Engaging Faith | Thu, Mar 19, 2009
Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 22, 2009
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23
March 21: Spring Equinox
March 21: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/racial/
March 22: World Water Day http://www.un.org/depts/dhl/water/
March 25: Feast of the Annunciation
Yes, even today the Lord hears the cry of the multitudes longing for joy, peace, and love. As in every age, they feel abandoned. Yet, even in the desolation of misery, loneliness, violence and hunger that indiscriminately afflict children, adults, and the elderly, God does not allow darkness to prevail.
Benedict XVI, 2006 Lenten Message
Faced with the tragic situation of persistent poverty which afflicts so many people in our world, how can we fail to see that the quest for profit at any cost and the lack of effective, responsible concern for the common good have concentrated immense resources in the hands of a few while the rest of humanity suffers in poverty and neglect?
John Paul II, 2003 Lenten Message
Respect for nature by everyone, a policy of openness to immigrants, the cancellation or significant reduction of the debt of poorer nations, the promotion of peace through dialogue and negotiation, the primacy of the rule of law: these are the priorities which the leaders of the developed nations cannot disregard. A global world is essentially a world of solidarity!
John Paul II, Address to George W Bush, 23 July 2001
... conversion is a lifelong process. And, it is not undertaken alone. It occurs with the support of the whole believing community, through baptism, common prayer, and our daily efforts, large and small, on behalf of justice. As a Church, we must be people after God's own heart, bonded by the Spirit, sustaining one another in love, setting our hearts on God's kingdom, committing ourselves to solidarity with those who suffer, working for peace and justice, acting as a sign of Christ's love and justice in the world.
US Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, 24
Social sin is the crystallization ... of individuals' sins into permanent structures that keeps sin in being and makes its force to be felt by the majority of people.
Oscar Romero, Salvadoran archbishop, assassinated in 1980
Thoughts for your consideration
The scriptures today emphasize redemption and salvation, even in the midst of human sinfulness.
- The Book of Chronicles summarizes a long history of turning away from God and then talks of the rebuilding - even of the temple. In an amazing way, after the experience of destruction and exile, there comes a return from exile and a rebuilding of the temple and a return to God's values.
- In the Letter to the Ephesians we listen to images about death and about being brought back to life by grace.
- The gospel of John uses the images of light and darkness. God does not want us to perish but have life - the fullness of life -- eternal life.
The sin of the world - social sin - can cause us to be discouraged. It seems our history of failure in following God's way is not unlike the history described in Chronicles. Without focusing on blame, examples abound.
- The economy is a mess. Stocks are down. Unemployment is up. Housing prices are down. Foreclosures are up. Homelessness is up. Hunger is up. We have officially been in recession for over a year. The world economy is a mess. People are worried. The prosperity of recent decades seems to have been a house of cards that is collapsing. Some people never even experienced prosperity when "times were good.
- Even before the economic crisis, over two billion people in our world lived on less than two dollars a day. Even in the midst of the economic crisis, many others enjoy tremendous wealth and privilege. Something is out of whack.
- Many children in our world have access to very minimal education. In the US some children enjoy excellent education and others attend ineffective, under-funded schools. Even in a wealthy nation like the United States, maybe 25% of our children experience poverty.
- The war in Iraq has been going on for over six years. On all sides, sin seems to have abounded. People have been killed or disabled. Human rights have been denied. Torture has been used. Acts of terrorism continue. Families have been separated. Billions of dollars support military power rather than human needs. Innocent people have suffered from food insecurity or a lack of good water or dangers to the environment or inadequate medical care. Even now, our political leaders find it hard to bring the war to a quick end.
- The war in Afghanistan drags on year and after year. Most people of that nation don't seem to have been helped. Things seem to get worse not better.
- Political leaders operate without transparency. Political expedience and ideology have dominated decision making. People and corporations with influence, seem to have too much power and others seems to have very little.
- The violence, the killing, and the creation of new refugees continue in the Darfur region in the Sudan, or in areas in and around the Congo, or many other places in the world.
- Various parts of the world (for example, Haiti and Somalia) are without an effective functioning government and their people are trapped in poverty and suffering.
The gospel reminds us that God desires that we "might not perish but might have eternal life." Ephesians reminds us that there is a salvation that comes by grace. At this point in human history we are called to open ourselves once again to this grace so that we can rebuild a world of social justice and nonviolence, a world of light not darkness, a world of life not death. Now is the time to work to put an end to "social sin." Now is a time for rebuilding a world of justice and peace.
Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group
How is the economic crisis affecting you and your family?
How is it affecting people that you know?
How does your faith speak to you about these realities?
What things in public life most upset or discourage you?
How do you bring these evils to your prayer?
How to you respond to these evils in your action?
Actions - Links
Violence in Columbia & the Struggle for Peace
According to Catholic Relief Services (CRS), "More than forty years of violent conflict has caused great suffering for millions of Colombians, especially poor and marginalized communities." At the same time people desire and are working toward a new vision for peace. "The Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia (April 19-20) is an opportunity for Catholics in the United States to support our Colombian brothers and sisters in this vision." For information and resources go to: http://crs.org/public-policy/prayer-action.cfm
Homeless Children in America
The National Center on Family Homelessness [http://www.familyhomelessness.org/ ] reports that 1 in 50 children in America experience homelessness every year. Read their recent report, America's Youngest Outcasts: State Report Card on Child Homelessness, and look at the state by state data at http://www.homelesschildrenamerica.org/
The National Center on Family Homelessness [http://www.familyhomelessness.org/ ] reports that 1 in 50 children in America experience homelessness every year.
- Proficiency rates for homeless children in reading and math are on average 16% lower than the scores for all students.
- Less than one in four homeless children graduates from high school.
- Students who drop out of high school earn on average $200,000 less over their lifetime than high school graduates.
- Approximately 1,166,520 of today's homeless children will not graduate from high school. These children stand to lose over $230 billion in lifetime earnings.
Prayers of Intercession
Response: May we all share eternal life with one another.
For the homeless and the hungry in our recessionary times, we pray....
For the unemployed and underemployed, we pray....
For the two billion people who live on less than two dollars a day, we pray....
For all those who are worried and anxious about their material needs, we pray....
For people caught up in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Congo, Sri Lanka, and all the other places, we pray....
On this World Water Day, for people without access to healthy water and sanitation, we pray.....
For those who have positions of leadership and responsibility in our troubled times, we pray....
For those who generously share their goodness and love in the midst of all the troubles and injustice, we pray....
God of Compassion,
You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.
Expand and deepen our hearts so that we may love as You love,
even those among us who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.
For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance
as we fill up death rows and kill the killers in the name of justice, in the name of peace.
Jesus, our brother, You suffered execution at the hands of the state
but you did no let hatred overcome you.
Help us to reach out to victims of violence
so that our enduring love may help them heal.
Holy Spirit of God, You strengthen us in the struggle for justice.
Help us to work tirelessly for the abolition of stat-sanctioned death
and to renew our society in its very heart so that violence will be no more.
By Helen Prejean, CSJ
(Prayer cards available from The Pax Christi Store at http://www.paxchristiusa.org/ )
O loving God, help us to be masters of the weapons that threaten to master us. Help us to use science for peace and plenty, not for war and destruction. ...Save us from the compulsion to follow our adversaries in all that we most hate, confirming them in their hatred and suspicion of us. Resolve our inner contradictions, which now grow beyond belief and beyond bearing... Grant light, grant strength and patience to all who work for peace; grant us prudence in proportion to our power, wisdom in proportion to our science, humanness in proportion to our wealth and might. And bless our earnest will to help all races and peoples to travel, in friendship with us, along the road to justice, liberty and lasting peace.
Thomas Merton, Non Violent Alternative