Archive for Social Justice

Good Friday: A Call to Abolish Capital Punishment

Posted in Evangelii Gaudium, Lent, Pope Francis, Scripture, Social Justice with tags , , , , , , , , on April 3, 2015 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

death-penaltyThe following is the full text of the homily that was delivered at St. Anthony Shrine and Ministry Center in Downtown Boston on Good Friday April 3, 2015.

[Sung]

Where you there when they Crucified my Lord?
Where you there when they Crucified my Lord?
Oh, OOOoohh, Sometimes it causes me to Tremble, Tremble, Tremble.
Where you there when they Crucified my Lord?

Where you there when they Crucified Cecil Clayton?
Where you there when they Crucified Manuel Vasquez?
Oh, OOOoohh, always, it should cause us to Tremble, Tremble, Tremble.
Where you there when they Crucified Walter Storey?

[Spoken]

Or Donald Newbury, or Robert Ladd, or Warren Hill, or Arnold Prieto, or Charles Warner, or Johnny Kormondy, or Andrew Brannan?

These are the names of the ten human beings that the Government by the people, of the people, and for the people in this country have executed in several states just since the beginning of January of this year.

What we commemorate this afternoon is a state execution, the death of a man that was viewed as a threat to those in religious and civil authority, a man who was executed by the romans for what was considered “the fomenting of insurrection.”  We just heard the proceedings and we recognize the charge.

While we may honestly say that we were not “there,” when they crucified our Lord, we have to ask ourselves on this day when torture, capital punishment, and the death of innocents is front and center – Does the perpetuation of the injustice of the death penalty in our country cause us to tremble, tremble, tremble?

It Should!

Yes, it’s true, you and I are fortunate to live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a state in the US that has, since October 18, 1984, banned the death penalty.  But just down the street at the federal court house in this city, a trial is underway that is moving toward a sentencing phase in which the US government – in your name and mine – will seek to take yet another human life.

If on this Good Friday, you aren’t thinking about Cecil Clayton or, at least, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, then you’re missing a big part of the picture.

One of the big temptations of Good Friday is to confuse “feeling sorry or sorrowful” with “feeling sorry for oneself!”  This, for example, is what the film “The Passion of the Christ” so often perpetuates. It was drawn not from good scriptural exegesis or sound theology, but from the gruesome visions of a German nun, whose written idea of what happened on Calvary is what the director primarily used in that film.

The effects of that film, and if you’ve seen it you know, is to play on the emotions that arise from watching obscene torture that makes the films of Quentin Tarantino look like Disney; to make individuals feel horrified and bad.

This is not what today is about!  This is not why Jesus was executed!

Taking today as an opportunity to dwell on “how bad we are” such that we stay in the realm of “feeling sorry for ourselves” is not the point.  Instead, yes, we should – today and always – reflect on how we need to repent for the wrong we’ve done and the right we have failed to do, but then we are, like Jesus after falling for the first, second, and third times, called by God to get up and move forward!

Pope Francis has talked a lot about Good Friday and the Death Penalty during his admittedly short, but powerful, term as Bishop of Rome.  In terms of Good Friday, he has asked us in his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, whether or not we are “Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter.”  Whether we, in other words, use this time of penance, prayer, and conversion to “feel sorry for ourselves,” to go around mopey or gloomy, to be a burden for others; or whether we move toward the joy of Easter, the joy which proclaims that indeed death and sin do not have the last word

In terms of capital punishment, the Holy Father actually today includes a reflection on the injustice of the death penalty in his own Good Friday meditations on the Stations of the Cross – he calls us to work toward ending this evil in our world. It is no accident that he also spent last evening celebrating the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper with prisoners and washing their feet.

Two weeks ago while meeting with a delegation of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, Pope Francis said that, “capital punishment is cruel, inhumane and degrading, and that it does not bring justice to the victims, but only foments revenge.”

Indeed, you and I, as we follow the Lord along the Way of the Cross, bearing witness to the State Execution of the Word-Made-Flesh, should ask ourselves: What good does the Death Penalty Do???

Seriously, what good does it accomplish?  What grace, what healing, what contribution to human flourishing does it bring about???

It only brings about more evil.  The murder of someone is always still murder – to deliberately take another human life is always wrong, no matter who pulls the trigger or pushes the poison in the syringe.

Similarly, Pope Francis said that, “the death penalty is an affront to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of the human person, it contradicts God’s plan for humankind and society and God’s merciful justice.”

Many Christians fancy themselves as being “Pro-Life,” by which they typically mean that they are “anti-abortion.”  Many of these same Christians claim that the difference between abortion and capital punishment is “innocence.”  The unborn somehow have an innocent human life, but the inmate on death row has some other kind of life.

But the Gospel and Christ make it clear, all human life is innocent!  To say that we have inherent dignity and value as created and loved into existence by God means that there is nothing that can take that away from us.  As Sr. Helen Prejean, the death penalty activist and author of Dead Man Walking, frequently says: “We are all more than the worst things we’ve done!”

This does not excuse horrendous and tragic behaviors, crimes, and actions – no, those things certainly merit punishment.  But to say that a woman or man convicted of a crime has somehow lost their right to live is to take God’s judgment into our own hands.

Yesterday was the birthday of the late Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Joseph Bernadin, who was a tireless voice for the Christian prolife movement – he advocated for what is called the “seamless garment” doctrine, which means that you cannot pick and choose which human lives you think are valuable or sacred.

If you are against abortion, then you must be against capital punishment, you must be against euthanasia, you must be against systems of racial injustice, systems that perpetuate poverty, systems of discrimination, anything that threatens the dignity and value of all human life!

Pope Francis has said that, “All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty.”

On this day when we gather to recall the death of the Lord, his being tortured and executed, let us think of and pray for those who are being tortured and executed in our own day.  In a special way, let us begin again in the hope of the resurrection to be Christian women and men who work to overturn injustice, who tell our civil leaders that it is not ok to kill, who stand up for dignity of all lives.  Let us break away from any temptation to just feel sorry for ourselves, but instead repent and believe in the Gospel – recommitting ourselves to go out into the world and work for justice!

And let us not forget the names of those who will be put to death on our behalf, for we in fact were and are there when they were crucified, and this should cause us to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Photo: File

Pope Francis, Christianity, and Marxism

Posted in Pope Francis, Social Justice, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on June 26, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

77cb7cd5eWell, it’s been a rather long break on my end, but I’m back after a month off. It hasn’t really been a true break given that, rather than enjoying a vacation as such, I’ve been on the road a lot for academic conferences, Provincial Chapter, board meetings, and speaking engagements, which was the primary reason for the radio silence from the DatingGod.org blog. Thanks to all who have patiently waited and thanks to those who have expressed their support and desire for the return of posting — your wish has come true today.

Ever since Pope Francis was elected Bishop of Rome in the Spring of 2013 his actions and words have captured the attention of millions. Most seem to be struck by the genuine humanity of this man whose primary concern seems to be rooted in the Gospel call to care for those women and men most at the margins: the poor, the disenfranchised, the ill, the disabled, the sexual minorities, and so on.

Yet, in the spirit of Dorothy Day’s prophetic insight — “when I feed the hungry, they call me a saint; when I ask why people are hungry, they call me a communist” — Pope Francis has been labeled a communist by various self-styled “right-wing” commentators. The role call of accusers is pretty familiar, including the usual suspects Limbaugh and Beck. However, this week a new voice has entered the mix, a voice that has a far-more-respected reputation: The Economist magazine.

The blogger over at The Economist takes this misguided discourse to a new level, suggesting that: “By positing a link between capitalism and war, he seems to be taking an ultra-radical line: one that consciously or unconsciously follows Vladimir Lenin in his diagnosis of capitalism and imperialism as the main reason why world war broke out a century ago.”

Pope Francis is certainly not the first to make this connection. In fact, I was thinking about former US President and 5-Star General Dwight Eisenhower’s famous admonition to the United States and world about the “military-industrial complex,” which itself presupposes the intrinsic link between military action (war) and industrial/market interests (capitalism). I think many would be hard pressed to caricature Eisenhower as a communist or “one that consciously or unconsciously follows Vladimir Lenin.”  But that is a digression.

My real interest here is in part to disabuse those who think that “Marxism,” a term thrown around without much actual study or background by most parties already named, is somehow a bad thing. Those who think it is an actual reality are first and foremost disillusioned.  It is fair to talk about the historical reality of communist governments, the USSR, for example. However, Marxism is a political philosophy that bears the name of Karl Marx and is likewise tied to a number of other thinkers too.

Some have suggested that “Marxism” (I am using the scare quotes deliberately to suggest the accusatory styling of the term as opposed to the un-quoted, which references the political philosophy) is an evil that is antithetical to Christianity. This is not exactly true. While it is correct that certain strains of Marxist philosophy are represented by self-professed atheists, the principles are what is important to appreciate. Many of these principles, concern for the oppressed, the social structures of sin, the increasing gap between rich and poor, the condition of labor, and so forth, are all deeply Christian at their core.

Pope Francis is neither “Marxist” nor Marxist. He is not a political philosopher nor an economist nor an anarchist. He is, true and true, a Christian and to be a Christian, to take seriously the Gospel, means to hold the views that he expresses and demonstrates. Period.

I am not at all surprised about the backlash Pope Francis has received. The Bishop of Rome is, after all, following in the footprints of Jesus Christ who also received a backlash for pointing out injustices and announcing the Reign of God that sought a different reality for the poor and oppressed — that backlash ended with a crucifixion. Anyone who bears the name “Christ” as a Christian, anyone who is baptized should likewise find herself or himself in Pope Francis’s position. Imagine that, imagine if we all took our baptismal vocations seriously and had to face the criticism of those who either benefit or seek to benefit from the unjust structures of wealth and power.

I suppose that is, in part, what Jesus meant when he told us that we need to pick up our crosses daily and follow him. There are a lot of people standing around with crosses still lying on the ground.

It’s powerful and refreshing to see that at least the Pope has picked up his.

UPDATE: Correction: the quote attributed to Dorothy Day above should be attributed to the late prelate, Dom Helder Camara.

Photo: The Atlantic

Time, Hospitality, and Eucharist: The Road to Emmaus

Posted in Easter, Homilies, Scripture, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 4, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERALast week’s Gospel featuring the so-called “doubting” Thomas, one of the Twelve also called Didymus, tends to draw most attention to the individual struggle of belief experienced by one disciple. Many, with good reason, take the opportunity to reflect on how they struggle with their own belief in the Risen Christ, in the Scripture, in the witness of the other disciples. Yet, one of the things that is often overlooked is the dynamic at play when Thomas does believe. The good news, the Gospel, here is that Jesus meets Thomas in his unbelief, always already present after the Resurrection. But how and where is he present? Have you ever noticed?

Jesus doesn’t just appear to Thomas for Thomas’s sake, alone as if to offer the individual special treatment. Rather, Jesus appears to Thomas one week later again in the midst of assembled community. A community traumatized by the execution of Jesus Christ, a community also confused and uncertain of what’s to come. Thomas comes to believe when joined to the rest of the community of faith, in communion with those who, in spite of their doubts and fears and struggles and weaknesses (let’s not forget “Denying Peter” is there as much as “Doubting Thomas”) they come to call to mind who Jesus is and what God has revealed to them.

The location of belief, the where Christ is made present after the Resurrection is seen in last week’s Gospel, and this week’s Gospel begins to reveal more to us about what it means to encounter the Risen Lord after his life, death, and resurrection. Here I want to reflect on only three of the many themes that come out of this incredibly powerful Gospel pericope: Time, Hospitality, and Eucharist.

Time

One of the most interesting things about the Gospel passage this week from Luke’s Gospel is the time in which the narrative is set. This is the day of the Resurrection, it has just been reported that morning and the two disciples traveling out of town are still pondering the meaning and the credibility of the accounts reported to them, first by the women — the earliest witnesses of the Resurrection — and then some of the Twelve.

This is a time of confusion, uncertainty, unexpectedness, doubt. It is a liminal time, placed between the experience of knowing Jesus as one knows another person in this life, and something else, a new way of coming to know Jesus — but how?

The time is our time as much as it is the disciples’ time early in those first days. One of the things that is revealed in the other dimensions of this narrative of encounter is that knowing the Risen Lord is for the disciples on the afternoon of the Resurrection the same as it is for us today.

We share this time with earliest believers. It is a new time, but it is not yet the end time.

Hospitality

The disciples only come to recognize the Risen Lord among them in the hospitality of welcoming a stranger into their midst. Today, perhaps more than ever, welcoming the stranger, welcoming the other, welcoming the unknown, welcoming what we don’t understand, welcoming the one of who we are afraid — this is not easy. So many barriers are easily placed between us and others: technology, money, status, social location, and the like. We tell ourselves comforting stories about why we should or shouldn’t welcome this or that person, pay attention or be concerned with another, be justified or entitled to fear or despise another, but the journey on the Road to Emmaus tells us something very different.

It is in welcoming the stranger that what could not be understood among those of like-mindedness becomes clarified in the encounter with another. The stranger, not yet recognized as Christ, is the one who is able to help make sense of these disciples’ lives and provide meaning to their faith. It is in meeting the stranger, in listening, and in sharing a meal in hospitality that the Risen Lord is encountered after the Resurrection.

Like St. Francis who encountered Christ in embracing the leper on a road outside Assisi, the disciples encounter Christ in the welcoming of a stranger and, likewise, we encounter Christ in the other when we, like these two believers, open our hearts to the experience of relationship with those we encounter on our own journeys — especially those we may not wish to encounter.

Eucharist

Like Thomas last week, these disciples do not encounter the Risen Lord alone. The setting is very clear, it is a setting that we celebrate each week when we gather as a community of believers, bringing out weaknesses and our doubts and our uncertainties, along with our hopes and needs and thanksgiving, to the celebration of the Eucharist.

The two disciples on the road journey together and welcome another, that small community then of “two or three” share the Word of God in the Scriptures, which enlivens their hearts like a fire within, and finally move to enter into communion with each other in the presentation, blessing, breaking, and sharing of the bread. Here is where the disciples realize what it all means. It might even have been the only time that week they understood.

What happens at the end is telling, and I don’t just mean the beautiful line about what is reported to the other disciples about “recognizing him in the breaking of the bread.” I mean the fact that they ran to report what they had experiencedThe celebration of the Eucharist is not an isolated event or a one-off experience. Instead, it is something that calls us together at a given time and with a concrete spirit of hospitality, and then drives us out into the world by the Spirit to proclaim what we’ve experienced in the community, in the Word, and in the breaking of the bread: the Risen Lord.

Eucharist, that liturgy of thanksgiving and grace, is where we encounter the Risen Lord most completely, which has been the case from the afternoon of the Resurrection to today and through the end time. It is not about “me” or “you” or “doubting Thomas.” But it is about the gathering together of those who have been touched by the encounter with Christ and seek to continue to make sense of what has happened and what is happening. We come to make sense of all of this in the breaking of the bread, but not in that alone, in the breaking open of the Word, and in the hospitality of the gathered community in this time.

Image: James B. Janknegt

FMS World Care Annual Benefit and Celebration

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality with tags , , , , , on March 21, 2014 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

FMS_Image2014Every Spring, Franciscan Mission Service (FMS), a wonderful organization that provides training and support for lay missioners who serve from two to six years in various Franciscan placements around the world — e.g., Bolivia, South Africa, Zambia, and Kenya — hosts a fundraiser and celebration. The World Care annual benefit and celebration takes place in Washington, DC, and is set this year for 7:00pm on Friday April 11, 2014. Each year FMS honors a person who has demonstrated leadership in social justice, global transformation, and modeled the priorities of FMS. This year the honoree is Jack Jezreel, the founder of JustFaith Ministries. FMS also invites a keynote speaker to offer a reflection on the theme of that year’s event. The theme happens to be “Profoundly Changed: New Disciples for Peace, Justice, and Hope,” and the speaker is me.

It is an honor to be invited to be the keynote speaker at this event and humbling given the tremendous good work that FMS does at home and abroad. For those in the Washington, DC, area, I encourage you to consider coming to the benefit and celebration on April 11 or help out FMS in any way you are able. You can visit the website via the links above to learn more.

Saint Francis, Pope Francis, and The Gospel

Posted in Franciscan Spirituality, Pope Francis, Scripture, Social Justice with tags , , , , , , on September 22, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Italy Vatican Pope

I think it’s fair to say that today’s off-script remarks in Cagliari, Sardinia, represents one of the most “Franciscan” actions of his pontificate so far. Reuters reports:

Francis, at the start of a day-long trip to the Sardinian capital, Cagliari, put aside his prepared text at a meeting with unemployed workers, including miners in hard hats who told him of their situation, and improvised for nearly 20 minutes.

“I find suffering here … It weakens you and robs you of hope,” he said. “Excuse me if I use strong words, but where there is no work there is no dignity.”

He discarded his prepared speech after listening to Francesco Mattana, a 45-year-old married father of three who lost his job with an alternative energy company four years ago.

What makes this so Franciscan? Well, it has to do with the overlap of Pope Francis’s understanding about the Gospel notion of the dignity and value of the human person, his critique of current systems of economic degradation, and the Gospel readings for this Sunday.

Saint Francis’s preaching and way of life (i.e., his “deeds”) centered on a response to the emerging money economy of his medieval time. Already in the 13th Century Francis saw what has become so extreme today: the valuation of human persons — their time, their talents, their lives — in terms of wealth and money. He knew that this was not God’s intention, but something insidious that was capturing the imaginations and speaking to the greedy hearts of his contemporaries. If only he knew how bad things would get eight-hundred-years later!

Later in the day, Pope Francis spoke during Mass, echoing the prescient words of the medieval saint after whom the modern pontiff took his name:

“We don’t want this globalised economic system which does us so much harm. Men and women have to be at the centre (of an economic system) as God wants, not money.”

“The world has become an idolator of this god called money,” he said.

How timely this critique and call to action really is today! In all three of our readings for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary time we hear proclaimed the Wisdom of God in indicting and challenging ways.

The first reading, from the Book of the Prophet Amos — one of the twelve minor prophets in Hebrew Scriptures best known for scathing critique of social injustice — decries those in authority who exercise their power in such a way as the benefit at the expense of the least among the community.

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy
and destroy the poor of the land!
“When will the new moon be over,” you ask,
“that we may sell our grain,
and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?
We will diminish the ephah,
add to the shekel,
and fix our scales for cheating!
We will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals;
even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Never will I forget a thing they have done!
(Amos 8: 4-7)

The ancient prophet’s words really speak for themselves. They traverse the divide of time, space, and culture to strike at the ears and hearts of women and men in our day — but do we listen? Do we take this seriously?

The Second Reading from the First Letter to Timothy is significant for at least two reasons. First, prayers are requested for the conversion of the “kings and all in authority” so that they might prioritize prayer, tranquility, peace, and justice over their other preoccupations — presumably with power. Second, there is the affirmation that God desires “everyone be saved” and that Christ Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all.” This is striking especially for those who want to form an “elite” church and vision of salvation. That is not God’s plan, that is a human misrepresentation and distortion that reflects selfishness and exclusivity unknown in the Gospel.

Finally, today’s Gospel summarizes the major theme of the Christian life this weekend with the line: “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” Or, for those who aren’t familiar with that term, put more simply: You cannot serve both God and money!

How do we orient our lives? Do we prioritize our own wealth and live according to the norms of a capitalistic culture that values human beings according to dollar signs and the accumulation of material goods? Or do we, hearing the cry of the poor (Psalm 34) through the proclamation of the Gospel in the exhortation of Pope Francis and in the example of Saint Francis, live following in the footprints of Christ Jesus in working for a just world?

Photo: Wire

Jesus Was Not Such A ‘Nice Guy’

Posted in Homilies, Scripture, Social Justice, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

jesus-painting_1280_x_1024Jesus was not such a “nice guy.”

This might be difficult to accept at first glance, because the image of Jesus we have today has been so sanitized and packaged as to make wearing a precious-metal cross around one’s neck or identifying oneself as a Christian in public is not a particularly uncommon (nor unpopular) thing to do today, especially in places like the United States. But who is this Jesus that is so immediately attractive, so easy to follow, so much like our own imagining? And, then, who is this Jesus that we hear about in today’s Gospel, who claims to have come to bring division rather than the establishment of peace (Luke 12: 49-53)?

There are at least two reasons we might understand that Jesus was not entirely a “nice guy.” The first is that the Romans, despite anachronistic misunderstandings of their behavior and outlook, did not typically go around crucifying “nice guys.” Yes, while Jesus was without a doubt an innocent man who happened to be crucified, we should not forget that there was a reason that he drew attention to himself and it wasn’t for saying kind things about the way the status quo was maintained. More on that in a second.

The second reason that we can reasonably assume Jesus was not such a “nice guy” is that he tells us as much in today’s Gospel selection from Luke (and we hear it echoed in the synoptic Gospel of Matthew with an even-more disturbing emphasis on not-nice-guyness in terms of Jesus’s claim to bring “the sword”).

It can be difficult to get beyond the seemingly violent message that Jesus appears to convey in his exhortation to his disciples. We might hear in Jesus’s admittance that he didn’t come to “establish peace on the earth” something of an advocation for violence. But that’s not really what is going on.

Likewise, it might seem that Jesus does not respect “family values” (isn’t that an interesting read) in suggesting that those who follow him and live life according the Good News he announces will find themselves among divided families and communities. But that’s not really what is going on.

What is going on is a straightforward, albeit counterintuitive, admission of the risk, challenge, and reality of authentic Christian living that centers on following the Word of God and becoming a prophetic in one’s time and place!

In other words, we are called, like Jesus was, to not be “nice guys” (and “gals,” for those who aren’t Millennials and use “guys” in an inclusive manner).

Jesus did indeed come to bring peace, but it was — as we hear elsewhere in Sacred Scripture — a “peace the world cannot give” (John 14:27). The peace that Jesus is talking about here, the “peace” that he did not come to establish, is the kind of peace that we might talk about when we express a desire to maintain the status quo or wish “not to ‘rock the boat.'” It is a kind of “keeping the peace” that eschews “tough love,” or a “challenging voice,” or the “hard truth.” It is a kind of “establishing a peace” that exists according to the wisdom of the world and not the foolishness of God, and rests in the reason of human injustice and not within the Reign of God.

Jesus was crucified, in part, because he did not come to preach a word that kept things the way they were, but instead was sent to proclaim the in-breaking of God’s Reign, which is about the establishment of justice and not the earthly status quo of injustice and violence. In other words, Jesus was not sent to be a “nice guy,” because nice guys don’t rock the boat nor do they upset people by challenging the way things are. And, oh, how Jesus upset certain people who had so much to lose because they had gained all — power, wealth, status, etc. — at the expense of others!

As those who bear the name of Christ and claim to be his disciples, we are called to not be “nice guys” like him. We are not to keep the peace of things as they are, but to open our eyes to the plight of the poor and forgotten, the underserved and abused, the marginalized and those suffering at the hands of others’ greed. And this might mean that we face divided families and communities, unsettling those who are not able or willing to hear the Gospel.

This is not an entirely new concept. It dates back to the Hebrew Prophets, such as Jeremiah, who we hear about in our First Reading. Jeremiah, a reluctant prophet who at first resisted God’s call to preach the truth of God’s justice and peace, is threatened with death by the king. His proclaiming the truth of the world as it really is in contradistinction to the way God intended the world to be is a threat to those in power, who benefit from the oppression of others and the maintaining of the status quo.

Like Jeremiah, we too might be reluctant to take on this mission, but like him and Jesus we have been called by God to do just that, to surrender our desire to be “nice guys” who “keep the peace” of the way things are. Instead, we are meant — by virtue of our baptismal vocation — to preach the Kingdom of God in word and deed, risking greatly.

But how can we do this?

It is certainly not easy, which is why in our Second Reading the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us of the “Great Cloud of Witnesses” we have to provide models and guides for us. This is a way of talking about the Communion of Saints, those who have gone before us and remain connected to us in spirit. They support us as we continue to persevere and “run the race” of Christian living, a marathon to be sure, a journey that is tiring but one that is the most authentic way of being ourselves.

The question we are left with this weekend is to discern what it means to be a Christian. Do we take the risk of being the prophet who speaks the hard truth and does the right thing, or do we prefer to not “rock the boat” and establish an earthly peace that maintains the status quo of violence and injustice?

Photo: Stock

Pope Francis and a Powerful ‘Way of the Cross’

Posted in Lent, Pope Francis, Prayer, Social Justice, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 29, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Easter Weekend 019Today Pope Francis will lead the annual “Way of the Cross” service in the Colosseum in Rome. As an interesting aside, it was Franciscan friars that popularized the devotional series of meditations known as the “Way of the Cross” in its earliest years because of the in ability of pilgrims to make a physical trip to the Holy Land during the shameful and devastating years of the crusades. Walking the “Way of the Cross” in one’s local church allowed Christians to enter into the experience through imagination, meditation, and prayer. Traditionally, each station included the (real) prayer of St. Francis, also known as St. Francis’s prayer before the crucifix:

We adore You, Most Holy Lord,
Here and in all of your churches throughout the world,
And we bless You, Because by Your Holy Cross
You have redeemed the world.

Since the first versions of the “Way of the Cross” devotions there have been a variety of approaches to the series of meditations that focus on how the prayerful reflection on the Passion of Christ might apply to our times and places. For example, the Maryknoll is sponsoring an “Economic and Ecological Way of the Cross” today in Washington, DC. Others have focused the meditations on the condemnation and suffering of Christ in terms of the violence and suffering of our world today or other injustices that might persist.

This year’s Vatican-sponsored “Way of the Cross” is very social-justice oriented. The meditations and prayers feature reflections on injustices in our world, the recognition of our complicity in systems and acts of injustice, and the hope that we might work for justice and peace with God’s grace. The stations include reflections on today’s tyranny, the suffering of families, homelessness, poverty, the indignity many women experience, the problems of drugs and gangs, and so many other themes. These are well worth reflection and perfect for those looking for something to pray with on this Good Friday.

Station I: Jesus is Condemned to Death

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark 15:12-13, 15

Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man whom you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

From Pilate, the man with power, Jesus ought to have obtained justice. Pilate did indeed have the power to recognize Jesus’ innocence and free him. But the Roman Governor preferred to serve the logic of his personal interests and he yielded to political and social pressures. He condemned an innocent man in order to please the crowd, without satisfying truth. He handed Jesus over to the torment of the Cross, knowing that he was innocent … and then he washed his hands.

In today’s world, there are many “Pilates” who keep their hands on the levers of power and make use of them in order to serve the strongest. There are many who are weak and cowardly before the spectre of power, and mortgage their authority to the service of injustice, trampling upon man’s dignity and his right to life.

Lord Jesus,
do not allow us
to be among those who act unjustly.
Do not allow the strong
to take pleasure in evil,
injustice and tyranny.
Do not allow injustice
to condemn the innocent
to despair and death.
Confirm them in hope
and illumine the consciences
of those with authority in this world,
that they may govern with justice.
Amen.

Read the rest of the “Way of the Cross” Meditations here

Photo: File
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 863 other followers

%d bloggers like this: