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CHRISTOLOGY IN RETREAT: NIEMOLLER’S POEM

CHRISTOLOGY IN RETREAT: NIEMÖLLER’S POEM:

DEAR FRIENDS:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the incurable patients, and I did not speak out-

Because I was not an incurable patient

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

Pastor Martin Niemöller was a member of the anti-Nazi Confessional  Church (founded by Dietrich Bonhoeffer), and suffered prison at the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. However, he always felt a lingering sense of guilt at what he regarded as his insufficient public opposition to Hitler’s regime and his murderous Holocaust. Shortly after the war (1946. 1952?) he wrote the poem quoted above.

Niemöller’s guilt-ridden, yet hope-filled insight is remarkably prophetic for our times. The victims are different, the horror, the racism and the xenophobia are the same:

“First, they came for the Mexicans, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Mexican.”

“Then, they came for the Guatemalans, and I did not speak out, because I am not a Guatemalan.”

“Then they came for the Syrians, and I did not speak out, because I am not a Syrian.”

“Then they came for all the Muslims, and I did not speak out, because I am not a Muslim.”

“Then they came for all those who were not Mexicans, Guatemalans, Syrians, or Muslims, but who dared advocate the Gospel of justice, love and compassion on their behalf, and I did not speak out, because I felt the Gospel of justice, love and compassion was too dangerous and subversive, and I chose to attend my 10 AM Mass every Sunday, and remain safe.”          “Finally, they came for me, and there were no more victims left to support me, embrace me and pray with me.”

Niemöller, after all, was simply defining the social, public, passionate, subversive implications of Mt 25: 31-46: “For I was hungry . . .  for I was an alien . . . ” – It is the public confession that Luke places in Mary’s lips: “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted the lowly” (Lk 1: 51-53).

In our times, Oscar Romero and Rutilio Grande, the martyrs of El Salvador, dared to speak out on behalf of the poor, the indigenous peoples, the discarded, the persecuted, and paid the price all true prophets eventually pay. Pope Francis has drawn the wrath of many among the powerful and wealthy (many of whom are parish Catholics) for sighing: “I wish a Church which is poor and for the poor” (EG 198). Dom Helder Camara prophesized along the lines of Romero and Niemöller when he said: “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

Sooner or later, “they” will come for us – We will be called to take a stand, to give witness to the fullness of our Christian faith, to our fidelity to the Gospel of justice and compassion. The consequences for saying “Yes” may be dire – not, of course, Auschwitz, Treblinka, or Buchenwald (or so I hope – after all, Sheriff Joe’s camps in Arizona, where the undocumented are held, are notorious), but ridicule, isolation, rejection – perhaps jail, perhaps death – THIS HAS ALREADY HAPPENED: the brutal, lethal bludgeoning of 18-year old Onesimo López Ramos, a Guatemalan migrant, at the hands of the three white self-styled “Guat Hunters,” on April 18, 2015, still rings on the souls of all those whose hearts bleed for the crucified of history – Onésimo could not hide his indigenous identity – it was too evident, as was evident, for other reasons, the identity of the Jewish communities in Nazi Germany. The culpable silence of German Christendom had deadly consequences.

And so does, indeed, the silence of the South Florida church face-to-face with Onésimo´s murder, which, with the exception of a handful (and I mean, a handful) of priests, deacons, and committed laity, kept silent, DID NOT SPEAK OUT, against this atrocity –Their silence echoes that of the majority of Christians in Nazi Germany, who remained silent, did not speak out, when their Jewish neighbors where carted off to the camps

The inconvenient, perturbing, subversive question lingers: When “they” come for those who are held to be dangerous, superfluous, a burden to society, a threat to “public safety,” those who look too “foreign,” too indigenous, too mestizo, too beholden to “un-American” religions, too radically powerless, will we speak out? Will we simply say: “I am not (fill in: Guatemalan, Mexican, Syrian, Muslim), I go to the 10 AM Mass on Sundays, I am a good Catholic and do not get involved in ‘political’ issues,” and thereby allow the landscape to be “cleansed” of the “undesirables,” until “they” turn their gaze, notice me, and come for me?

OREMUS PRO INVICEM

 

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IGNATIAN SOLIDARITY: JESUS AND DISSENTING VOICES

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI AND THE MAN BORN BLIND

DEAR FRIENDS:
         Many of us are familiar with the story of St. Francis and the leper (cf. Tomas de Celano, “First Life of St. Francis,” 17). In the early stages of his conversion, as he was riding through a dense forest, St. Francis was struck by a foul odor, a stench beyond belief: it was a leper, hiding, trying to keep his distance from any human contact.
       In the early-to-middle- Middle Ages (St. Francis lived from 1181/2-1226), lepers still suffered the opprobium, the contempt and exclusion of their biblical counterparts. Francis, driven by the insanity of that love which St. Paul qualifies as “moron,” “moria” (cf. 1 Cor 1: 25: “To moron tou theou sophoteron ton anthropon estin” = “The madness of God is wiser than human beings” = i.e., the Cross), approached him and kissed him.
       Francis had a good pair of eyes: he saw the suffering, despised, rejected and discarded Christ in that leper. In today’s Gospel, we read, not about a leper, but about a man born blind. Such people suffered from a similar social stigma: the reasoning of retributive justice, common in ancient Israelite theology (though challenged by the Book of Job, 350-500 years B.C.E.), argued that either he or his parents, or ancestors, must have indulged in some awful sin.        Such, at least, is the way Jesus’ disciples were wired, by a merciless and sclerotized interpretation of the law, to interpret and judge the man they bump into (cf. Jn 9: 2). Jesus challenges their myopic hearts, unable to see through the man’s affliction the splendor of God’s image and likeness (Gen 1: 26). Jesus heals the man, and then disappears for a while, leaving the now-healed blind man to emerge as a sort of biblical Thomas Aquinas, deftly using his sense of logic and an impeccable, and radically subversive, re-interpretation of the Law, to confuse his accusers. 
     In the end, reflecting the background of the later “birkat-ha-minnim” controversies(“The curse against the heretics,” i.e., the “minnim,” Jews converted to Jesus), emerging in the post-war years after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the Pharisees throw the man out (Jn. 9: 22: cf. 7: 49, 16: 2). They are blinded by their own self-seeking, culpably ignorant, manipulative, arrogant interpretation of the law – after all, the blind man did not belong to them, the Pharisees, the “perushim,” the “separated ones,” rather, he was a card-carrying member of the “am-ha’aretz,” the rabble, the accursed ones (cf. Jn. 7: 49).
     Like Jesus’ adversaries in today’s Gospel, so many of our parish Catholics fail to see Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of Man, in the poor, the hungry, the migrants, the discarded of our opulent societies. They are only concerned with their own petty, myopic understanding of the law – In their arrogance, lust for power and wealth, their culpable ignorance and racism they ignore the only Law there is: Love of God, with all our heart and power, and love of neighbor, especially those whom Jesus loved preferentially, those with whom He identified Himself: cf. Mtt 25: 31-46: “For I was hungry . . . for I was an alien . . . and you fed me (or not), welcomed me (or rejected me).
     Mary, Mother of Wisdom, you who, at the foot of the Cross, could see Redemption where all others saw destruction, you who, where all others saw only a broken man, His life ebbing away with each passing second, saw Resurrection and healing rapidly approaching, teach us to see your Son in the faces of all the victims, all the crucified of history.
      Oremus pro invicem
Sixto
AT THE SUNSET OF OUR LIVES, WE WILL BE JUDGED BY LOVE
St. John of the Cross
“Sayings of Light and Love,” 59
WE WILL NEVER LOVE ENOUGH
Bl. Charles de Foucauld
Letter to Marie de Bondy,

IGNATIAN SOLIDARITY: SOCIAL BLINDNESS

DEAR FRIENDS:
Allow me to share with you the following Gospel reflection by Sister Norma Pimentel, MJ:

DAY 26: WHO IS TRULY BLIND?

BY SR. NORMA PIMENTEL, M.J. | March 26, 2017
Today’s Readings
Reflexión en español

Across the globe, many are struggling with how to respond to the refugees arriving within their borders.

Daily, I see the suffering of immigrant families fleeing violence and poverty.

Much like the man born blind in John’s Gospel, these people were born into economic and social hardships they did not choose. Like the blind man, they seek a better life in which they can feed their families and live without fear or discrimination.

Although many people and organizations seek to provide humanitarian care to the stranger among us, refugees are often in danger of not receiving the protection and human dignity they deserve as God’s children.

The shoes of Fernando, a four-year-old Guatemalan boy. He and his mother were served by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley after arriving McAllen, Texas. Photo courtesy of Verónica Cárdenas and part of Traveling Soles, a series of images designed to tell the story of immigrants arriving in the U.S.

In today’s Gospel reading the Pharisees criticize Jesus for working on the Sabbath while, at the same time, ignoring the blind man’s deep suffering and Jesus’ healing miracle.

So, we may ask ourselves: Who is truly blind? Is it the man who was not able to see since his birth or the leaders of the establishment who have no vision, no compassion?

Who is truly blind? #RiseUpLent @nspimentel

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In the spiritual tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for the grace of divine sight — sight that would allow you to witness and empathize with those who experience gross inequality.

May your charitable work this Lenten season include advocating for those in most need of mercy and healing. Call upon the leaders of your city, state and nation. Beg them “to see” the injustice of laws that cause or perpetuate suffering.

May God’s grace be visible through you as you rise up in support of the most vulnerable in our midst.

Sr. Norma Pimentel, M.J.

As Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, Sister Norma Pimentel oversees the charitable arm of the Diocese of Brownsville, providing oversight of various programs: emergency assistance, clinical counseling, housing assistance, pregnancy care and military assistance. In the summer of 2014 she organized the community resources responding to the surge of refugees seeking asylum in the United States. The Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, TX and its countless volunteers from the around the country have welcomed more than 71,000 individuals from 31 countries. Sister Norma Pimentel earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and graduate degrees in theology and counseling psychology.

Como Directora Ejecutiva de las Caridades Católicas del Valle del Río Grande, la Hermana Norma Pimentel supervisa el brazo caritativo de la Diócesis de Brownsville, supervisando varios programas: asistencia de emergencia, consejería clínica, asistencia en vivienda, atención de embarazo y asistencia militar. En el verano de 2014 organizó los recursos comunitarios que respondían a la oleada de refugiados que buscaban asilo en los Estados Unidos. “The Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen” en McAllen, TX y sus innumerables voluntarios de todo el país han recibido a más de 71,000 personas de 31 países. La hermana Norma Pimentel obtuvo una licenciatura en artes y postgrados en psicología y teología.

CARDINAL CUPICH: THE CHURCH STANDS WITH IMMIGRANTS

 

DEAR FRIENDS:

Kindly read below: Cardinal Cupich is truly a boldly prophetic voice, advocating the cause of the “least of the least”

 

Cardinal Cupich tells national TV audience: Church ‘stands with’ immigrants

Cardinal Blase Cupich gives the homily at Holy Name Cathedral on Jan. 8, 2017.

(Michael Tercha / Chicago Tribune)

Kim JanssenContact ReporterChicago Tribune

Town Hall meetings are out of fashion for certain Republican congressmen who have spent the start of 2017 dodging Democratic Party activists.

But Cardinal Blase Cupich got an altogether warmer reception when he used a nationally broadcast town hall this weekend to tell recent immigrants, “the church stands with you.”

 

Organized by Telemundo, the meeting at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Chicago’s Brighton Park neighborhood gave the cardinal a chance to showcase his fluent Spanish.

“From this immigrant nation’s early days, the church has accompanied those who sought refuge from persecution, fled poverty and war in their homelands and came here, seeking to trade their labor and loyalty for citizenship,” Cupich told a church packed with first- and second-generation immigrants, according to a translation provided by the archdiocese.

“Priests and religious came with these immigrants, sometimes on the same boats, so they could provide comfort in the familiar language and traditions of their home countries,” he said.

Cupich — who has previously urged all those studying to become priests to learn Spanish — has put himself at the forefront of the battle to protect Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city since the election of President Donald Trump, who has vowed a crackdown on illegal immigration. Cupich last month instructed Chicago priests and Catholic schools not to admit immigration officers onto parish properties without a warrant.

Cupich to priests: No entry for immigration agents without warrants

Speaking to Chicago Inc. on Monday, the cardinal said it was important for him to speak to worshippers in “their language of prayer.”

“Many Latino kids who speak English quite well, because Spanish was a part of their upbringing, that’s the language they pray in,” he said.

Cupich said that though his grandfather was just a teenager when he emigrated from Croatia to the U.S. in the early 20th century, other relatives came in their 20s and spoke “broken English.” In the Nebraska parish where they worshipped, “the homilies were all given in Croatian,” he said, adding that the church made them feel at home in a strange land.

And asked what he thought of Americans who demanded immigrants immediately speak English upon arrival in the U.S., he said, “There’s nothing wrong with being bilingual or trilingual, because it shows that you are able to communicate with more people … otherwise, why are we teaching languages in our schools?”

Cupich declined to comment on what he believes are the president’s personal views about immigration, but on Sunday made pointed remarks about the current political climate.

“The truth that every human being, documented or undocumented, is made in the image of God and (is) deserving of dignity and respect is at the core of our faith,” he said at the town hall event. “Because of that truth, I am here today to assure you that we stand with those made fearful by the hatred expressed and threats made during the past year toward immigrants and refugees.”

The cardinal also quoted Pope Francis‘ words of support for U.S. immigrants from 2015, and added, “We will speak out against prejudice and discrimination, we will provide the services, support and comfort we can and advocate and work for justice until it is achieved.

“The church today, as it was for my grandparents, is a place where you can feel at home. You are our family.”

kjanssen@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @kimjnews

Copyright © 2017, Chicago Tribune

THE ANNUNCIATION: BE LIKE MARY

Dear Friends:
      Kindly read below this reflection from a contributor to the Ignatian Solidarity Network:
      RISE UP
BY KELLY SWAN | March 25, 2017
Today’s Readings
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Almost three years ago, on the first truly warm day in May in northern West Virginia, my fourth baby was born, propelling our family into a tumultuous two years of surgeries, testing, and hospital stays to address her medical issues.
Up until that point, medical avoidance was a hallmark of my life. I simply did not have the guts to weather a simple blood draw, much less the procession of interventions I was thrust into witnessing. I thought I might fold under the pressure, doubting that I could fill the shoes I was being asked to step into.
At many points, including the days leading up to my daughter’s birth, Mary’s words upon the Annunciation and words found today in Hebrews have been an integral part of my prayer life.
“I come to do your will.” 
I came to understand those words in the years of bearing witness to my daughter’s medical complexities: in being asked to step up to handle an issue that appeared before me like the tallest of mountains; in feeling entirely inadequate to stay engaged for the long haul; in committing, even when my entire being alerted me to the fear of loss that comes with an attachment full of risk.
Imagine how Mary must have felt, committing to an act that would make her a social outcast, raising a son whose future was certain to be full of tumult and would bring on a mother’s deepest sorrow, yet heal the world.
In the face of uncertainty, whether it be from unjust systems or medical ordeals, Mary is a more than worthy model. Even in the moments when our very being is shouting out that we must rest, hide, or quit, we are called to be like Mary….to rise up, to commit to the long work of justice and healing, even in the face of our own insecurities, fears, and fatigue.
   Oremus pro invicem
Sixto
AT THE SUNSET OF OUR LIVES, WE WILL BE JUDGED BY LOVE
St. John of the Cross
“Sayings of Light and Love,” 59
WE WILL NEVER LOVE ENOUGH
Bl. Charles de Foucauld
Letter to Marie de Bondy,

USCCB ON MIGRANTS AND UNSETTLED TIMES

Living as a People of God in Unsettled Times:

A pastoral reflection from the Administrative Committee of
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Media Contact:
Judy Keane
202-541-3200

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Administrative Committee has issued the following pastoral reflection in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or fear in their native lands. In the statement, the bishops encourage each of us to do what we can to accompany migrants and refugees who seek a better life in the United States.

The full text of the Bishops’ Administrative Committee statement can be found below:

The word of God is truly alive today. “When an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:33-34).

To live as a people of God is to live in the hope of the resurrection. To live in Christ is to draw upon the limitless love of Jesus to fortify us against the temptation of fear. Pray that our engagement in the debate over immigration and refugee issues may bring peace and comfort to those most affected by current and proposed national policy changes.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that behind every policy is the story of a person in search of a better life. They may be an immigrant or refugee family sacrificing so that their children might have a brighter future. As shepherds of a pilgrim Church, we will not tire in saying to families who have the courage to set out from their despair onto the road of hope: “We are with you.” They may also be a family seeking security from an increased threat of extremist violence. It is necessary to safeguard the United States in a manner that does not cause us to lose our humanity.

Intense debate is essential to healthy democracy, but the rhetoric of fear does not serve us well. When we look at one another do we see with the heart of Jesus? Within our diverse backgrounds are found common dreams for our children. Hope in the next generation is how the nation will realize its founding motto, “out of many, one.” In doing so, we will also realize God’s hope for all His children: that we would see each other as valued sisters and brothers regardless of race, religion or national origin.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (Jn. 1:14), strengthens us to bring our words to life. How might we, as Catholics and in our own small way, bring our words of solidarity for migrants and refugees to life?
1. Pray for an end to the root causes of violent hatred that force mothers and fathers to flee the only home they may have known in search of economic and physical security for their children.

2. Meet with members of your parish who are newcomers, listen to their story and share your own. Hundreds of Catholic parishes across the country have programs for immigrants and refugees both to comfort them and to help them know their rights. It is also important to reach out in loving dialogue to those who may disagree with us. The more we come to understand each other’s concerns the better we can serve one another. Together, we are one body in Christ.
3. Call, write or visit your elected representative and ask them to fix our broken immigration system in a way that safeguards both our security and our humanity through a generous opportunity for legal immigration.

 

As Pope Francis said, “To migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey towards our heavenly homeland.”
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For more visit the website of the USCCB and its web page on Migration & Refugee Services