.org

Thinking with the Church, the Body of Christ in History

Archbishop Oscar Romero's episcopal motto was Sentir con la Iglesia "to feel or to think with the church." Romero often made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Romero, however, led the Archdiocese of San Salvador as he saw fit.  He was often in trouble with the Vatican and always in trouble with other Salvadoran bishops.  What, then, did it mean to Romero to think with the Church?  To think with the church meant to identify with the Body of the Risen Christ in history, sacrament of salvation in the world.  To identify with the Church meant to embrace its mission, the mission of the Risen Jesus, to proclaim the Reign of God to the poor.

The power of the Gospel is revealed in particular historical circumstances.  In 1980 thinking with the Church demanded discernment that was attentive to the particular circumstances of the local Catholic community.  Romero had a great capacity to listen, as though he wanted to be sure of the sensus fidelium, to see what the people thought.  To think with the church meant to evangelize in concrete circumstances of the poor and powerless, exposing personal sin and sinful structures that pushed the poor aside, proclaiming and promoting the love and justice of the Reign of God, undeterred by repressive forces that served under another standard. It wasn't necessary to tell the campesinos that they were oppressed or who their oppressors were.  Both were obvious.

A great influence on Archbishop Romero was Fr. Rutilio Grande, S.J., leader of the Jesuit Pastoral team in Aguilares. Rutilio Grande followed the Fathers of the Church and Jesus himself by describing the reign of God as a banquet.  The material world is like the table of the Eucharist, a common table, beautifully adorned, with room for everyone to pull up a chair.

Monsenor Romero found himself with a choice:  to continue to please the nuncio, whose reactions were informed by the reactionary sector of Salvadoran society, or to support his clergy, whose concerns were those of the suffering people. Romero opted for unity with the priests and with the poor majority of the people.  When the clergy wrote in support of the archbishop, they entitled their statement "To touch the Archbishop is to Touch the Heart of the Church."

Romero clearly condemned the institutionalized violence of an unjust society, the repressive violence of the state, and terrorist violence.  In the pulpit Romero was transformed, captured by the Spirit, another man, completely different.  The hospital where Romero stayed was a place of prayer, of consulting with God.  Romero was manipulated; he was manipulated by God.

"The teaching of the Church demanded of Romero intellectual assent and much more. The teaching of the Church demanded that he read the signs of the times in the light of the Gospel.  The teaching of the Church demanded that he pay attention to the concrete circumstances of the communities of the archdiocese and to the needs of Salvadoran society as a whole.  The teaching of the Church called him to put himself on the line, to overcome his natural timidity, to identify himself with the church, the people of God, the Body of Christ in history.  It called him to preach good news to the poor and to accept whatever conflict that might entail.  Sometimes those conflicts were with members of the Church who understood its teaching differently, with the nuncio, who 'lives very far from the problems of our clergy and our humble people', with Vatican officials who were often misinformed, with oligarchs who absolutized their wealth, with solders who absolutized their power, or with members of political movements who absolutized their organizations.. . St. Ignatius's 'to be of one mind with the Church' would be 'to be of one mind with the Church incarnated in this people who stand in need of liberation.'" Fr. Douglas Marcouillere, S.J. "Archbishop with an Attitude, Oscar Romero's Sentir con la Iglesia." Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, 35/3, May 2003, p. 51.

The Jewish Tradition and Peace with Justice

Below is a talk by a Rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati given at Xavier during a discussion of Israel-Palestine.

"I would like to begin by thanking Father Ben for warmly welcoming me to Xavier and to this discussion. I also want to thank everyone for coming
to this discussion tonight


(Before I discuss the Jewish concepts of peace and justice, I wanted to quickly tell you who I am and what informs me. I am currently a rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, located across from the University of Cincinnati in Clifton. I grew up in Denver, Colorado where I spent most of my weekends during the winter on the ski slopes and my summers hiking in the mountains of Colorado. I graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in International Studies with a focus on Middle East. During my undergraduate experience I studied at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, located in Beersheva where I researched for and published with the Nigimin Center for Bi-National Research, the Negev Center for Regional Development, and Mutah University in Karach, Jordan on an evaluation of the Israeli-Jordanian Peace process. My research required me to spend significant time in Jordan - I have been there five times. After college I matriculated to HUC-JIR, which requires its first year students to study at our Jerusalem campus. After returning from studying in Jerusalem, I returned to Cincinnati where I currently serve a small 100 member synagogue in Winnipeg, Manitoba - on the weekends.)


I may not be presenting on the same exact issues as Father Ben or Karen Dabdoub of the Muslim Community since I only found out that I was speaking yesterday, I want to make it clear to everyone here that if I do not cover an important  subject, I am certainly open to your questions and I will try my hardest to answer them the best I can.

The discussion of peace with justice must be understood through the lens of what causes strife. To attain peace and justice we must challenge or subvert the causes of conflict within our world.

The root cause of conflict begins when individual or group needs for physical safety and well being, access to political and economic participation, cultural or religious expressions, are threatened or frustrated. Strife especially arises when one group is being unfairly disadvantaged compared to other groups.

Conflicts between ethnic groups or nationalities begin when basic human needs, such as the need for physical security and well being, communal or cultural recognition, participation, and control, have accumulated to the point where one group is disadvantaged in relation to another. When this occurs, we should call this a lack of "human security."

Therefore, human security is the best foundation upon which peace with justice can be built and sustained. Evidence suggests that the most secure states in the world are those that provide the greatest human security to their populations. Weak states are those that either do not, or cannot, provide human security.

In a world where resources are finite, their supply is often distributed unevenly. Dominant groups enjoy adequate satisfaction of their needs; Non-dominant groups suffering privation. Property rights, jobs, scholarships, educational admissions, language rights, governmental contracts and development allocations all confer benefits on individuals and groups. In many societies competition over resources is at the very center of what begets strife.

Generally, in the 21st century, it is the political state that provides physical and cultural safety and regulates political and economic access. Thus, the prime objective of any oppressed group (ethnic, cultural, or economic class) is the mobilization for the goal of political access. Typically, most non-dominant groups begin non-violent protests, which may escalate to violence, if their concerns are ignored.

We need not look further than Cincinnati to find this very issue. Sure, we have not had race riots in Cincinnati in the past few years, everything is calm - - but I ask you, is there really Peace in this city? Is there justice? Strife is not the only indicator of a lack of peace or injustice. If people in power ignore the needs of the poor, you can say that there is calm but you can not say there is peace with justice.

The denial of physical security, recognition of group identities, and access to scarce resources is largely regulated by the political state and not our religious theologies.

So, when I turn on the news, read the newspaper, or browse internet news portals, and I see the economic injustices, the lack of health care for our citizens, the lack of equality for all people in the world - I do not think for a second that the people leading our political bodies are reading our sacred texts and then acting incorrectly. In reality, our sacred texts and theologies do not often inform the political process of our leaders. That isn't to say that politicians aren't crude enough to use religious symbols or theology to garner support for their political cause. They are. But the use of religious symbolism does not equate to acting with religious piety.

In my religious tradition, the attainment of peace and justice is presented as a map. But, Judaism's sacred texts do not offer an analysis of any modern situation. Rather, Judaism offers a spiritual map and not a political solution.

Furthermore, the religious traditions of any of the faiths presented (Christianity, Judaism, or Islam) are not responsible for the political conflicts that have dragged religion and theology into them. Just as most Muslims do not wish their theological positions on peace and justice to be represented by the fundamental Islam found in the hills of Afghanistan - which led to destruction in this country, or those who encourage children of fourteen and eleven years old to commit homicide bombings in Israel, Christians do not want their theological positions on peace and justice to be represented by the actions and precedent of the crusaders, Torqemoda in the inquisition, or even those right wing Christians who determined that the war in Iraq was supported by Christian theology. Likewise, Jews do not want their positions on peace and justice to be represented by minority groups of Jews in the West bank or various inappropriate and un-ethical actions of the political state of Israel.

All three faiths could say that some of their religious symbolism, sacred texts, theology and faith have been hijacked for reasons that are not of the higher calling. Yet, how is this possible? How is it that the sacred texts of the different faith traditions could possibly be used for unjust means? Aren't the people who are causing ethnic strife in the name of our religions reading the same verses from scripture that we are.

Here in lies the problem with the activity of blindly citing verse after verse of scripture and solely relying on scripture alone as the roadmap towards peace with justice. If fundamentalists use scripture to support their position and we disagree with it by responding with another biblical verse, there is an implication for us that violence is a result of either not reading correctly or being so unlucky that our traditions may not have the right verse to counter the religious fundamentalism.

But the truth is that any scripture, the Koran, the Hebrew Scriptures, and the New Testament contains within it good and difficult verses - verses that can be understood as both loving and punishing, accepting and rejecting. Thus, the exercise of blindly citing verses in scripture is a truly empty exercise - because our collective scriptures are so vast that they often contain contradictory values. Let's face it, anything out of context can be read in any way. We must understand that scriptural verses ARE NOT the reason that people are killing each other or why there is poverty in the world.

It is therefore extremely important to remember that the concept of a liberal religion means that scripture is not like an autocratic parent. Rather, we interpret the tradition. Thus, where our tradition is constricting we can expand. We try to negotiate between the text that we receive and the pulse of a modernly conscious society. It is in that tension where we find the balance of Judaism. As a modern Jew I am able to balance between the traditions and the values that I cherish as part of the liberal pluralistic society.

Therefore I recognize, and we should all recognize that the poor and underserved in America, or the recent invasion of Iraq is not the result of a poor reading of Christian Scripture. The Shiites that were gassed by Saddam Hussein or the homicide bombers that have taken innocent lives is not the result of a poor reading of Sharia Law. The Jewish settler who has killed Palestinians or taken land away from a Palestinian is not a result of a poor reading of the Torah or the Talmud. It is not Christianity, Islam or Judaism that is responsible for these events. The political people in power have literally hijacked our religious scripture, theologies, and symbols for advancing their political causes.

Yet, just because these political leaders have hijacked our religious symbols, we should not hide from using our religious traditions to inform our concepts of sustainable peace with justice.

Theology is a notoriously difficult exercise. Unlike other academic disciplines, one can never attain knowledge of God because any attempt to understand God's essence is bound to fail. The classical Jewish thinkers said, "If I knew God, I would be God." This is partly why Judaism is wary of finished theological statements and prefers to work in the realm of practicalities and regulative principles. I do not presume to define God's nature rather; I am interested more of what God wants of me. How does Judaism's theology inform me towards reaching peace with justice? How would God want me to act?

The essence of Judaism is the eradication of violence. Strife contravenes the basis of divine creation because violence leaves a trail of human and environmental devastation that diminishes humans and all of God's creations. By diminishing God's creations, we are diminishing God.

The Talmud, our Oral law, which was compiled centuries after the Bible, actively dissuades violent acts. The Talmudic sages even call a court that convicted someone of murder and then enforced capital punishment, a murderous court.

Judaism teaches that peaceful means to responding to strife must be our first priority. The fear of destructive violence is exemplified by the Talmudic dictum that if someone tells you kill or be killed, you must rather choose to be killed than commit murder. This is the meaning of martyr. A martyr does not kill and killing does not make you into a martyr.

Therefore, Judaism offers a road map for how to live our lives. Judaism's core is scripture the written law, and the Talmud, the oral law. It further contains thousands of years of commentaries and preserved dialogue concerning these varied issues. (LOOK AT THE HANDOUT)

Therefore, in the meantime, Jewish tradition motivates me to take positions on unrest, strife, economic equality, human rights, gay rights - - any number of moral and political issues. I have included a VERY small sampling of Jewish responses to various issues that relate to my concept of the road map to peace with justice. Human security is the foundation on which peace with justice must be built. Through ensuring equal access to finite resources, equal access to affordable health care, a quality education for all humans, jobs and the ability to provide for oneself and ones family, religious freedom, we will ensure a proper road map towards a much higher goal. Not just peace with justice but a sustainable peace with justice.

I certainly hope that our presentations and discussions tonight can open a dialogue for our community in which we are able to learn how our different faith traditions inform our concepts of the pursuit of peace with justice."

Christian Zionism

Remembering Michael Prior
Nigel Parry, The Electronic Intifada, 23 July 2004

Christian Zionism is the term given to a movement in the Christian Church that means  in today's terms  Christian support for the State of Israel. A particularly, although not exclusively American phenomenon that blossomed in the wake of Hal Lindsay's apocalyptic bestseller, The Late Great Planet Earth, the theology of Christian Zionism is based on a number of key Old Testament passages enjoining believers to "Bless [the biblical people of] Israel".

Christian Zionists represent one of the most largest political forces in the United States, a political Amen Chorus for Israel, right or wrong: On the platform, an Israeli student is telling thousands of supporters how the horrors of the year have only reinforced his people's determination. "Despite the terror attacks, they'll never drive us away out of our God-given land," he says. This is greeted with whoops and hollers and waving of Israeli flags and the blowing of the shofar, the Jewish ceremonial ram's horn. Then comes the mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, who is received even more rapturously... The placards round the hall insist that every inch of the Holy Land should belong to Israel and that there should never be a Palestinian state. These assertions are backed up by biblical quotations. It could be a rally in Jerusalem for those Israelis who think Ariel Sharon is a dangerous softie. But something very strange is going on here. There are thousands of people cheering for Israel in the huge Washington Convention Centre. But not one of them appears to be Jewish, at least not in the conventional sense. For this is the annual gathering of a very non-Jewish organization indeed: the Christian Coalition of America.

 Matthew Engel, The Guardian, 28 October 2002.

The fundamental contradiction of Christian Zionism is that it requires adherents to accept that a handful of Old Testament verses have more theological weight than the person and character of Jesus himself, whom the New Testament describes as "the image of the invisible God", essentially a person that serves as a picture of the nature of God.

Christian Zionists are investing their time, energy and money ? three elements that comprise a fair, modern definition of 'worship' ? in a secular national-political entity at the expense of the direct commands of the Christ they follow, who unambiguously stated that "Whatever you do to the least of them [people], you do to me." In the texts of Christian Zionism, this last verse may as well be footnoted:
* Offer does not apply to Palestinians.

As Israel brutally represses those Palestinian people who dare to protest the bulldozers that raze their lands and fields and leave them homeless, imprisoning entire cities within prison walls, Christian Zionists are found praising God for giving the Jews a home at last.

It is hard to imagine a more obvious heresy against the Gospel of Love, unless of course you are the kind of Christian who can imagine Jesus jumping into the pilot seat of an AH-1 Apache combat helicopter and flying off to indiscriminately bomb a nearby refugee camp in "retaliation". Who Would Jesus Bomb? indeed.

Father Michael Prior worked tirelessly for over 20 years of his life to expose the racism, false favoritism, deception, and blatantly 'unJesuslike' core assumptions of the theology of Christian Zionism. As a Christian theologian and philosopher he felt responsible for confronting the contradictions of the philosophy by weaving tapestries of understanding from the more mainstream pages of the Bible that Christian Zionists have torn out and discarded.

In a series of books, papers, conference appearances, and through the solid and enduring work of the UK-based Living Stones organisation he cofounded, Fr. Prior drew Christian's attention to the fact that their pilgrimages to see the 'dead stones' of the Holy Land rarely incorporated any exposure to the many thousands of Palestinian Christians, the "living stones" of the land.

Michael spared no time getting to the point. In a March 2003 interview with The Witness, he explained one of his key contentions with the theology:
"The God they portray looks to me to be a militaristic and xenophobic genocidist who would not be even sufficiently moral to conform to the Fourth Geneva Convention. How, I constantly ask myself, are such people so unconcerned about others being kicked out of their homes, children being shot, people struggling for survival against very oppressive forces of occupation? Instead of trying to give food to the hungry and sight to the blind, as Jesus exhorted, these people support institutions that make seeing people blind, put free people in prison, and make the poor poorer. But it is extremely difficult to make progress in the face of worldviews which are held tenaciously, and considered to be in conformity with the will of God as revealed in the Scriptures. I go back to the fundamental question: Is God moral? Is God just? Is God a God of love, compassion, tenderness and justice? Or, rather, is God the great ethnic cleanser? Those are fundamental questions that I would like the evangelical Zionist constituency to consider."

As Coordinator of Living Stones from 1993-1994, I spent much time working and socialising with Michael and other members of the board. Although Michael was a Catholic priest helping to run an organisation with both Protestants and Catholics, church members and church officials, from a variety of denominations, there was none of the tension or status fixation common in many Christian organisations. His cheery, cheeky demeanor and his unassuming view of his widely respected religious titles made him one of the most approachable religious leaders I have met. Michael will be missed by many. His contributions to the understanding of the Christian Church and refusal to allow Palestinian Christians to be the invisible children of a lesser God will be remembered. The world is a little bit darker with his passing.

Naim Ateek, Director of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, a prominent Palestinian Christian and close friend of Michael Prior, wrote today:
"Although, he has left us and we mourn his loss, he is 'still speaking' through his books, lectures, and various publications. His voice will continue to be heard in many places throughout the world. His strong prophetic message will reverberate until justice for the Palestinians is done and peace and reconciliation are achieved in the Holy Land for all of its people."

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Our world is torn by violence and war. But Jesus said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9). Innocent people, at home and abroad, are increasingly threatened by terrorist attacks. But Jesus said: "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). These words, which have never been easy, seem all the more difficult today.

Nevertheless, a time comes when silence is betrayal. How many churches have heard sermons on these texts since the terrorist atrocities of September 11? Where is the serious debate about what it means to confess Christ in a world of violence? Does Christian "realism" mean resigning ourselves to an endless future of "pre-emptive wars"? Does it mean turning a blind eye to torture and massive civilian casualties? Does it mean acting out of fear and resentment rather than intelligence and restraint?

Faithfully confessing Christ is the church's task, and never more so than when its confession is co-opted by militarism and nationalism.

  •  "theology of war," emanating from the highest circles of American government, is seeping into our churches as well.
  • The language of "righteous empire" is employed with growing frequency.
  • The roles of God, church, and nation are confused by talk of an American "mission" and "divine appointment" to "rid the world of evil."

The security issues before our nation allow no easy solutions. No one has a monopoly on the truth. But a policy that rejects the wisdom of international consultation should not be baptized by religiosity. The danger today is political idolatry exacerbated by the politics of fear.

In this time of crisis, we need a new confession of Christ.

  1. Jesus Christ, as attested in Holy Scripture, knows no national boundaries. Those who confess his name are found throughout the earth. Our allegiance to Christ takes priority over national identity. Whenever Christianity compromises with empire, the gospel of Christ is discredited.

    We reject the false teaching that any nation-state can ever be described with the words, "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." These words, used in scripture, apply only to Christ. No political or religious leader has the right to twist them in the service of war.
  2. Christ commits Christians to a strong presumption against war. The wanton destructiveness of modern warfare strengthens this obligation. Standing in the shadow of the Cross, Christians have a responsibility to count the cost, speak out for the victims, and explore every alternative before a nation goes to war. We are committed to international cooperation rather than unilateral policies.

    We reject the false teaching that a war on terrorism takes precedence over ethical and legal norms. Some things ought never be done - torture, the deliberate bombing of civilians, the use of indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction - regardless of the consequences.
  3. Christ commands us to see not only the splinter in our adversary's eye, but also the beam in our own. The distinction between good and evil does not run between one nation and another, or one group and another. It runs straight through every human heart.

    We reject the false teaching that America is a "Christian nation," representing only virtue, while its adversaries are nothing but vicious. We reject the belief that America has nothing to repent of, even as we reject that it represents most of the world's evil. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
  4. Christ shows us that enemy-love is the heart of the gospel. While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8, 10). We are to show love to our enemies even as we believe God in Christ has shown love to us and the whole world. Enemy-love does not mean capitulating to hostile agendas or domination. It does mean refusing to demonize any human being created in God's image.

    We reject the false teaching that any human being can be defined as outside the law's protection. We reject the demonization of perceived enemies, which only paves the way to abuse; and we reject the mistreatment of prisoners, regardless of supposed benefits to their captors.
  5. Christ teaches us that humility is the virtue befitting forgiven sinners. It tempers all political disagreements, and it allows that
    We reject the false teaching that those who are not for the United States politically are against it or that those who fundamentally question American policies must be with the "evil-doers." Such crude distinctions, especially when used by Christians, are expressions of the Manichaean heresy, in which the world is divided into forces of absolute good and absolute evil.

    The Lord Jesus Christ is either authoritative for Christians, or he is not. His Lordship cannot be set aside by any earthly power. His words may not be distorted for propagandistic purposes. No nation-state may usurp the place of God.

    We believe that acknowledging these truths is indispensable for followers of Christ. We urge them to remember these principles in making their decisions as citizens. Peacemaking is central to our vocation in a troubled world where Christ is Lord.

7/31/14