LENT 2015: Reflection for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, March 25


by Linda Ballard, osc

Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10 | Hebrews 10:4-10 | Luke 1:26-38

annunciationiconDo not be afraid … How can this be? ~Luke 1:30, 34

As our knees bend to Creed this day, it is good to remember that even Lent sings God’s willingness to be part of us.

In the five-thousand one-hundred and ninety-ninth year of the creation of the world, Jesus Christ, desiring to sanctify the world by his most merciful coming, being conceived by the Holy Spirit, and nine months have passed since his conception, was born … of the Virgin Mary, being made flesh (Christmas Proclamation).

It is a two-fold celebration today. God asked. Mary answered. God wants us as a partner. God wants us to birth God before peoples and generations. Nine months from today is Christmas. In the midst of our desert wanderings, in the midst of our refusal to see, in the midst of our search for water, God came to a woman bound by death and asked her to bring forth LIFE. And she said yes. And so do we.

For today, it is that simple. Mercy is coming. The world is made sacred, and God is PRESENCE from us and for us. Our timing may be faulty, but God’s timing is always right. It is okay to wonder. Do not be afraid.

* This reflection appeared in Wrestling With Presence: Reflections for Lent, published by Pax Christi USA in 2006.

LENT 2015: A reflection for the anniversary of the death of Archbishop Romero

by Jean Stokan and Scott Wright

Romero mural

Today we commemorate the life of one of our contemporary witnesses, Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was murdered at the altar while celebrating the Eucharist. Like the martyrs of the early church, Archbishop Romero gave his life out of love rather than worship and serve false gods. Romero’s life bore witness to the truth that sets one free to lay down one’s life out of love for enemies and friends alike, as his own words and life testify:

We believe in Jesus who came to bring life in its fullest and we believe in a living God who gives life to humankind and wants all to live in truth. These radical truths of the faith become truths–radical truths–when the Church inserts herself in the midst of the life and death of the people. It is there that the Church is presented–as it is presented to every person–with the most fundamental option of faith: to be in favor of life or in favor of death.

There is no doubt whatsoever that here there is no room for neutrality. We are either at the service of the life of Salvadorans or we are accomplices in their death. And it is here that we are faced with the most fundamental reality of the historical mediation of faith: either we believe in a God of life or we serve the idols of death.

We believe with the apostle John that Jesus is “the Word of Life” (1 John 1:1), and that where there is life, there God reveals himself. Where the poor begin to live, where the poor begin to liberate themselves, where men and women are able to sit down around a common table and share, there is the God of life. hat is why when the Church inserts itself in the sociopolitical world in order to cooperate in bringing about the emergence of life for the poor, she is not undertaking a mere subsidiary task or something outside of her mission, but is witnessing to her faith in God and is being an instrument of the Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life.

  • What is the deepest truth upon which we stand as followers of Jesus Christ?
  • How do we protect the inherent dignity of those who are the targets of hatred and racism? What does the gospel compel us to do when their lives are at risk?

For additional reflections on Archbishop Romero, click here.

This reflection was adapted and excerpted from Living as Resurrected Beings in the Midst of the World’s Crosses: Reflections for Lent 2010, by Jean Stokan and Scott Wright. 

IRAN: What you need to know about the Iran nuclear negotiations

from The Huffington Post

Iran-nuclear-deal-1024x576International negotiators in Geneva have just over two weeks left to bring years of talks between Iran and six world powers to fruition by reaching a framework for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.

Representatives of Iran and the so-called P5+1 group — the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany — have set a March 31 deadline to reach a basic understanding for a nuclear deal. The parties then have until the end of June to hammer out the remaining details.

The talks stem from international powers’ concern that Iran is using its nuclear enrichment program to build a nuclear weapon. Iran insists the program is only for peaceful purposes.

The WorldPost spoke with Ali Vaez, the International Crisis Group‘s senior analyst on Iran, about the ongoing talks…

Click here to read the interview.

RESOURCE: New book on peace education for hearts and minds by PCUSA Teachers of Peace

by Mary Liepold

[NOTE: This is the editor’s note from the new book, Live Peace, Teach Peace:Best Practices and a Toolbox, by Pax Christi USA Teachers of Peace M.J. and Jerry Park.]

“It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated.”* – Alec Bourne

livepeaceteachpeaceIf you are reading this book, chances are you’re already aware that the education most of our children receive in school is missing something essential. Though individual families and other groups may resolve conflicts skillfully and model understanding, inclusion, and care for self, others, and the earth, these values lack social widespread support. They may even seem to lack practical application.

The school shootings that have become so frequent as to barely stir outrage are only one symptom of a culture awash with individual and systemic violence. Gun control and better access to effective mental health services will prevent some incidents, and we support those efforts. We are convinced, however, that the only direct, comprehensive antidote is culture change: building a culture of peace through multi-faceted peace education for children and the adults who shape their environments.

Peace needs all the friends it can get, and M.J. and Jerry Park have been making friends for peace since they co-founded Little Friends for Peace (LFFP) in 1981. The goal of every LFFP activity is to build Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Beloved Community.” Progressive educators call this work Social and Emotional Learning. M.J. and Jerry Park call it educating hearts and minds. This book brings together the materials and strategies they’ve developed, tested, and refined for that purpose over 35 years of dedicated practice.

Assisted by a growing corps of trained volunteers, the Parks provide day camps, in-school and after-school groups and classes, workshops, playshops, retreats, service opportunities, and ongoing training, mentoring, and staff development in diverse settings around the U.S. and beyond. They build lifelong assets for a culture of peace through activities that are varied, active, and fun, so kids and adults keep learning and keep coming back.

The topics you can use this toolbox to teach include those listed below. You’ll think of many others, though. As West Point graduate and peacebuilder Paul Chappell likes to say, peace education is education for life.

·         Conflict Resolution ·         Character Education
·         Parenting for Peace ·         Peace in Everyday Life
·         Healthy Decision-Making ·         Clear Communication
·         Leadership Development ·         Environmental Stewardship
·         Leading with Diversity ·         Winning with Cooperation
·         Positive Discipline ·         Peace Hero Dramatizations
·         Art for Peace ·         Cooperative Games & Sports

Expect more than your teaching, parenting, or work relationships to be changed by this book. Expect your life to change. As the title suggests, we have to live peace before we can teach it. So let’s start with ourselves, take care of ourselves and each other, share what we learn, and watch the world change with is. In its simplest form, the LFFP theory of change looks something like this:

  • People who want peace learn new ways of relating to themselves and each other.
  • Young people experience environments rich in affirmation, cooperation, nonviolent communication, and peaceful, practical conflict resolution.
  • They learn and practice these skills and make them their own.
  • They develop these skills further in leadership roles with peers and younger children.
  • Through formal and informal learning opportunities, from the LFFP Peace Academy to community celebrations, teachers, parents, coaches, university and community volunteers, and other influential adults learn and adopt the same habits and skills.
  • Community institutions and organizations support the new Culture of Peace.
  • Individuals and institutions experience greater safety and quality of life.
  • Through personal contact, social media, and conventional media, the ways of peace reach throughout the community and beyond. That’s culture change.

Welcome, Peace Practitioner! We wish you joy, challenge, and wonderful companions as you use these lessons and make them your own. M.J. and Jerry would love to hear about your experiences, as well as your suggestions for improvements.

Click here to see more about the book as well as ordering information.

LENT 2015: Reflection for the fifth Sunday of Lent, Mar. 22


by Dorothy Stoner, osb

Jeremiah 31:31-34 | Hebrews 5:7-9 | John 12:20-33

In a time when it has become necessary to organize “Stop the Hate” vigils throughout the United States, the Scripture readings for today cry out to be heard. When a bureaucracy that claims to be rooted in the Wisdom of God can write and teach that some people are “intrinsically disordered” because of their sexual orientation, thee readings need to be heard. Because we know that an extremely disproportionate number of young black males are incarcerated each year, we need to be attentive to these readings.

As we remember faithful, reconciling ministers like Jeannine Gramick, SL and Bob Nugent, a Salvatorian priest, being forbidden to work with the gay and lesbian people they love because of what they hold within the privacy of their own consciences or because they don’t use the precise words required by authorities, we know we need to listen to these readings.

After reading and viewing countless news stories that report of angry, bitter crowds of people demanding the death penalty be imposed; of schools, churches, and individuals being targeted for acts of violence; of U.S. government policies being developed and implemented in such uneven ways; of ethnic and religious cleansing continuing day after day, in place after place, we are reminded that we need to learn from these readings.

In a church that continues to exclude women from decision-making roles and refuses them full inclusion in the ministries of that church, these readings cry out to be heard. And the litany goes on.

jeremiah“I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33). Such a comforting reading, isn’t it? I remember seeing beautiful banners with this quote on them. Many lovely liturgies were planned using this reading. We all loved to hear; it made us feel good. It still does touch something, somewhere deep within me.

As I ponder the meaning and challenge of this reading — of all three readings — today, in light of all that is happening around us, I’m not so certain these readings are meant to lull us into a feel-good complacency. The message seems to call for — may I even say, demand — a whole reordering of how we think and how we live, how we encourage others to think and how we empower them to live.

In this new covenant that Jeremiah describes, no one can claim to have a more intimate relationship with God than another. Our God, Godself, will touch each one’s heart. God, and no one else, will write the law on each one’s heart. There is no need to have mediators to arbitrate the relationship between God and the people. Every person, “all, from least to greatest, shall know me, says God” (Jer 31:34). No one will have to teach us how to know God, for we are already in relationship with God, at God’s own initiative.

It doesn’t sound like anyone has a special revelation here. What a tremendous vision — and promise — of mutuality, truly a “discipleship of equals.” Surely the vision and the promise of a covenanted community that values the wisdom and the insights of all others. One that rejoices in the full development and inclusion of all others. And when is this vision — the promise — fulfilled? It already has been in Jesus Christ.

We read in the Gospel of John, “And I when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). And, “Whoever serves me, the Father-Mother will honor” (Jn 12:26). And how do we serve Jesus? By serving another — all others.

Yet the readings also remind us that living the reality of this vision, of this promise, is not easy. It requires a death so that new fruit can be produced. It demands a dying so that rising to a new life can happen.

We are nearing the end of our Lenten journey. Are you ready to die to old patterns of thinking and acting, so that you might be part of the resurrected vision, the resurrected promise? What are these old patterns that need to die? We are at the dawning of a new millennium. Will you be part of sharing this new reality? Will you expect that others will, too, and accept nothing less?

* This reflection appeared in The Sabbath-Year Journey through Lent: A Covenant of Listening, published by Pax Christi USA in 2000.

HAITI: God walks beside us as we struggle toward redemption

by Judy Coode, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

haiti_0The Catholic cathedral in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, stands in ruins, destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake. A glimpse of its past beauty can still be spied in the slivers of stained glass window that cling to crumbling archways.

Even before the quake, the people of Haiti had experienced more than their fair share of suffering: Severe poverty. Grossly inadequate education and health care services. A devastated natural landscape. A shaky national government struggling to find its democratic footing after years of a U.S.-backed dictatorship.

Jim Rice writes in the February 2015 issue of Sojourners, “The nation of Haiti was born out of a rebellion that overthrew one of the most brutal systems of slavery history has seen – creating in 1804 the hemisphere’s second independent republic and the world’s first nation founded by freed slaves. The U.S., wanting to squelch any hopes for freedom among its own enslaved population, saw its Caribbean neighbor as a threat and undercut the fledgling republic at every turn.”

Much (but not all) of Haiti remains in chaos five years after the quake that took hundreds of thousands of lives and left millions homeless; makeshift neighborhoods of shelters made with tarp and tin still stretch across the city. Women and children walk miles every day to collect potable water. Vendors wake before dawn to find a spot on the crowded sidewalk in the hopes that enough customers will buy their fruit or vegetables or other goods so that they can pay their bills…

Click here to read the entire story.

IRAQ-SYRIA: PCUSA supports letter calling for an end to violence in Iraq, Syria

iraq-syria-buttonPax Christi USA has signed onto a letter to President Obama that was delivered to the White House and Congress this past week.

On the occasion of the 12th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq (March 2003) and the 4th anniversary of the violence in Syria (March 2011), both of which were marked this week, faith leaders tied the two events together and stated that “the violence and death must end, on all sides; it must not be stoked with the recourse to lethal action.”  They highlighted the effects of instability and ongoing violence in both countries and condemned the violence perpetrated against various groups of people.

Click here to read the full letter.