of good and evil

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The problem of evil remains one of faith’s greatest mysteries. If God is so loving, why, OH WHY does so much evil exist? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do horrible people reap benefits while others suffer?

In today’s gospel reading, a leper came to Jesus asking to be cured. “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus, moved with pity, healed him. (Mark 1).

How many humble prayers are raised each day? Prayers for healing. Prayers for peace. Prayers for good to overcome the darkness and uncertainty that overwhelms our lives.

“God, I know you can…if you wish…please make it so!”

And yet, our prayers remain unanswered. Bad things keep happening to good people while the truly rotten thrive. We try to be people of faith, but our faith is tested over and over. Words that comforted us in the past now sound like empty, pious platitudes. All we see is the evil before us.

Life is not fair.

The world is heading to hell in a hand basket.

As each year ends, justice and peace seem more unattainable.

And yet…

There are glimmers of hope around the world. Pockets of resistance are morphing into national and global movements. Women are rising together against violence, inequality and sexual abuse. The young and the old are filling the streets, raising their voices against unjust leaders and governments. There is a renewed urgency for peace.

Evil has always been, but so has goodness. In the midst of the darkest times, brave women and men have risen to speak truth to power. They know what they “wish”, and they aren’t going to sit back and wait for someone to make it happen. Moved with pity, they are determined to make it so.

And, so we pray.

And, so we do.

 

 

 

love of law vs law of love

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“To do your will, O my God, is my delight, and your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40

When I was growing up, being a catholic meant following all the laws of the church. These laws were presented as black and white directives. Our faithfulness as catholics was measured by our faithfulness to these laws. Here are some examples:

  • obligatory Mass attendance
  • obligatory head coverings for women and girls in church
  • obligatory confession before receiving communion
  • obligatory fasting before receiving communion
  • avoidance of all things Protestant, including bibles, books, services, spouses, friends
  • no eating meat on Fridays

An obsessiveness with the law often lead to strange debates. What constituted a head covering? Can a kleenex replace a hat? How late can one come to Mass and still observe their obligation? How early can you leave? Is taking medicine before Mass breaking the fast?

The ever present threat of mortal sin fed our obsessiveness. If we died in the state of mortal sin, we were told, we would face an eternity of hell fire. Fire hurts. It hurts like hell! Avoiding such horrendous punishment became the goal of every good catholic.

And yet, even as a child, I couldn’t understand how missing Sunday Mass was on the same moral footing as murder. Since both were considered a mortal sin, either could send your soul to hell. Really? Would missing Mass put me on the same fast track to damnation as, say, an Adolph Hitler?

Perhaps it’s because of this illogical equating of man-made laws with God’s laws that many of these laws eventually fell to the wayside. The greatest gift of the Second Vatican Council was to sieve through the detritus of rules and regulations in order to focus on faith as a living organism. Being a catholic became less about following rules and more about relationship; with God, with each other and with the world.

Love of Law vs Law of Love

Jesus wasn’t a fan of pharisees who put their love of the law before love of those they served. Despite Jesus’s own admonitions, pharisaical obsession with laws continues in our church today, and is perhaps the greatest cause of division.

For example;

Our liturgy is meant to be the “source and summit” of the church’s prayer life. Instead of focusing on prayer, some liturgists spend time and energy fighting over correct words and actions. Instead of celebrating cultural and linguistic diversity, battles are fought over worship styles, vestments, music, and church decor.

Another example;

Our belief in the dignity of life from conception to the grave has been co-opted into a single-issue culture war by extreme pro-life advocates. They judge politicians and political parties solely on their stance for or against abortion rights. They fight to deny free and easy access to birth control (which is proven to reduce abortions) in the name of religious freedom.

These same pro-life voices are often strangely silent when it comes to promoting universal health care, welcoming refugees and immigrants, guaranteeing living wages, assisting low income families and other social justice issues.

Obsessive adherence to or promotion of laws should never trump the basic law of love.We are blessed with a pope who never tires of preaching about love as the most basic core of our faith. Loving God must translate into human love, or it is meaningless. Love means we care for each other. Love means we work for justice, equality and peace for all. Love means we fight for laws that ensure basic human rights for everyone.

The law of love is so simple. It doesn’t require extensive discernment or study. All that is needed is a touch of empathy…

Do unto others

as you would have them

do unto you.

 

 

a Marianist experience of global vocation realities

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This is a photo of the World Council of the Marianist Family (WCMF) taken at last November’s meeting in Rome. The members represent the leadership teams from the four different vocations in the Marianist Family: Marianist Lay Communities (MLC), the Society of Mary (priest and religious brothers), the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (religious sisters) and the Alliance Mariale (a secular order of consecrated women).

In my two terms on the MLC leadership team, I attended nine WCMF meetings. We gather as equals around the table sharing the current blessings and challenges of each of our branches around the world. In these conversations, I learned much about the global reality of the church, and the global reality of religious vocations. I wrote about this in my latest Prairie Messenger article, for a special issue on Vocations…

In my Marianist work and travels I have made many friends with sisters, brothers and priests of all ages and from all corners of the world. The ones who stand out are those who are, indeed, attractive witnesses. They dare to live differently in the world but not as strange otherworldly creatures that stand above or apart from others. Hierarchical mindsets and self-appointed exclusivity may be attractive to some, but not for most Catholics today.

The attractive witnesses, for me, are the religious women and men who embrace the joys and trials of community life for it keeps them grounded in their humanity. Collaboration with the laity is assumed and comes naturally, because the only way to be church is to be church together. They do not seek special status or privilege for they know that holiness and wisdom are not automatically conferred with vows or sacramental oils. Their holiness comes from their wholeness. Read more…..

On the first Friday of each month, the Marianist Family is called to pray the Magnificat for a specific social justice issue or project. This month we are united in prayerful support with the newest project of our Marianist Sisters in India. To fully appreciate the magnitude of this project, you have to realize that the Sisters are small in number (with only a handful of members in India), but truly audacious in faith!

Singhpur, is located in a poor rural area of northern India near Ranchi. The Marianist sisters there were aware of rising rates of infant and maternal mortality in childbirth, diseases and infections that could be easily treated if there was a local medical clinic. Through the support of Accion Marianista, the Marianist Sisters, and the Italian bishop’s conference, such a clinic became a reality.

The clinic serves 28 villages and 900 students of the Chaminade School sponsored by the Marianist brothers. Currently a doctor, nurse, laboratory technician, and two nuns work in the clinic. On the day the clinic opened, November 25, 2013, it served more than 90 people. Adult patients are asked to pay a nominal fee and students of Chaminade School receive free medical service. (From the Friday Magnificat, May 2, 2014)

Here is a video put together by Accion Marianista, a Marianist sponsored NGO and supporter of the project.