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Are We Known as Friends?
By Alex Mikulich

As I reflect on the words of Jesus, literally translated as “put your life on the line for your friends,” I am struck by the contrast between the communal love Jesus calls disciples to and the violence of our world.

The companions of Jesus knew that they faced death and persecution for being disciples of Jesus (John 16).

The companions of Jesus knew that he brings new life to friends like Lazarus (John 11).

And they also knew that the world will hate them like it hates Jesus (John 15:18-25).

I have witnessed this hatred with black brothers and sisters standing against a barricade of police adorned with riot gear.

A current advertisement asks “is it enough to be a good friend?” The ad says that being a good friend is not enough. What you really want is to be on “top of the hill,” in “power” just like “a boss.” That ad summarizes the ethic of the U.S. empire. In the same way that Jesus’ radical practice of compassion led to his torture and crucifixion, so disciples who practice the love at the heart of the Gospel risk persecution, torture, and even death in the midst of the U.S. empire.

The image of police in full riot gear surrounding and arresting Ieshia L. Evans as she peacefully protests the police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge comes to mind. So does the joyful face of Jerome Succor Aba, a Muslim peace activist from Mindanao, Philippines, who, although he was invited by the USCCB and Sisters of Mercy to attend an ecumenical justice conference and was granted a Visa by the U.S., claims he was tortured during his 28 hour detention at the San Francisco airport. The question of John’s Gospel concerns the entire faith community.  Does our faith community stand on the side of the ethic of the U.S. empire or are we known as friends by people who suffer persecution, torture, and death?

The question goes to the heart of Jesus’ intimate love for each of us and the world.




          “They (the New Gnostics) think of the intellect as separate from the flesh, and thus become incapable of touching Christ´s suffering flesh in others, locked up as they are in an encyclopedia of abstractions. In the end, by disembodying the mystery, they prefer “a God without Christ, a Christ without the Church, a Church without her people” (GE 37)

“It can be present within the Church, both among the laity in parishes and teachers of philosophy and theology in centers of formation” (GE 39).

“Gnosticism by its very nature seeks to domesticate the mystery” (GE 40).

“When somebody has an answer for every question, it is a sign that they are not on the right road . . .  God infinitely transcends us; he is full of surprises . . . Someone who wants everything to be clear and sure presumes to control God´s transcendence.” (GE 41).

“Still, some Christians insist on taking another path, that of justification by their own efforts, the worship of the human will and their own abilities. The result is a self-centered and elitist complacency, bereft of true love. This finds expression in a variety of apparently unconnected ways of thinking and acting: an obsession with the law; an absorption with social and political advantages, a punctilious concern for the Church’s liturgy, doctrine and prestige, a vanity about the ability to manage practical matters, and an excessive concern with programs of self-help and personal fulfillment (GE 57).

“It can affect groups, movements and communities, and it explains why so often they begin with an intense life in the Spirit, only to end up fossilized . . . or corrupt” (GE 58).



                                                GAUDETE ET EXSULTATE

                                                   QUOTES AT RANDOM


1) “REJOICE AND BE GLAD!” (Matthew 5: 12), Jesus tells those persecuted or humiliated . . . He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and medicore existence (EG 1).

2) In salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual (EG 6)

3) At its core, holiness is experiencing, in union with Christ, the mysteries of his life (EG 20)

4) Not everything a saint says is completely faithful to the Gospel, not everything he or she does is authentic or perfect (EG 22)

5) They (the Gnostics) think of the intellect as separate from the flesh, and thus become incapable of touching Christ’s suffering flesh in others, locked up as they are in an encyclopedia of abstractions. In the end, by disembodying the mystery, they prefer God without Christ, a Christ without the Church, and a Church without her people (EG 37)

6) Someone who wants everything to be clear and sure presumes to control God’s transcendence (EG 41).

7) Here I would like note that in the Church there legitimately coexist different ways of interpreting many aspects of doctrine and Church life; in their variety they help to express more clearly the immense riches of God’s word. It is true that for those who long for a body monolithic body of doctrine, guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion (EG 43)

8) Grace acts in history (EG 50)

9) The Church has repeatedly taught that we are justified not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the Lord, who always takes the initiative (EG 52)

10) (On the New Pelagianism): This finds expression in a variety of apparently unconnected ways of thinking and acting: an obsession with the law, an absorption with social and political advantages, a punctilious concern for the Church’s liturgy, doctrine and prestige, a vanity about the ability to manage practical matters, and an excessive concern with programs of self-help and personal fulfillment (EG 57)

11) Wealth ensures nothing . . .  That is why Jesus calls blessed those who are poor in spirit, those who have a poor heart, for there the Lord can enter with his perennial newness (EG 68)

12) Meekness is yet another expression of the interior poverty of those who put their trust in God alone (EG 74)

13) We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven (EG 82)

14) (On the Eight Beatitude) Jesus himself warns us that the path he proposes goers against the flow, even making us challenge society  by the way we live and, as a result, becoming a nuisance (EG 90)

15) The cross remains the source of our growth and sanctification. We must never forget that when the New Testament tells us that we will have to endure suffering for the Gospel’s sake, it speaks precisely of persecutions (cf. Acts 5: 41; Phil 1: 29; Col 1: 24; 2 Tim 1: 12; 2 Pt 2: 20; 4: 14-16) (EG 92)

16) Persecutions are not a reality of the past, for today too we experience them whether by the shedding of blood, as is the case with so many contemporary martyrs, or by more subtle means: by slander and lies . . . At other times, persecution can take the form of gibes that try to caricature our faith and make us seem ridiculous (EG 94)

17) In this call to recognize him in the poor and the suffering, se see revealed the very heart of Christ (EG 96)

18) Even if helping one person alone could justify all our efforts, it would not be enough. The bishops of Canada made this clear when they noted, for example, that the biblical understanding of the jubilee year was about more than simply performing certain good works. It also meant seeking social change: For later generations to also be released, clearly the goal had to be the restoration of just social and economic systems, so there could no longer be exclusion (EG 99)

19) Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection (EG 101)

20) We often hear it said that, with respect to relativism and the flaws of our present world, the situation of migrants, for example, is a lesser issue. Some Catholics consider it a secondary issue compared to the “grave” bioethical questions. That a politician looking for votes might say such a thing is understandable, but not a Christian, for whom the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children. Can we not realize that this is exactly what Jesus demands of us, when he tells us that in welcoming the stranger we welcome him (cf. Matthew 25: 35)?

21) In this regard, I think of St. Thomas Aquinas, who asked which actions of ours are nobles, which external works best show our love for God.. Thomas answered unhesitatingly that they are the works of mercy toward our neighbor, even more than our acts of worship (EG 106)

22) Holiness is also “parresia”: it is boldness, an impulse to evangelize and to leave a mark in this world . . . Boldness, enthusiasm, the freedom to speak out, apostolic fervor, all these are included in the word “parresia.” The Bible also uses this word to describe the freedom of a life open to God and to others (cf. Acts 4> 29; 9” 28;; 28: 31; 2 Cor 3: 12; Eph 3: 12; Heb 3: 6; 10: 19( (EG 129)

23) God is eternal newness. He impels us constantly to set out anew, to pass beyond what is familiar, to the fringes and beyond. He takes us to where humanity is most wounded . . .  God is not afraid! He is fearless! He is always greater than our plans and schemes. Unafraid of the fringes, he himself became a fringe (cf. Phil 2: 6-8; Jn 1: 14 (EG 135)

24) Their testimony (of the saints) reminds us that, more than bureaucrats and functionaries, the Church needs passionate missionaries, enthusiastic about sharing true life. The saints surprise us, they confound us, because by their lives they urge us to abandon a dull and dreary mediocrity (EG 13*)

25) We must not domesticate the power of the face of Christ . . . Do you let his life inflame your heart? Unless you let him warm you more and more with his love and tenderness, you will not catch fire (EG 151)

26) The gaze of the pilgrim rests on an image that symbolizes God’s affection and closeness. Love pauses, contemplates the mystery, and enjoys it in silence (EWG 155 – Quote from the Document of Aparecida, 259)

27) Devotion to the Word  f God is not simply one of many devotions, beautiful but somewhat optional. It goes to the very heart and identity of the Christian life. The word has the power to transform lives (EG 156)

28) “Non coercere a maximo, contineri tamen a minimo divinum est”  (“Not to be intimidated (contained, trapped) by the greatest, yet to be contained within the smallest, is truly divine”) – Inscription in the tomb of St. Ignatius of Loyola (EG 169)

29) I would like these reflections to be crowned by Mary . . . She walks ever at our side. She does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us. Our converse with her consoles, frees and sanctifies us. Mary our Mother does not need a flood of words. She does not need us to tell her what is happening in our lives All we need to do is whisper, time and time again: “Hail, Mary . . . ”


Easter Monday: Claiming Dignity and Worth
By Susan Haarman

When I was a Jesuit Volunteer in 2005, I went to El Salvador for a week. It retrospect, most it was the kind of white savior poverty tourism trip I’d spend the next 12 years of my life trying to prevent. And yet…

Our first full day in El Salvador was Easter Sunday. Francisco piled us into the van and we drove for about 4 hours in search of a Jesuit and an Easter Mass in a town called Arcatao.

Upon arrival, we found the priest we were looking for had been transferred two weeks earlier.

So without a Mass to go to, Francisco convinced a local man to take us around the town. He filled us in on the history of the town. Because of its location in the mountains, it had been rebel territory during the country’s civil war and had been primarily under rebel control. When the army attacked, most of them were slaughtered in the town and others were ambushed at the bridge over the nearby river. Everyone caught was killed, regardless of age. They army dumped the bodies off the bridge and into the river. It ran red with blood for three days straight.

We left Arcatao in search of another Mass in another town. The ride was silent and I spent most of it frustrated and overwhelmed in the face of a history and a narrative of humanity that just seemed to be one litany of pain and oppression and violence after another.

The van started down a large hill and neared a bridge. Francisco pointed and explained it was the one the massacre occurred on. One of us asked to take a picture for who knows what reason.

I looked out the window at a place that 12 years before had run red with the blood of innocents, a place that exhibited the sheer unadulterated evil a human person is capable of and I opened the van door.

And the first thing I heard was laughter.

The river was teeming with people. It was Easter Sunday, so hundreds of families from the area were out having picnics, swimming, laughing, and celebrating life.

In a heartbeat, the reality of the Resurrection slammed into my heart. I saw the will of a soul continuing to claim it has dignity and worth no matter much or how long systems, suffering, and sin try to destroy it.

In today’s first reading, Peter recites the scriptures he grew up with: “Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exalted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope.”

Christ’s Resurrection was the physical form of the power and indestructibility of hope. Human dignity can be ignored but never destroyed, and hope teamed with love can wear down any obstacle.

As we move into the Easter season after a Lent that began in the bloodshed of a school shooting, how will we, like the two Marys in the Gospel, run to announce the Good News we know? How will we witness with our words and our lives the hope that continues to unfold in the world?


Holy Saturday: A Place Where There is Music
By Cecilia González-Andrieu

Growing up, el sábado santo (Holy Saturday) was a day of silence starting on Holy Friday and lasting until Easter.  We lived in my Abuela’s home, and her house was never quiet except for those two somber days. Abuela had been an accomplished singer and now taught others to sing.  In the suffering Havana of my childhood, food was scarce, water rationed, and there was no electricity most nights; it could have been a hopeless existence. But my grandmother taught me to play the piano and sing even in the dark, I just needed my fingers, my memory of their place on the keyboard, and to lift my voice. Music was an act of faith. But on Holy Saturday we abstained from beauty to join the grieving Creation. We would wait for the dawn and the music would return.

When I was ripped from my home by political cataclysms I couldn’t possibly understand, the music went silent. Immigrants undergo an excruciating process, thrown into a dark and silent place, much like the tomb, where they are stripped of their identity, their loved ones, their language, their voice. But we believe the Resurrection comes. Kind neighbors gave us an old piano, I struggled to learn the new language, schoolmates helped and explained, and when I was older, a Jesuit university offered me a home again. I sang in the choir and I am singing in that choir still.

As you enter into Holy Saturday, try to feel the deep and dark silence of the exile, the refugee, the displaced millions around the world. Be with them and then commit to giving them a home, a place where there is music, even in the dark.


Good Friday: Claiming a Place
By Fr. James Martin, S.J.

In my work with LGBT people I have been both alarmed and appalled by the stories I’ve heard from them about their treatment by their churches—Catholic and otherwise. An autistic gay man recently told me how his local pastor had refused to give him Communion. The man was not sexually active, but had simply come out to his family and friends. As a result, the priest told him that he could not present himself for Communion line but, if he wanted he could receive “privately” in the pastor’s office.

“The Church is the cross on which Christ is crucified today,” wrote the 20th-century theologian Romano Guardini, and I think this is some of what he meant.

Of course, the church is also the source of infinite grace for people—and for myself. But it is imperfect, and those in it, and those who lead it, can sin. Thus, it can be a source of crucifixion for people.

So how do we break forth and claim our places in the church? And how do we help to build a church that is more welcoming? First, by realizing that all of us baptized Christians are part of the church. Be rooted in the sacramental grace of your baptism, your membership in the church.  Let no one tell you that you are not a “true Catholic” or a “true Christian.” And resist anyone who tries to label others as “bad Catholics” or “bad Christians.” Second, by remembering that we all have a right to participate and make our voices known. The Second Vatican Council, in its document Lumen Gentium, said, in fact, that lay people are sometimes “duty-bound” to express their opinions. Third, by remembering that in the midst of sin there is grace; in the midst of inertia there is progress, and in the midst of death there is new life.

Sometimes, though, we have to fight to see it all.


Holy Thursday: Radical Reversals
By Michael Iafrate

Among the many reasons Holy Thursday haunts me is the question it raises: Where does the Eucharist place you? Robert Karris reminds us that “Jesus was crucified because of how he ate.” Today’s Gospel from John shows us “how” Jesus ate by focusing not on the meal, but on his washing the disciples’ feet.

Jesus’ act is usually understood as a call to service, but Peter’s offended reaction suggests that more is going on here. Foot washing was a task performed by slaves and by women for people—usually men—of higher status. Jesus was not simply demonstrating “service,” which can become ritualized, paternalistic, and even gendered. Rather, he was taking his place among the dominated, radically upending customs based on honor and unequal status. Peter was troubled by where Jesus was placing himself.

In “how he ate,” Jesus linked worship and justice and, like the prophets, denounced the false worship that hides oppression (Amos 5: 21-24). But despite Jesus’ invitation to “do likewise,” our liturgies often reinforce inequality. I recently attended a cathedral liturgy honoring people of an elite profession. The elaborate Mass included two bishops, multiple concelebrants, a guest homilist, and a full choir. Several “esteemed guests” were singled out, and an elaborate reception followed with a security guard at the door.

What would the church look like if we took Jesus’ Holy Thursday example seriously? Pope Francis gives us a hint. Each Holy Week, Francis bypasses traditional Vatican locales and celebrates Holy Thursday at prisons and refugee centers. Francis breaks liturgical and social boundaries by washing the feet of diverse people, including Muslim women, embodying Jesus’ invitation to “do the same.”

That “offensive” Thursday meal “broke forth” into the world as Jesus took his place with the condemned in his execution. What acts might “break forth” from our own breaking of the bread? Perhaps we are called to subvert paternalistic service by placing the poor at the center, remembering, as Jon Sobrino says, that justice is “not just a matter of giving to them, but of receiving from them.” Decades ago, the Appalachian Catholic bishops and activists insisted that “the people themselves must shape their own destiny.” Today, people of faith are putting this belief into practice by continuing Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Jesus knew God had “put everything into his power” to enact a Kingdom of radical reversals. Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that this power belongs to us as well (14:12). May each Eucharist redraw the maps by which we “place” ourselves, and help us to offer each place where we find ourselves a taste of the life of the world to come.