social justice

MLK

This holiday weekend always brings me back to my childhood—when we would caravan with two other neighbor families to a cabin on Love Lake for a long weekend. It was sheer childhood magic. Six kids under one roof, several birthday celebrations, pancake assembly lines and murphy beds that tucked into the wall. These visits included jumps into the frozen lake, ice skating time trials, icy moonlit walks, and ghost stories by the fire (The Legend of Sam McGee, every year!).

This is a stark contrast to the way I have had the honor of observing this holiday in the years since then—both equally good.

It’s a little-known fact that Denver hosts the largest Martin Luther King Day parade (‘Marade’) in the country. It is a mix of drum lines, students, choirs, clergy, scout troops, politicians, churches, Black Lives Matter advocates, peace pilgrims and spectators. There are calls for reform as well as a birthday song for MLK. It is diverse, celebratory, sometimes angry, always thought-provoking.

As I imagine the tone of the Marade this year, there are several words that come to mind.  However, I was recently challenged by a compelling article that I read, to veer away from the word ‘hopeless,’ particularly as a person of privilege.  I am working to shelve that adjective, trading it in for ‘discouraged’ or ‘spurred on.’  Particularly as a white woman who has experienced anything but the discrimination so familiar to so many, giving in to hopelessness is a passive form of checking out. This is not an option for an integrated Christian person. It is certainly not the solidarity that we are called to.

Today, as always, the daily readings are ripe with meaning. Mark’s Gospel is using the metaphor of new wine in old wineskins—and the absurdity of it. Why on earth would someone who took the time to make good wine, run the risk of losing it to a burst wineskin? [Insert your own hypothetical question regarding seemingly amicable situation turning sour, here].

There are a multitude of factors giving me pause today as I sit with the day that honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and accomplishments. As we move into a new year, a new presidency and the fresh start that so many are looking for after the endurance race that was 2016,

What am I being called to preserve with integrity?

Whose integrity am I being called to preserve?

Lord, Increase Our Faith!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve encountered many Catholics who have approached me as a seminarian asking for my thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling on Same-Sex “Marriage”. Most of them are looking for a word of consolation. And on my part, I understand. It is disheartening to see the nation that I love and grew up in continue down this dark and evil path of corrupting marriage and the family—all in the name of a counterfeit “love.” But when I talk to these people who come seeking a word of encouragement, I’ve come to realize, left to my own devices, I have no word to offer. The only word I can offer is the Word of God, and that’s big: the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes it can feel we Christians go around adopting a mentality of a sort of “Bad News”: the world is falling apart, sin is taking a deeper hold of our culture and our communities, dysfunction is all around us (and if we are honest, even within us). But of course the simple truth is that “the world” is falling apart, sin is tearing apart that original harmony of God’s created order. The world is the devil’s playground. Not the world as creation, because that is good as we hear in the Scriptures. But the spirit of the world is under the control of the evil one.

But as Christians—that is as bearers of Christ—we are called to proclaim the Good News. And it is times like these we should rejoice, because in the midst of a twisted and deprived generation, we are called to be children of the light, St. Paul says. And while we too are sinners, we have found refuge in the merciful embrace of our Heavenly Father.

At the heart of the Good News is “that God works out all things for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) And the foundation for this truth of our Holy Catholic faith is found in the Cross & Resurrection of Jesus Christ. God drew the greatest good—our salvation, from the greatest evil—man putting the God-Man to death. Love does indeed win so the Cross proclaims. And God continues to draw good from evil. St. Paul says that “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” (Romans 5:20) We must live in a grace filled age, because sin is abundant!

Faith is needed to believe this. But we do not create faith. Faith is a gift from God. We must ask for it.  And faith is at the center of the proclamation of the Good News. “For man believes in his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.” (Romans 10:10) Cultivating faith is at the heart of evangelization. What miracles Jesus was able to do with people of faith. And he was amazed by other’s lack of faith. If we are going to be missionary disciples, as Pope Francis keeps calling us to be, if we are going to be missionaries of joy, than we must lead our evangelization efforts with this proclamation, first being people of deep faith, and then collaborating with the Holy Spirit in inspiring the gift of faith in those around us.

All of us need to ask the Lord for more faith. We can never have enough. We must beg for faith. And I mean beg! Whenever we begin to become discouraged, to complain or whine, we must cry out for the gift of faith! I think we can learn a little from children when it comes to begging for faith, because so often, as adults, begging is seen as inappropriate for an adult. Think of how a child can throw a tantrum for some candy at the store. The child screams, and cries, demanding to get what it wants. Now this image, when translated to our spiritual lives can only go so far: but perhaps we should throw a tantrum in our payers, making a ruckus as we cry out to the Lord for faith.

As a priest friend of mine preached recently on this SCOTUS ruling:

At the end of the day, God is love. As our loves are truly ordered to him, we enter into the life and love of God. There is happiness. There is joy. There we come fully alive. To borrow a slogan from the last few weeks: ‘Love wins’, yes; but, only if it is God’s love.

Lord, we believe you are love, and have truly already won the victory: Increase our faith, that we might be bearers of the Good News!

What Are You Going to do About it?

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” -Edmund Burke

 

The importance of knowing your place in history is no secret. Auschwitz and other concentration camps from the Nazi regime have been preserved and turned into museums precisely for this reason. It is (almost) universally acknowledged that what happened in Nazi concentration camps was horrific, inhumane, and should be prevented from ever happening again. Walking through Auschwitz just over a week ago, I saw prisoners’ quarters, starvation chambers, gas chambers, and walked the path from the train station to the gas chamber which anyone considered unfit for work would have walked. There is no doubt the gravity of the history in these places has an effect on anyone who visits, but as I walked out, I wasn’t overwhelmed with the horror or the sadness of it, as I had expected to be. Instead, there was a question plaguing me.

What are you going to do about it?

 Notice the question was not What would you have done? or What should have been done? but What are you going to do about it?

 Obviously, I can’t do anything about the horrors that happened at Auschwitz, or any of the Nazi concentration camps at this point, I can’t turn back time. But as we look around today, how often do we see things that are manifestations of similar attitudes, of a similar disrespect for the sanctity of life? How often are the religious in a community seen as a threat, or an undermining of state power? How often are children seen as a nuisance, or as people who haven’t earned enough to be worth anything? How often are pregnant women seen as those who have chosen to stop contributing to society in favor of contributing to overpopulation? How often are the elderly treated as living waste? And most importantly, how often do we let these attitudes fester in the minds of the people around us?

What are you going to do about it?

These attitudes are often pushed aside as major concerns in favor of evangelization, assuming that once people know Christ, they will accept the doctrines against abortion and euthanasia. There is no doubt that grace plays a huge role in helping a person come to understand counter-cultural teachings, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t responsible for speaking the truth on these issues. In some cases, life-issues are a road-block to someone’s acceptance of Christ. In others, someone who has had a life-changing encounter with Christ still doesn’t understand these teachings, and still needs someone to explain it to them.

What are you going to do about it?

 I have come up with a few answers for myself, but here are some things I think we should all seriously consider important tasks, if not responsibilities, when it comes to life issues in modern society.

1)   Pray for an end to abortion, euthanasia, mass murder, and an increase in the respect for life. Prayer is an incredibly powerful spiritual tool. Let us not waste it.

2)   Educate yourself. People have questions. People often have misconceptions about what the Church actually teaches. Be the person who can shed light on the situation. Evangelium Vitae is a great resource for this.

3)   Realize, you are your brothers keeper. Cain got this one wrong. We are responsible for the sanctity of life. We will have to answer for all the times when we drop the ball. This is worth addressing in detail, and perhaps will one day become it's own post, but for now check out Evangelium Vitae for a discussion on the idea.

4)   Do not be afraid. The King of Heaven and earth is on your side.

It is also worth considering, that while these are tasks we all must do, some of us may be called to dedicate more of our time to the defense of life and the eradication of attitudes in opposition to it. Defending a culture of life is an incredible way to give glory to God, and to pave a path for more people to find and love Him.

We have a hard road ahead of us, but this is no reason to stop asking ourselves what we are going to do about the injustices of the world. If we let these attitudes continue to fester, we will find ourselves moving closer and closer to the next Auschwitz. And so I now ask you, What are you going to do about it?