ADVENT 2014: Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Dec. 21

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by Rev. Joseph Nangle, ofm

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16 | Romans 16:25-27 | Luke 1:26-38

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall
name him Jesus … God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his reign there will be no end. (Lk 1:31-33)

The Annunciation story in today’s Gospel reminds us again of God’s preferential option for the poor. An obscure village in an occupied country — far from the centers of 1st Century Roman imperialism — and a young unmarried woman provide the setting and the principal actor for the greatest event in human history. Liberation will come not from the great and powerful ones of the earth but through a poor Jewish girl and her Son whose “reign will have no end”.

So it is twenty centuries later that people of the Gospel and many others of great good will cling to this same vision: economic and racial justice must finally emerge from “below”, from the “little ones”, in particular, from those whose rights are denied. And if the privileged of the world wish to join the struggle for equality and the right order of things, we shall necessarily have to place ourselves on the side of those who strive to overcome the oppressions which enslave them.

This is not the prevailing wisdom of our times. Yet, today’s Gospel points to a logic which says that we who are not poor, oppressed, or marginalized can help in the struggle to overcome these evils by doing what Pope Francis urges in his wonderful Pastoral Letter, The Joy of the Gospel: “Our commitment does not consist … in activities or programs of promotion and assistance … Only on the basis of … real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path to liberation.” (The Joy of the Gospel, #199)

Do you know by name anyone who is materially or socially poor?

Has a poor person ever taught you anything?

*This reflection is from this year’s Pax Christi USA’s Advent reflection booklet,Waking Up to God in Our Midst: Reflections for Advent 2014. The booklet is still available for purchase as a download by clicking here.

PRESS RELEASE: Missouri judge convicts peace activists for protesting drone warfare

For immediate release          

Contact: Buddy Bell  312 647 9345
Voices for Creative Nonviolence  773 619 2418

Jefferson City, MO—On December 10, a federal magistrate found Georgia Walker, of  Kansas  City, MO and Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace Kathy Kelly guilty of criminal trespass to a military installation  as a result of their June 1 effort to deliver a loaf of bread and a citizens’ indictment of drone warfare to authorities at Whiteman AFB.  Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced Kelly to three months in prison and Walker to one year of supervised probation.

In testimony, Kelly, who recently returned from Afghanistan, recounted her conversation with an Afghan mother whose son, a recent police academy graduate, was killed by a drone as he sat with colleagues in a garden. “I’m educated and humbled by experiences talking with people who’ve been trapped and impoverished by U.S. warfare,” said Kelly. “The U.S. prison system also traps and impoverishes people. In coming months, I’ll surely learn more about who goes to prison and why.”

During sentencing, prosecution attorneys asked that Walker be sentenced to five years of probation and banned from going within 500 feet of any military base. Judge Whitworth imposed a sentence of one year probation with a condition that Walker refrain from approaching any military base for one year. Walker coordinates an organization that provides re-entry services to newly released prisoners throughout Missouri. Noting that the condition to stay away from military bases will affect her ability to travel in the region, Walker expressed concern that this condition will limit her work among former prisoners.

Kelly’s work as a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence places her alongside people in a working class neighborhood of Kabul. She said that the day’s proceedings offered a valuable opportunity to shed light on experiences of Afghan families whose grievances are seldom heard. At the conclusion of the sentencing, Kelly said that every branch of U.S. government, including the judicial branch, shares responsibility for suffering caused when drones target and kill civilians.

INTERVIEW: For Pax Christi leader, peacemaking and Catholic social justice are inseparable

Interview with Rosemarie Pace, coordinator of Pax Christi Metro New York

by Sr. Camille D’Arienzo

Rosemarie Pace of Pax Christi Metro New York

Rosemarie Pace of Pax Christi Metro New York

SR. CAMILLE: You have been the face and energy of Pax Christi Metro for 14 years. What brought you into this arena?

ROSEMARIE PACE: I don’t remember when I read in The Tablet of a group of Catholics who were engaged in some kind of peace activism. Intrigued, I was curious to know more, but it was years before I inquired about them at St. John’s University, where I worshipped on Sundays. The sister in charge of the choir directed me to a Fr. Jim Reese, who taught at SJU. He was a member of Pax Christi Queens. He directed me to Elaine L’Etoile, another member of the group, who invited me to a meeting one Sunday evening in September 1987. I dragged along a friend so I wouldn’t be a lone stranger in the group. I was immediately drawn in and have been a member ever since, even though at that time, I knew nothing of Pax Christi beyond that little local group. That’s when and where my education began.

SR. CAMILLE: What do you see as Pax Christi’s challenges?

PACE: I’d put our challenges in two categories: those related to mission and those related to administration.

First, mission: Being the Catholic peace movement (so dubbed by Pope Pius XII in Pax Christi’s early history), we come up against two problems. Because we’re Catholic, there are those who have a preconceived notion about us. They may expect us to be focused on issues that are too conservative, or, ironically, others may think we’re too liberal and therefore not orthodox enough to call ourselves Catholic. Then there are those who won’t support religious organizations of any faith. Some even consider us self-righteous and elitist.

Administratively, our biggest challenge is that we are so small. We don’t have nearly enough monetary or nonmonetary resources to be on sound footing at any time. Only a couple hundred on our mailing list support us financially. Most are religious and clergy or people in modest-income service jobs. We just don’t have enough money to get us beyond a one-person staff (me) to do everything that any organization needs to survive. Our volunteers are much valued but are part-time and often temporary help. The struggle just to survive steals time from the mission of educating and advocating for peace in parishes, schools and the community…

To read the entire interview, click here.

ISRAEL-PALESTINE: Let light shine from Bethlehem to Gaza! Call on Congress to support an end to Israel’s occupation

from the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy

NOTE: Pax Christi USA is a member of the Faith Forum. This is their “Third Thursday for Israel-Palestine” action for December. 

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“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness–on them light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)

Lights blazed from the Christmas tree in Manger Square next to the Church of the Nativity as Bethlehem mayor, Vera Baboon, lit up the 15-meter tree in the annual ceremony on December 6. The mayor offered a simple message on the occasion, saying that what is needed this Christmas is justice.

As has been the case for years now, the town of Bethlehem remains cut off from Jerusalem by the separation wall, and more and more land around the town is threatened with confiscation by the Israeli government. Israeli settlements expand in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, while Palestinian homes and other buildings are demolished.

On December 10, Palestinian cabinet minister Ziad Abu Ein died after a confrontation with Israeli soldiers during a West Bank demonstration. While the exact cause of Abu Ein’s death is unclear, the U.S. State Department called for the Israeli investigation to be “swift, fair and transparent.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for a three-day period of mourning, and in support, the lights on the Bethlehem Christmas tree were turned off.

Meanwhile in Gaza, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) declared an emergency on November 27 in the Gaza City area because of flooding.

On December 15, 21 organizations sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, expressing “serious concerns related to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” and noting that “the situation in Gaza was already dire and is now worsening considerably with the onset of winter.”

The letter highlights, among other problems, the lack of adequate shelter for an estimated 100,000 people, electricity blackouts, and the state of disrepair of key infrastructure including water treatments plants.

The signers state, “This humanitarian crisis is unconscionable and is the clear result of policy inaction and failure,” and request the U.S. government to:

  • Increase the U.S. financial commitment for Gaza reconstruction,
  • Urge Israel to fully lift the Gaza blockade,Urge Egypt to allow full freedom of movement through the Rafah crossing,
  • Work with the Palestinian government, the Israeli government, and the UN to resolve several issues related to the recently established Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM).

To break the dark cycle of violence that causes so much suffering for both Palestinians and Israelis, the underlying causes must be addressed. This Christmas, let light shine by calling for justice. Contact your elected officials to underscore the call for help in Gaza in the Dec. 15 letter, and to support U.S. policy that works to end the Israeli occupation.

Use this link to send a letter to Congress. The link is provided by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns.

NEWS: Pax Christi Metro New York’s Rosemarie Pace featured in new book

Rosemarie PacePax Christi Metro New York’s coordinator, Rosemarie Pace, is one of the 75 Catholics featured in the new book from Patrick McNamara, New York Catholic: Fath, Attitude and the Works!. The book is published by Orbis Books.

The description of the book states:

From St. Elizabeth Seton to Dorothy Day to Thomas Merton to Jimmy Fallon, an inspiring introduction to traditional saints and contemporary Catholics whose examples image and shape both the church and one of the greatest cities in the world.

The historical and spiritual legacy of New York City’s largest religious community comes alive in these biographies of women and men who have helped make New York and American great, and whose character and qualities are uniquely New York and Catholic.

Congratulations to Rosemarie for being recognized for her work in Pax Christi!

To order the book or see more about it, click here.

HONDURAS: Impunity in Honduras

from America Magazine

DSC09058In a small Central American country, campesinos agitating for land rights, journalists challenging the status quo and attorneys and advocates working for social justice face continual threats or acts of violence and intimidation. Scores have been murdered, driven into exile or “disappeared” in the night. Catholic priests and deacons speaking out in defense of the vulnerable are rewarded with death threats; a Jesuit-sponsored radio station has been threatened with destruction; and a civilian government has proven itself unable—or unwilling—to rein in public and private security forces acting in the shadows for the powerful.

This description is not, sadly, an exercise in historical memory, 25 years after the savagery of the Jesuit murders at the University of Central America in 1989, nor a recollection of the dreary prelude to the full-blown civil war in El Salvador in the late 1970s. This is a brief précis on contemporary Honduras.

The high-profile murders of María José Alvarado, Miss Honduras 2014, and her sister, Sofía, at the hands of the former’s jealous boyfriend in November briefly trained the U.S. media spotlight on the senseless violence that afflicts the country. But even astute news consumers probably did not read of another murder in Honduras that same week. On Nov. 11, Juan Ángel López Miralda, a Colón-based agrarian leader, was gunned down in the street by two men, who escaped on a motorcycle. Mr. López was a leader of the Movimiento Unificado Campesino del Aguán, a fighter for the land rights of campesinos in that troubled region…

Click here to read the entire article.