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MY CHRISTMAS GIFT TO YOU: KARL RAHNER ON HOLY NIGHT

KARL RAHNER ON HOLY NIGHT

Dear Friends:

Allow me to share, once again, Karl Rahner’s abidingly sweet, mystical and provocative meditation on the heart of Christmas:

“It is the holy night of Christmas! The eternal future has entered our time. Its radiance still dazzles us, so that we think it is night. But at all events it is a blessed night, a night in which there is already warmth and light, which is beautiful, welcoming and secure by reason of the eternal day which it bears hidden within it. It is a silent, holy night, for us, however, only if we admit the holy silence or this night into our inner selves, only if our heart too keeps watch in solitude . . . Let us listen to the unutterable melody which sounds in the silence of that night.”

“The silent and solitary soul sings here to the God of the heart its quietest and most ardent song. And it can have confidence that he hears it. For this song no longer has to seek a beloved God beyond the stars in that inaccessible light in which he dwells and which makes him invisible to all. Because of Christmas, because the Word was made flesh, God is near and the quietest word in the stillest room of the heart, the word of love, comes to his ear and his heart. And those who have entered into themselves even when it is night, hear in this nocturnal quiet in the depth of the heart God’s gentle word of love. One must be calm, not afraid of the night, hold one’s peace. Otherwise we hear nothing. For the ultimate is only spoken in the silence of the night, now that in our night of life, through the gracious coming of the Word, there has come to be Christmas, holy night, silent night.”

Oremus pro invicem

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OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE: THE FEAST OF THE LEAST!

NICAN MOPOHUA: OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE: ¡LET ÑOT YOUR HEART BE ANGUISHED! ¿AM I NOT HERE, YOUR MOTHER?

          Between December 9, Saturday, and December 12, Tuesday, an 57-year-old  Aztec (some sources say, Chichimec) catechumen, Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (“the talking eagle”) received the manifestation of the Virgin Mary, his “Niña,” on the slopes of Mount Tepeyac, near the city of Mexico.

This ever enchanting story is well-known: On December 9, Saturday, Mary appears to Juan Diego twice, once in the morning, once in the evening.

The “Morenita” asks Juan Diego to speak to the bishop of Mexico, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, O.F.M., and convey her express wishes to have a sanctuary to built on the mount. Juan Diego complies and sees the bishop. He is received with apprehension and contempt. Zumárraga is not convinced about the authenticity of the visions, nor of the reliability of the messenger. He might have assumed that the alleged seer had consumed more than his fair share of inebriating spirits, or that he was suffering from hallucinations – after all, the bishop might have thought, he is the child of a race just barely – despite the efforts of missionaries – coming out of paganism, which relished mass human sacrifices.

The next day, Sunday, the “Niña” is back – same thing – Juan Diego shivers with fear. There are no apparitions on Monday, the 11th – might she have desisted?, Juan Diego might have dared to hope.

Complicating things further, Juan Diego´s uncle, Juan Bernardino, was gravely sick. On Tuesday, December 12th, Juan Diego leaves early to seek help in the city. This is not – he might thought to himself – to engage in conversation with strange young women that suddenly venture into my path on Tepeyac hill. Juan Diego takes another path, skirting Tepeyac around the East side – but the persistent young lady is there, waiting for him – Juan Diego shares his anguish with her – his uncle is sick, the bishop is asking for proofs of authenticity – the child of the Anahuac feels the burden and anguish of a seemingly hopeless situation –

And then, here echo, with the soft thunder of tenderness, the most poetically beautiful, the most mystically compelling, the most subversive words in the history of Marian manifestations. As the Nican Mopohua, the Nahuatl language narrative written by Antonio Valeriano (1521-1605), published in 1649, tells us:

“LISTEN AND UNDERSTAND, MY SON, THE SMALLEST OF AL, THAT WHAT IS FILLING YOU WITH FEAR AND AFFLICTION IS NOTHING; LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED, DO NOT FEAR THAT SICKNESS, NOR ANY OTHER SICKNESS OR ANGUISH. AM I NOT HEAR, YOUR MOTHER? ARE YOU NOT IN THE FOLD OF MY MANTLE? AM I NOT YOUR HEALTH? ARE YOU NOT BY CHANCE IN THE CRADLE OF MY ARMS? WHAT ELSE CAN YOU FEAR?

Mary promises him that his uncle is already healed – and thus it happened. Then he orders him to climb to the summit of Tepeyac – Juan Diego complies, and there, in awe and wonder, finds roses of Castilla – out of season!  – as the Nican Mopohua says: “for at the time it was icing all over” – This is the proof that Juan Diego will take to Fray Juan de Zumárraga! And then, Mary tells him:

“YOU ARE MY AMBASSADOR, TOTALLY TRUSTWORTHY”

Totally trustworthy ambassador! One of the most little children of this vanquished land, member of a nation despised and abused by the newly arrived seekers of a gold that belonged to his ancestors, barely protected by the zeal and the love of some Franciscan missionaries – this is Mary´s ambassador!

Juan Diego had been treated with contempt, had been humiliated, in his earlier visits to the bishop`s residence.  One last moment of humiliation awaits him: the bishop`s helpers make him wait for a long time. Juan Diego awaits his moments. The servants want to know what is it that he is hiding in his tilma – in the push and shove, they see roses – theY summon the bishop. As Juan Diego opens his mantle and the roses tumble to the floor, the Nican Mopohua tells us that:

“THERE WAS PAINTED, AND SUDDENLY APPEARED, THE PRECIOUS IMAGE OF THE EVER VIRGIN, HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD, JUST IN THE MANNER IN WHICH IT IS, AND IS KEPT IN HER TEMPLE OF TEPEYACAC (sic) WHICH IS NAMED GUADALUPE”

WHAT DOES ALL THIS TELL US, TODAY?

1) Mary tells Juan Diego what she herself heard back then, at the crossroads of Salvation History: “Be not afraid, Mary” – Be not afraid! Do not let your heart be anguished! Am I not here, your mother? – “Be not afraid”! The most frequently used expression in the whole of Scriptures: 366 times!

2) On the slopes of Tepeyac we finds the most accomplished exegesis of Luke 10: 21 (cf. Matthew 11: 25): Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus cries out: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earthy, for you have hidden these things to the wise and intelligent, and have revealed them to the simple of heart!”

3) No one more “simple,” more humble – and wiser! – than Juan Diego –  In his heart, flaming with the love of the Lord, free from the self-sufficiency and arrogance that suffused the conquering race, free from all prejudice, the son of this tortured land could hear what others could not –  that the Paschal love of Jesus has embraced, with preferential tenderness, the poor, the oppressed, the crucified of history!

4) Indeed, the glory of God, as the martyr Archbishop of El Salvador, the Blessed Oscar Romero said, are the poor fully alive! There is no salvation outside the poor! – They enjoy, in privileged fashion, the sweetness of Mary´s gaze – They are the only trustworthy ambassadors of Jesus´ paschal redemption!

5) Mary of Guadalupe, Patroness of Mexico, Patroness of all the Americas,  bring all your children, especially the most afflicted, suffering and despised, in the fold of your mantle, in the cradle of your arms – always!

 

LA INMACULADA CONCEPCIÓN: ¡EL PRIVILEGIO DEL DISCIPULADO PASCUAL!

SIXTO GARCÍA: REFLEXIÓN DEL EVANGELIO: LUCAS 1: 26-38: LA INMACULADA CONCEPCIÓN: ¡EL PRIVILEGIO DEL DISCIPULADO PASCUAL!

          Consideremos los siguientes puntos:

PRIMER PUNTO: EL TEXTO:

Al sexto mes, envió Dios el ángel Gabriel a un pueblo de Galilea, llamado Nazaret, a una virgen desposada con un hombre llamado José, de la casa de David. La virgen se llamaba María. Cuando entró, le dijo: “Alégrate, llena de gracia, el Señor está contigo.” Ella se conturbó por estas palabras y se preguntaba qué significaría aquel saludo. El ángel le dijo: “No temas, María, porque has hallado gracia delante de Dios; vas a concebir en tu seno y a dar a luz un hijo, a quien pondrás por nombre Jesús. Él será grande, le llamarán Hijo del Altísimo y el Señor Dios le dará el trono de David, su padre; reinará sobre la casa de Jacob por los siglos y su reino no tendrá fin.” María respondió al ángel: “¿Cómo será esto posible, si no conozco varón?” El ángel le respondió: “El Espíritu Santo vendrá sobre ti y el poder del Altísimo te cubrirá con su sombra, por eso, el que va a nacer será santo y le llamarán Hijo de Dios. Mira, también Isabel, tu pariente, ha concebido un hijo en su vejez, y ya está en el sexto mes la que era considerada estéril, porque no hay nada imposible para Dios.” Dijo María: ¨He aquí la esclava del Señor; hágase en mí según tu palabra.” Y el ángel la dejó y se fue.

SEGUNDO PUNTO: EL”CONTEXTO DEL TEXTO”

Nuestra Reflexión se divide en 4 Secciones: Primera:  Meditaciones Preliminares;  Segunda Sección:  Desarrollo Histórico del Dogma; Tercera Sección:  Fundamentos Bíblicos; Cuarta Sección: Fundamentos y Sentido Teológico.

PRIMERA SECCIÓN: MEDITACIONES PRELIMINARES

1) La Fiesta de la Inmaculada Concepción celebra la expresión más alta de la Redención de Jesús, que redime a su madre, en anticipación de los méritos de su Cruz y Resurrección, del pecado original – María es concebida sin ese pecado que todos los hijos de Adán heredamos del pecado de nuestros primeros padres.

2) Es importante aclarar esto: la Inmaculada Concepción NO es una excepción a la necesidad de la redención que define al ser humano desde sus orígenes. María es redimida, pero de un modo especial. En ella, la Redención de su Hijo alcanza su forma más alta, redimiendo a su madre por anticipación, es decir, librándola de toda mancha de pecado desde el momento de su concepción en el seno de su madre, en atención a los méritos de Cristo.

 

SEGUNDA SECCIÓN: LA HISTORIA DEL DESARROLLO DEL DOGMA DE LA INMACULADA CONCEPCIÓN.

1) La historia del desarrollo de este dogma se desglosa en dos períodos, marcados por dos criterios teológicos:

  1. a) PRIMER PERÍODO: Desde los comienzos hasta el siglo XIII: La cuestión seminal era: ¿Puede María, como creatura nacida de la unión de sus padres, ser concebida sin pecado? – En este período, la mayoría de los Padres de la Iglesia afirman la “impecabilidad de María,” es decir, su vida libre de todo pecado, pero no su concepción libre de pecado original,
  2. b) SEGUNDO PERÍODO: El teólogo franciscano Juan Duns Escoto (1266-1308) resuelve el dilema – pero su solución teológica no pone fin a las disputas – El 8 de diciembre de 1854, el papa Pío IX, en la Constitución Apostólica “Ineffabilis Deus” define el dogma de la Inmaculada Concepción como doctrina revelada por Dios, y por lo tanto, normativa para la fe de todos, exigiendo asentimiento interior y exterior.

Examinemos este desarrollo en detalle:

3) PRIMER PERÍODO: Desde los comienzos hasta Eadmero de Canterbury y Juan Duns Escoto:

  1. a) San Justino Mártir (m. 165 D.C.) y los Padres Apologistas en general, afirman que María es la “Nueva Eva,” la madre del Redentor, que nos viene a librar de la esclavitud del pecado que la Primera Eva introdujo en el mundo. El concepto se deriva lógicamente de la Cristología paulina del “Primer Adán-Nuevo Adán” desarrollada por San Pablo (Filipenses 2: 6-11; Romanos 5: 15-20). La Nueva Eva, María, gozó de una santidad especial – pero todavía estamos lejos de la Inmaculada Concepción.
  2. b) San Efrén de Siria (306-33) da fundamentos para el desarrollo ulterior del dogma. En sus “Himnos de Nísibe” afirma, dirigiéndose a Cristo: “Porque en ti no hay defecto y ninguna mancha en tu madre” (Himno 27. 8).
  3. c) San Ambrosio de Milán (ca. 337-397) añade a la noción teológica común de la santidad e impecabilidad de María, pero no su liberación del pecado original. Pero fue su discípulo, el incomparable San Agustín, el que planteó el obstáculo más grande para la percepción de María como Inmaculada. El gran Padre de la Iglesia y Doctor de la Gracia estaba convencido que todos los seres humanos, concebidos y nacidos de forma ordinaria del acto conyugal, en el cual él, y otros Padres, sostenían que se manifestaba la concupiscencia, deben irremisiblemente heredar el pecado original. Para San Agustín, la santidad de María fue impecable durante su vida, pero no en su concepción.
  4. d) Pero ya en este período algunos Padres y autores afirman audazmente la idea de la Inmaculada Concepción: en Occidente, Pascasio Radberto (785-865), y en Oriente, San Germán de Constantinopla (635-735), San Andrés de Creta (660-740), que escribió más sobre María que ningún otro Padre de la Iglesia antigua, y otros, proponen sin ambages que María fue concebida libre de pecado original.

4) SEGUNDO PERÍODO: Desde Eadmer de Canterbury y Juan Duns Escoto hasta la definición del dogma por Pío IX:

  1. a) Originándose probablemente en Siria, se establece, en el siglo VII, una fiesta de la Concepción de María – todavía no es la Inmaculada Concepción. La fiesta pasó al Occidente hacia el año 1050, en Inglaterra.
  2. b) Este desarrollo litúrgico coincide con las obras del primer auténtico teólogo de la Inmaculada Concepciòn, Eadmer de Canterbury (ca. 1060-ca, 1134). En sus tratado “Sobre la Concepción de la Virgen María,” propone la posibilidad de que Dios podía, si así lo hubiera deseado, prevenir a María del pecado original, aún si su concepción ocurre entre “las punzadas” de lo que en su época se consideraba la concupiscencia del acto conyugal. Con todo, el tratado de Eadmer no ofrece un fundamento teológico sólido para la doctrina de la Inmaculada Concepción.
  3. c) Eadmer usa la fórmula que Escoto desarrollaría posteriormente, de forma algo diferente: POTUIT, VOLUIT, ERGO FAECIT – Dios pudo (POTUIT) y quiso (VOLUIT), luego hizo el acto de librar a María de la mancha del pecado original (ERGO FAECIT).
  4. d) Los grandes escolásticos: San Buenaventura (1217/21-1274), Santo Tomás de Aquino, y otros, tropiezan con la misma dificultad teológica planteada por San Agustín ocho siglos antes. Siguiendo los criterios antropológicos de la época, que decían que el alma humana era “animada” 40 días después de la concepción, Sto, Tomás propone que María fue concebida con el pecado original, pero fue purificada en la “animación” de su alma.

5) SEGUNDO PERÍODO: JUAN DUNS ESCOTO, hasta la definición del dogma de la Inmaculada Concepción:

6) Aunque William de Ware (m. 1305) contribuye intuiciones teológicas fundamentales al desarrollo de este dogma, la gloria y el honor de fundamentar teológicamente, de forma decisiva, la doctrina de la Inmaculada Concepción le corresponde a su correligionario franciscano, Juan Duns Escoto, profesor de teología en las Universidades de Oxford y París. Escoto propone lo siguiente:

  1. a) Jesucristo redime a su madre de una forma privilegiada, por arriba de todos.
  2. b) La redención de Jesucristo tiene que ser perfecta, o sea total, liberando por lo menos a un ser humano de toda mancha de pecado.
  3. c) María, como Madre de Jesús, es por lo tanto redimida de forma total, ¡es concebida libre de pecado original!
  4. d) Escoto asume las palabras de Eadmer, con matices: (DIOS) POTUIT, DECUIT, ERGO FAECIT – Dios pudo (POTUIT), vió que era idóneo, propio (DECUIT), luego lo hizo (ERGO FAECIT).

7) Aunque teológicamente definitiva y categórica, la solución de Escoto no puso fin a las polémicas. De un lado, los “maculistas,” que se oponían a esta doctrina, del otro, los “inmaculistas” – ambos se prodigaban acusaciones mutuas de herejía con apasionamiento. En 1482 y 1483, el papa Sixto IV intervino, prohibiendo a ambos bandos que se acusaran de herejía. Sixto IV había dado permiso para celebrar un fiesta de la Concepción de María, pero juzgó que no era oportuno todavía definir este privilegio mariano.

8) En su Decreto sobre el Pecado Original,” el Concilio de Trento (1545-1563) hicieron una excepción con la Virgen, aunque la mayoría de los obispos reunidos en este4 Concilio juzgaron no era el momento idóneo para definir la doctrina como dogma. La iconografía religiosa de las generaciones siguientes contribuye al sentimiento teológico y popular a favor de la Inmaculada Concepción. El pintor español Bartolomé Murillo (1617-1682) inmortalizó en lienzo la Inmaculada Concepción como nadie ha hecho jamás – y su famosa pintura coincidió con renovadas peticiones a Roma, para lograr que se definirá el dogma de la Inmaculada.

9) El papa Alejandro VII (1599-1670) promulgó una Bula en diciembre 8 de 1661, precisando el objeto de la Fiesta de la Concepción de María, que, como observé arriba, ya se celebraba en Inglaterra desde aproximadamente 1050. En 1708, el papa Clemente XI, en su Bula “Commissi nobis,” extendió la fiesta a la Iglesia universal.

10) El impulso del Pueblo de Dios, en su religiosidad popular, la opinión de los teólogos y la inclinación del Magisterio mueven al papa Pío IX (1846-1878) a promulgar una Encíclica, “Ubi Primum,” febrero 2 de 1849, consultando a los obispos del mundo entero, pidiéndoles su respuesta a dos preguntas:

  1. a) El papa deseaba saber lo que los obispos, el clero y el pueblo decían sobre la Inmaculada Concepción.
  2. b) El papa quería oír la opinión de estos tres grupos sobre si era oportuno definir el dogma.

11) De los 603 obispos consultados, 546 respondieron favorablemente, 57 se opusieron, pero de éstos, solamente 4 dijeron que la doctrina no podía ser definida, 24 estaban indecisos sobre el momento oportuno para definirla, y 10 propusieron una definición indirecta.

12) El 8 de diciembre de 1854, Pío IX definió el dogma de la Inmaculada Concepción de María. Las palabras centrales de la definición son:

“Declaramos, pronunciamos y definimos que la doctrina que

Sostiene que la Bienaventurada Virgen María, en el primer instante de su concepción, por una gracia y privilegio singulares concedidos por Dios Todopoderoso, con vistas a los méritos

de Jesucristo,  el Salvador de la raza humana, fue preservada de toda mancha de pecado original, es una doctrina revelada por Dios y por lo tanto debe ser firmemente y constantemente creída por todos los fieles.”

 

 

TERCERA SECCIÓN: FUNDAMENTOS BÍBLICOS

1) El dogma y la doctrina de la Inmaculada Concepción no están definidos de forma explícita en las Escrituras, cosa que perturba a muchos de nuestros hermanos y hermanas cristianos no católicos.

2) La historia de la Teología, la Espiritualidad y el Magisterio de la Iglesia Católica Romana, y las Iglesias Orientales en comunión con Roma (que de suyo celebran la fiesta el 9 de diciembre) han sostenido constantemente que el contenido normativo de la fe de la Iglesia está contenido en la intimidad que existe entre Escritura y Tradición, es decir, entre la Biblia y la fe proclamada por los apóstoles y por la Iglesia, por su liturgia y su compromiso de evangelizar.

3) El Concilio Vaticano II, en la Constitución “Dei Verbum,” 9, nos aclara esto: “La Tradición y la Escritura están estrechamente unidas y compenetradas; manan de la misma fuente, se unen en un mismo caudal, corren hacia un mismo fin.” Luego es falso afirmar, como muchos (¡sacerdotes, inclusive!) que hay “partes  de la fe de la Iglesia en las Escrituras, y otras partes en la Tradición” – ¡La Escritura y la Tradición se vinculan íntimamente! La Biblia es el “libro de la Iglesia” (Karl Rahner), que nace ¡dentro de la Iglesia! – y es interpretado privilegiadamente dentro de la Iglesia.

4) ¿Cuáles son los fundamentos indirectos en las Escrituras, que apoyan, de forma más o menos indirecta, el dogma de la Inmaculada Concepción?

  1. a) La Inmaculada Concepción es “símbolo real” de la renovación de Jerusalén: El Espíritu que hace a María Madre de Dios, la hace también la plenitud de la renovación anunciada en Ezequiel 36: 25-27; Isaías 55: 3; Oseas 11; 8; Jeremías 31; 20.
  2. c) La morada de Dios en su Templo: Sofonías 3: 15, 17; Zacarías 2: 14-15; Isaías 60; 1-2.
  3. d) Israel en el Monte Sinaí, esposa inmaculada: Éxodo 19: 8ss; Deuteronomio 18: 18-19.
  4. e) El “SÍ” definitivo de María a la propuesta riesgosa y total de Dios (Lucas 1: 26-38 – ¡el Evangelio de hoy!

 

 

TERCERA SECCIÓN: FUNDAMENTOS Y SENTIDO TEOLÓGICO.

1) La Constitución del Concilio Vaticano II, “Lumen Gentium,” 52-69, nos dice que, fieles al testimonio de las Escrituras y de la más antigua Tradición de los Padres de la Iglesia, todo lo que la Iglesia dice de María, lo dice en función de Jesucristo:

  1. a) La teología y dogmas marianos son Cristocéntricos, es decir, su validez deriva de la intimidad de María con su Hijo, el único mediador, el Salvador, el Hijo de Dios eterno – las doctrinas y dogmas marianos no existen por sí mismos, existen en el contexto de la Cristología de la Iglesia.
  2. b) Los dogmas y doctrinas marianas tienen un carácter eclesio-típico, es decir, desde la Patrística más antigua, María ha sido vista como prototipo, como imagen de la Iglesia, que, al igual que María, está llamada a dar a luz a Cristo en los fieles, a permanecer “virgen e inmaculada” es decir, fiel a su fe y su misión de evangelizar, repitiendo hasta el final de los tiempos el “SÏ” de María a la invitación del Señor a ser discípulos misioneros.

2) Comentando sobre la Encíclica de Pío XII, “Fulgens Corona,” de diciembre 8, 1953, conmemorando el aniversario de la definición dogmática y convocando el Año Mariano de 1954, Karl Rahner propuso la importancia y función central del dogma de la Inmaculada en la teología: Rahner afirmó:

  1. a) María es inteligible solamente en función de Cristo (anticipando “Lumen Gentium,” 52-69).
  2. b) Por ello, hay que tomar los dogmas marianos con seriedad: eso nos indica cuán seriamente tomamos en serio los dogmas cristológicos.

3) La reflexión de Rahner nos enfatiza el vínculo íntimo y recíproco entre María y su Hijo – si es verdad que María es solamente inteligible en el contexto de Jesucristo, ¡entonces es igualmente verdad que despreciar un dogma mariano equivale a socavar la realidad de la Encarnación!

¿QUÉ NOS DICE TODO ESTO A NOSOTROS, HOY?

1) La Inmaculada Concepción de María, si bien es un privilegio concedido gratuita e inmerecidamente por Dios a la Madre de su Hijo, no anula la libertad de María, no le ahorra el sufrimiento de la separación, el dolor impensable de verlo morir, segundo a segundo, en una cruz – ¡María crece hacia dentro de su privilegio!

2) La Inmaculada Concepción nos recuerda el “SÏ” riesgoso que María le dio al mensajero de Dios – ¡María da un salto en un vacío oscuro e impredecible, donde solamente sabe que está presente el amor redentor de Dios – ¡sólo para descubrir, cara a cara con la Resurrección, que el vacío está lleno del Espíritu Santo!

3) El amor de Dios humaniza, ¡nos hace plenamente humanos! María es, después de su Hijo, la persona más auténtica humana en la historia, precisamente porque el pecado, el “NO” al amor de Dios, que siempre hiere nuestra humanidad, está ausente.

4) En la Fiesta de la Inmaculada Concepción, celebramos cómo María hace realidad aquella intuición de Karl Rahner: “La Cristología es Antropología auto- trascendente, la Antropología es Cristología deficiente” –La comunión apasionada, vulnerable y riesgosa con la Pascua de Jesucristo es la plenitud de nuestra humanidad (nuestra Antropología) – ¡y nadie vivió más plenamente esa comunión que María, la Madre de Dios, la Virgen Inmaculada en su Concepción!

 

 

PUCHEAU´S CRIME

PUCHEAU’S CRIME

          In his very recommendable biography of Albert Camus (1913-1960), “A Life worth Living” Robert Zaretzky tells the following story:

Camus, atheist, existentialist writer and playwright (my favorite atheist, I love reading him, and required his “Myth of Sisyphus” as reading for my Course on Atheism at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary – the last elective Course I taught at the end of my 30 years of full time teaching there – and he never accepted the label “existentialist” – he preferred to call himself an “absurdist”) was a life-long opponent of the death penalty – but, upon the liberation of Paris in August of 1944, he surprised many by endorsing Charles de Gaulle’s decision to exectue Pierre Pucheau, a collaborationist, the Minister of the Interior of the puppet Vichy Regime installed by the Nazis in conquered France.

What was Pucheau’s crime. Zaretsky describes it thus: “Though heinous, Pucheau’s treason was not his greatest crime, Instead, Camus declared, it was his ‘lack of imagination” – his inability to attend to the world and the consequences of his actions. As the Vichy bureaucracy who oversaw the nation’s police forces, Pucheau acted AS IF NOTHING HAD CHANGED SINCE FRANCE’S DEFEAT AND OCCUPATION (emphasis mine).”

Zaretsky, quoting Camus, goes on: “ ‘A creature of the abstract and administrative system he had ALWAYS known (emphasis mine),’ Pucheau, in the comfort of his office, signed laws condemning men to death – and adds, ‘ No one has any longer has the right to lack imagination . . . The time for abstractions is over.’ “

Pucheau, before the war, had been an insignificant, anonymous, bureaucratic pen-pusher – when, on June 14, 1940, German forces marched through the Arch de Triomphe in Paris, he continued to be the same – and THAT was his crime! Nothing had changed for him! Nothing! Yesterday, he worked for the French government, today, for the Germans, tomorrow, he might have assumed, the French will come back – so, who cares? Things did not change for him – and THAT was his crime!

Yesterday, he was signing official documents on budget and transportation measures, today, he is doing the same for the German occupation forces – Nothing changes! – But, one day, new documents began to be placed before him, on his desk – orders of executions against captured members of the French Resistance /

Pucheau signed them – why not? “Just following orders” – My pen pushing is innocuous, I do not kill anyone, my fingers do not pull the trigger of a rifle lined up in a firing squad, it does not inflict torture – I just sign documents given to me – Nothing has changed! Yesterday, the French, today, the Germans, tomorrow, the French again – and the world goes on – Why bother?

LACK OF MORAL IMAGINATION!!! Mexico has suffered a devastating earthquake, accounting (last tally I heard) for over 300 deaths – Puerto Rico is in the throes of an unimaginable humanitarian crisis – People are dying! And . . .  ???

Yes, there have been compassionate people who have allowed themselves to be touched by these human plights, yes, caring and Gospel-driven people in institutions like Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, have been working beyond what normal human emotional and physical strength might seem to allow, helping to coordinate efforts – Yes, many good people have responded – BUT . .  .

Society at large? The Federal and local governments – are they wounded, hurt to the deepest levels of human decency, by these horrors? Do I not still hear people, here and there, react as if Puerto Rico were outside of our solar system? People are dying! – Is there a “moral imagination” telling us that these efforts, heroic as some of them have been, ARE NOT ENOUGH? That an entire society need must to engage herself in our heart and mind to give what we have in excess to those who have nothing? – It would take an appallingly mediocre and mindless spirit to ignore that Puerto Ricans, who have been migrating to the USA from the mainland – who are Americans, who do not need a passport when traveling! – have also suffered abominable prejudice and racism over the years – and that racism is surfacing in some minds at present . . .

Puerto Rico, Mexico, the migrants, victims of the venomous racism streaming from official circles, suffering the effects of so many other Pucheaus just plying their insignificant pen-pushing daily task into a lethal cocktail of indifferent, sclerotized, racist and rejecting hearts – Does anyone care? Does anyone weep for the victims anymore?

In his first official visit outside the Vatican, on July 8, 2013, Pope Francis preached an unforgettable, paschal, passionate sermon at Mass in the Italian migrant-processing island of Lampedusa (remember Lampedusa? It seems it happened so many eons ago . . .) Francis bewailed what I might, today, dare to call the Pucheau Syndrome: “The globalization of indifference has robbed us of our capacity to weep (for the victims)”

Pucheau did not weep for his victims – though living in a pre-global world, he was a precursor of sorts of our society types today – he might have even repressed the thought that he was causing victims! – Not by the actual physical act of pulling a trigger, or placing a noose around a Resistance fighter’s neck – Simply, by a lack of moral imagination!!

We might wish to pause, look inside our hearts, as we face the unspeakable horror of anti-migrant racism, of a deliberate fueling of anti-Islamic hatred, of a willful destruction of God’s creation, of the faces, hearts and souls turning away from destroyed homes and lives in Puerto Rico, in so many other places . . .

Do we have the moral imagination – the moral indignation! – that bureaucratic minded, insignificant, mediocre souls like Pierre Pucheau did not have? After all, why should we? Let the . . . (fill in the blank: the government, the politicians, the priests and bishops) take care of it – Leave me alone! I go faithfully to mi 10 AM Mass, I meet all the nice guys and girls of my Catholic social club, aka parish, joke with them, piously receive the host, drive away from the parking lot – into the open arms of Pierre Pucheau’s inexcusable evisceration of moral imagination!

Well, so what? Am I going to be judged by this conceptual contraption, the “moral imagination”? After all, I obey the commandments, am faithful to my wife, tithe, go to Sunday (maybe even, daily!) Mass – that’s what’s important, isn’t it? What do I care about this guy I never heard of, Pucheau, about what he did or did not do? After all, I do not work in an office under the control of Nazi Germany – I am not responsible for anyone’s misery, for anyone’s death!

Are we? Who knows, perhaps we might dare to let our imagination fly free, and conceive the notion that on his way to the firing wall, Pucheau might have heard those words that we all will hear, most definitely, one day – and they are not: How was your 10 AM Sunday Mass attendance? Did you tithe? Did you vote for all the pro-life candidates – Pro Life, that is, understood within the sickening, myopic spaces of our own officially, ETWN-approved, notion of Pro-Life?

Rather, we will be embraced by the Paschal Jesus, or convict ourselves, by the same criteria that Camus used to convict Pucheau: “For I was hungry . . . for I was a foreigner , , , an you . . . ? Those who opt for the comforts and delights of the Pucheau Syndrome, will ask: “But, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, naked . . . a migrant (“xenon” = a foreigner), and did not .  . . ?

In a probably still-to-be-discovered manuscript, somewhere in the Egyptian or Judean desert, there must a variant of Matthew 25:  31-45, where Jesus says: “Whenever you, seized by fear and ignorance, dismissed your moral imagination, and did not see me in one of these, the “elachiston,” the “least of the least,” you did it to me”

The option is ours, the same option Pucheau had before him: Our comfortable, death-dealing loss of our moral imagination, or the life-giving embrace of the Cross of Jesus – the ultimate moral imagination, for, hanging from his deadly, desperate abandonment of his heart-piercing Cross, Jesus dares to see that self-surrendering love always flows into Resurrection, that Love always transforms the horrors of Crucifixion into New Life – Jesus, indeed, the Gospel made flesh, is the Trinitarian God’s infinite, loving, passionate, vulnerable and risky divine moral imagination!

Oremus pro invicem

 

LORD SATAN IS COMING!

LORD SATAN IS COMING!!.

Many extreme conservative and reactionary Christians fear Halloween as a feast where the powers of Satan are unleashed upon a sinful world – Black Masses, human sacrifices, Satanic symbols, the power of darkness . . .

Nonsense! The only forces loose upon the world are dozens of little (and not so little) children, dressed as witches, warlocks, skeletons, pumpkins, and God knows what else – probably mortally afraid of the customs they wear – the only dread –at least, for me – is driving in my narrow-street neighborhood, crawling at 10 mph., trying my best to avoid those little, swift shadows flitting about from house to house.

But, just for the sake of conversation, let us entertain the possibility that there may be, somewhere, in some vacant lot or deep within the Everglades, real devil-worshipping rituals, Black Masses, that choose Halloween as a propitious moment for liturgical gathering . . .  let us just conceive such a hypothesis, let us grant that chimera a moment of life . . .

Well, such celebrations of the Prince of the Underworld would be far less demonic, far less evil, than the TRUE celebration of unmitigated iniquity on thqt day when the sinister powers of Satanic evil are unleashed upon the world: BLACK FRIDAY!!

And it is coming, is dawning upon us – as I write this, two days before Thanksgiving, I am desperately trying to locate the local exorcist – You don’t believe in demonic possessions, you say? What do you do on Black Fridays, hole up in your nearest, friendly Trappist monastery? (not a bad idea, at that!!).

Do you wish to have irrefutable, undeniable proof that Satanic possessions do happen, that the powers of the Underworld possess human souls? This Black Friday, drive to your nearest shopping center – park at a prudent distance, and observe, with all your powers of fascination, the diabolical hordes storming the gates of stores, trampling unwary employees, elbowing, punching, cursing at each other – for the privilege of purchasing the latest laptop model for a $1.25 – which is, incidentally, the earnings of 26% of the population of the planet – 1.75 BILLION people!

Better yet, do you wish to participate in a Devil’s Worship liturgy – something you can tell your grandchildren about? Drive at 2 AM to your friendly mega-shopping plaza, and set up camp among the thousands upon thousands of morons who deprive themselves of sleep, who make the solemn resolution, before leaving home, to jettison the residues of humanity they have left, as they get ready to assault the holy shrines of consumerism, the cathedrals of unbridled capitalism –

But, while you are waiting your chance to join the stampede of Baal’s minions, you might allow your mind to drift, ever so casually, to the pain-riddled faces of the 34,400 children under the age of 18 who will die of starvation or starvation-related diseases on Black Friday, on all other Fridays, every single day! . . . . or, to the 870 million who will go to bed hungry tonight – or to the 2.5 BILLION people who try to survive on less than $2.50 a day, or to migrants whose families are being broken by inhuman deportations . . . or . . . should I go on?

No, please! Don’t spoil my fun! Those starving children or hungry people, or underpaid, slave workers are not my responsibility – I have a right to spend my money anyway I want! Let priests, pastors, rabbis and charitable agencies care for the hungry and the poor . . . ! They are not my problem! The Lord Beelzebul has told me so! The Word of the Devil! The Bible? I left it at home – it’s a nuisance in a day like this – it might prick my conscience – and, you don’t bring your conscience to Black Friday! Of course not! You bring your credit cards, the privileged admission tickets into the gates of Sheol – or your wallet!

Who cares? – My prayer for today’s Liturgy from Hell: Lord Satan, Prince of Darkness, Lord Baal, I beseech thee, please make sure those super-latest model Iphone prices are slashed by 50%, don’t let this idiot galloping next to me get to those brand-new laptops cut down by 30% before I do . . . Lord of Basest Iniquity, Regal Master of Consumerism, I am a faithful devotee, please, let me get to that dishwasher sale first . . . For this is your Day, this is truly the Day that the Lord Satan has made – Black Friday! Let us rejoice in it!

 

THE LITTLE DONKEY, JESUS AND TRUE HUMILITY

 

THE LITTLE DONKEY, JESUS AND TRUE HUMILITY

Dear Friends:

Today’s reading from Zechariah 9: 9-10 and Matt. 11: 25-30 evoke this wonderful story, shared by bishop Carlos Pellegrin, from the diocese of Chillán, Chile:

Once upon a time, there was a little donkey who lived just outside of Jerusalem. He did what . . . well, I guess what all little donkeys do: carry loads and people, pull merchandise, etc.

One day, a group of strange people came to town. They were not from Jerusalem, from Judea: they were Galileans. They took the little donkey and saddled him with colorful and cushiony blankets. There climbed unto the little donkey’s back a young man, with a serene, joyful countenance, somewhat beclouded by sadness. The little donkey though he heard the name “Jesus” addressed to his rider. Then, they took the little donkey by the bridle, and led him and the young man riding upon him through one of the gates, into the Holy City.

Then the little donkey noticed something awesome: a huge throng of people gathered, with palms and blankets, cheering and applauding in his direction. The little donkey was befuddled. What was going on?

Then, confusion ensued. The little donkey thought all the joyful acclamations and the Hosannas were for him!! Mind you, the poor little donkey was used to being mistreated, overloaded with merchandise and people, perhaps beaten and insulted. This was something unspeakably new! He became so excited that he began prancing and jolting, and almost threw Jesus off into the ground. He had never been acclaimed, praised, with waving fronds and palms, before – ever!!

Then one of the Galilean foreigners came to him, patted him softly, and spoke to him gently: “Now, there, little donkey, these cheers and shouts of joy are not for you. They are for the guy you bear on your back – a prophet mighty in deed and words, called Jesus, from Galilee, from Nazareth!” Disappointed and deflated, but obedient, the little donkey calmed down and trotted, bearing his rider, the true object of all the commotion, into Jerusalem . . . and into oblivion.

The Gospels do not tell us what happened to the little donkey afterwards. We read about Jesus’ last days in Jerusalem: the Last Supper, the Passion, the Resurrection experiences . . . but the little donkey is consigned into historical nothingness. We may guess that he went back to . .  . well, to being a little donkey, to carry people and merchandise, to being abused, insulted and beaten . . . BUT,

He most assuredly never thought of it, but, for one shining moment in those sweltering days of the Jerusalem spring of the year 30, for one luminously splendorous instant, he found himself at the center of human history, humbly, silently, riding into grace, redemption and glory.

I need hardly tell you, dear friends, that “little donkey” is a much less dignified, far less flattering rubric than “missionary disciple,” or “Eucharistic minister,” or “preacher,” or “professor of theology (exegesis, philosophy, whatever).” We would recoil and take offense if anyone, out in the streets, in the classroom or the parish, were to call us “little donkeys.”

But, in light of today’s readings, as we are fed at the table of the Word, that’s all we are called to be, regardless of other ministerial, academic or pastoral titles we may secretly be proud to bear: little donkeys, called by the God, Lord of history, to bear Jesus to others. Like the little donkey of the story, it is entirely possible that parish bulletins, diocesan proclamations, not to mention history books, will never speak of us again.

BUT, Like the little donkey of Bishop Pellegrin’s story, we deliver Jesus into the Holy City of other people’s hearts, especially the Holy Sanctuary of the poor, the hungry, the victims of racism, all the crucified of history, trusting that He whom we bore on our backs, will most definitely call us, as Matthew’s Gospel tells us, to soothe our pain, to kindle hope into our anguishes and despairs, to call us, as the little donkey was, for a few precious moments, to a passionate, vulnerable, risky, liberating communion with He whom we deliver through the gates of all the hurting and broken Jerusalems of the world.

Oremus pro invicem.

MUSINGS ON THE 4TH – WIESEL, LINCOLN, FRANCIS, JESUS

MUSINGS ON THE 4TH: WIESEL, FRANCIS, JESUS

Dear Friends:

“Human beings can be beautiful, or more beautiful,

They can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong,

But, illegal? How can a human being be illegal?

Elie Wiesel (1928-2016)

 

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice,

But there can never be a time when we fail to protest”

Elie Wiesel (quoted from “Give Us this Day”)

 

“I wish a Church which is poor and for the poor . . . The poor have much to teach us.”

Pope Francis, “Evangelii Gaudium,” 198

 

For I was hungry . . . for I was thirsty . . . for I was an alien . . .

And you . . . ?  Matt. 25: 31-46

 

July 4th – This nation was born (like many others were) as a protest against injustice and oppression. After a period of tentative survival as a loose conglomeration of states which did not perceive themselves as a nation, after the failure of the Articles of Confederation to provide a sense of national identity, a group of visionaries produced one of the most remarkable documents of all times, truly an expression of a people willing to live as a “polis,” as social and political community, guided by their concern for the Common Good. On September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States was ratified.

But this original text, dense and plethoric with promises as it was when it appeared, was deemed insufficient. On December 15, 1791, the U.S. Congress ratified the first 10 Amendments, the Bill of Rights. Over time, from 1791 through 1992, other 17 Amendments were added.

Are the Amendments to be regarded, as many have done, as corrections to deficiencies in the 1787 original Constitutions? I would rather see them as a deeper exegesis of the implicit spirit and nature of that first, convulsive and subversive text. The Amendments attempt to flesh out the promise and the hopes of the Founding Fathers (or “Brothers,” as Joseph Ellis would have it).

But there always was the questions of the “illegals” – Elie Wiesel knew what it was like to be illegal. On September 15, 1935, when Hitler pushed through the Nuremberg Laws, all Jews in German-controlled territories became illegal. Stripped of their citizenship and of the opportunities to pursue mainline professions, they became pariahs, “illegal” waste, discards, in the land many of them had inhabited for generations. For Wiesel, that meant, eventually, a journey of death and unspeakable pain through three concentration camp: Auschwitz, where his mother and younger sister, Tzipora,  died, Buna, and Buchenwald, where his father was also murdered . . . and the cry many others raised to the heavens, that never ceased to torture this noble and inspired soul: “Can we believe in God after Auschwitz?” – “The death of my God and my soul,” as he would later define it.

For the newly-conceived nation across the Atlantic, the question of the “illegals” meant facing the following fact (I trust you do not have allergic reactions to numbers): In 1790, Congress ordered the first U.S. Census to be taken. The project yielded the following somber and sobering reality: of the 3, 893, 635 people dwelling in the newly-independent former colonies, 694, 280 were slaves. The nation was born with 17.2 % of its population living in bondage, with no social or political identity, and legally classified as chattel, as property, not as human beings.

There were anointed people who did not fail to protest. On May 29, 1856, at the foundation of the new Republican Party in Bloomington, Abraham Lincoln delivered his “lost speech” (no transcripts of the whole speech survive, but we have fragments preserved by local scribes). Lincoln claimed that “the Union must be preserved in the purity of its principles as well as the integrity of its territorial parts.” Lincoln would follow through, as President, with his demand when on January 1, 1863, he proclaimed the Emancipation Act.

From April 12, 1861 to April 9, 1865, all hell broke loose over the land – literally. It took a Civil War that claimed the lives of 620,000 people (conservative estimate) and many thousands more maimed or lost, to bring about the XIII Amendment, ratified on December 6, 1865, abolishing slavery forever.

The 4th of July, Wiesel, Abraham Lincoln, the Holocaust, slavery – how do they connect to one another, if indeed they do? How fitting are they as substance for reflection on Independence Day, if indeed they are?

History is not driven by blind, tragic fate, the “Ananke” of the ancient Greeks. For those whose hearts and souls are defined (in the midst of their imperfections) by the Jewish-Christian Scriptures and Tradition, there is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Jesus Christ, who somehow, in and through the horrors of the Holocaust and slavery, remains the true Lord of history.

But God, the God who was “murdered” in the souls of so many victims of the brutalities of our age, is also a subversive God, a God who calls frail and finite people to clamor for justice, to protest, to raise their voice for the voiceless, to never let a nation (or a world) dismiss or turn a blind eye to the slaveries, the Holocausts, that still happen today, in a vaster and vaster scale.

I see, with undefinable pain and hurt, how so many (NOT ALL!!) Catholic parish communities here in South Florida ignore the cry of the victims, all around them – So many of those who fill their opulent churches, graced with marble altars, at the 10 AM Mass every Sunday, and then turn around and demand that “those filthy migrants” be sent to the hellhole they came from, who argue (as this “good Catholic” lady, regular communicant, fiercely and viciously told me) that those migrants are bringing diseases already eradicated (a false rumor, as the CDC in Atlanta later reported) – send them back to die of those diseases in the desert, she said (!!!!)

A close friend of hers, who coordinates a Bible study group (!!!!) wrote a letter expressing her glee at the U.S. apostasy from the Paris Agreement – the fact that, as pope Francis unceasingly affirms in Laudato Si (61 X), the poor are the front-line sufferers of ecological disaster does not matter at all to this Catholic Bible-thumper.

During his days at the concentration camp of Buna, Elie Wiesel and the other prisoners were forced to watch the hanging of three men, accused of sabotage. One of them was a very young, angelic-faced boy. After the hangings were seemingly over, Wiesel approached this sweet-faced boy – he was still alive! “And so he remained – Wiesel continues – for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished.”

“Behind me, I heard the same man asking: ‘For God’s sake, where is God?’ And from within me, I heard a voice answer: ‘Where He is? – This is where –  hanging from this gallows . . .  That night, the soup tasted of corpses.”

As we celebrate the 4th  – and surely, there are good reasons to celebrate!! – as we smell the ever-inviting burgers or whatever food we consume today, as the Republic we celebrate is given over to the oracles of racism, xenophobia, unbridled greed and arrogance, and allowed to unravel at a record pace, perhaps Wiesel’s recollection would be a subversive reminder – as subversive as the document signed on this date, in 1776 (for the sake of being pedantic, it was actually signed two days earlier), and that other wonder of American foundational political genius, the Constitution – that, indeed, the corpses of the victims of hatred, racism and individualism are still hanging in their gallows, that the counter-witness so many parish Catholics give kindles that never-ending anguished clamor: “For God’s sake, where is God” – and the answer thunders ominously: “This is where – hanging here from the gallows.”

Not as an act of unwelcome masochism on such a festive day, but as a healthy protest, as a Fundamental Option for spiritual integrity, we should allow at least one of our burgers today to taste like corpses.

Oremus pro invicem