“Syncing Up” Ourselves: A Reflection for the First Sunday in Lent

By Jessica Williamson

Click here for the Mass readings

 

Overwhelmingly, the themes that strike me in this Sunday’s Mass readings are those of belief and faith. While closely intertwined, our beliefs are doctrine. Our faith is more intangible: a feeling, a relationship, our personal way in which doctrine colors our life experiences and how we view the world.

The Psalm response is “Be with me Lord, when I am in trouble.”  This is one of my favorite Psalms, also made into the beautiful hymn, “On Eagles Wings.”  This hymn often brings a tear to the eye, perhaps bringing to mind those we have lost. We are assured that God “has us” just as he has those who have gone before us, and with whom we will be reunited because of our faith in the Resurrection. While life is full of challenges, heartache, and hardship, knowing I have God to call on any second of any day helps me through those difficult times. I don’t know what I would do without my faith, in both difficult and joyous times. (Thanks, mom and dad!)

The second reading says, “the word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart.”  We can be good Catholics in outward appearance, as we attend Mass, receive Eucharist, recite prayers – but are we really practicing what we say we believe? Do our words and actions in our daily lives line up with our beliefs and faith? This can be a challenging undertaking. As Jesus fasted and was tempted for forty days in the desert, we too encounter temptation every day in testing the “unity” of our faith with how we live our lives. Lent gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect, and to recalibrate ourselves in “syncing” our hearts, words, and actions.

-Jessica Williamson is the Business Manager for the Mission Helpers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing, and limiting our power.”

                                                                –Pope Frances, Encyclical Letter on Ecology,
                                                                “Laudato Si” (Praised Be)

 The following are excerpts from Laudato Si, prepared by the Catholic Climate Covenant, in Washington, DC, and published on June 18, 2015. The first four segments were posted on this site on June 19; the final three will be posted on Tuesday, June 23. 

Climate Change

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.

A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes that produce or aggravate it.

climate-change_Man

If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.

Climate change is a global problem with serious implications, environmental, social, economic, political, and for the distribution of goods; it represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.

Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry. They have no other financial activities or resources that can enable them to adapt to climate change or to face natural disasters, and their access to social services and protection is very limited.

The warming caused by huge consumption on the part of some rich countries has repercussions on the poorest areas of the world, especially Africa, where a rise in temperature, together with drought, has proved devastating for farming.

epa00162905 Women sell coconuts in the Abobo community of Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, on Monday, 29 March 2004. The French-speaking Ivory Coast was once one of the richest countries in Africa due to its valuable ivory exports. However, droughts in the region and economic recessions have hit, causing the country to experience hardships.  EPA/Herve Gbekide

We must maintain with clarity an awareness that, regarding climate change, there are differentiated responsibilities. As the United States Bishops have said, greater attention must be given to “the needs of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, in a debate often dominated by more powerful interests”

Individual Actions

This simple example [of cooperative action] shows that, while the existing world order proves powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals and groups can make a real difference. They are able to instill a greater sense of responsibility, a strong sense of community, a readiness to protect others, a spirit of creativity and a deep love for the land.

Group of environmentalists walking with wheelbarrow and potted plant in park

Society, through non-governmental organizations and intermediate groups, must put pressure on governments to develop more rigorous regulations, procedures and controls. Unless citizens control political power, national, regional and municipal, it will not be possible to control damage to the environment.

recycle_childrenEducation in environmental responsibility can encourage ways of acting which directly and significantly affect the world around us, such as avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating refuse, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living beings, using public transport or car-pooling, planting trees, turning off unnecessary lights, or any number of other practices.

If the laws are to bring about significant, long-lasting effects, the majority of the members of society must be adequately motivated to accept them, and personally transformed to respond.

caretakers of earth-handsThere is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions.

Along with the importance of little everyday gestures, social love moves us to devise larger strategies to halt environmental degradation and to encourage a “culture of care” which permeates all of society.

The Faith Perspective

We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

Human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.

This responsibility for God’s earth means that human beings, endowed with intelligence, must respect the laws of nature and the delicate equilibria existing between the creatures of this world.

Climate 7 polar bearsClearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.

Everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice, and faithfulness to others.

Nature is usually seen as a system which can be studied, understood and controlled, whereas creation can only be understood as a gift from the outstretched hand of Father of all, and as a reality illuminated by a love which calls us together into universal communion.

hand of God 2Creation is of the order of love.

A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing, and limiting our power.

When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society. This vision of “might is right” has engendered immense inequalities, injustices and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all. Completely at odds with this model is the ideal of harmony, justice, fraternity and peace as proposed by Jesus.

most-beautiful-nature-images-world-5The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains – everything is, as it were, a caress of God.

All of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect.

Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth.

brother son sister moon care of the earth[This conversion] entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.

We do not understand our superiority as a reason for personal glory or irresponsible dominion, but rather as a different capacity which, in its turn, entails a serious responsibility stemming from our faith.

Encountering God does not mean fleeing from this world or turning our back on nature.

Integral Ecology

We have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

environmental issue 2Every ecological approach needs to incorporate a social perspective, which takes into account the fundamental rights of the poor and the underprivileged.

If the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity, we cannot presume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human relationships.

We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis that is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the underprivileged, and at the same time protecting nature.

world globe_social responseNature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves or as a mere setting in which we live.

NOTE: The final three segments of the Encyclical will be posted here on Tuesday, June 23, 20

Were You There? A Reflection for the Third Week in Lent

By Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

[Readings: Ex 20:1-17; Ps 19:8-11; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25]

We are at the half-way mark.  Lent’s goal of deepening one’s relationship with Christ challenges each of us to answer the haunting question:  Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Paul was not present at the Crucifixion.  He did not literally witness Christ’s death on the cross.  But Paul’s faith has given him the strength of conviction.  In his lifetime, he has experiences that seem, to the people of his time to be obstacles or madness.

In this first letter to the Corinthians (from which the Second Reading for this Sunday is taken), Paul admits that faith in Jesus Crucified is beyond understanding.

What gives Paul that assurance, that unshakeable conviction in Jesus Crucified is not an obstacle, not nonsense, not madness?  It is the gift of the Spirit.  He accepts this gift of wisdom.  God’s wisdom is not the wisdom of the world.  The wisdom of the world is alien to things of God.  God’s wisdom, Paul asserts is holiness, virtue, freedom.

Was Paul there when they crucified my Lord?  No. Paul was not a physical eye witness. He was a witness in Faith.  And Paul realizes that with this gift comes the realization that this Spirit of God that dwells within him must reach out to others.  And so that is what he does.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  No. Yet, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and like Paul, you come to realize that with this gift comes the realization that the Spirit of God dwells within you and me and we are compelled to reach out to others.

Our Life in Christ

By Sister Rosa Sofía Toledo, MHSH, Venezuela

Palm Sunday—the beginning of Holy Week and the celebration of the central mystery of our faith:  the Paschal mystery, the Passion, the death and Resurrection of Jesus.

Palm Sunday in the town of Manzanita, in the state of Lara, Venezuela.

On this day, let us pause to contemplate and commemorate the triumphal entrance of Jesus into the city of Jerusalem.  He rode on a donkey; the crowds spread their palm branches on the street and shouted: “Hosanna to the Son of David.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”  On this day we celebrate with joyful acclamations to Jesus, our victorious king, who enters Jerusalem to fulfill the will of his Father.

Yet, what today is a joyful acclamation, tomorrow will be betrayal and death. Palm Sunday invites us to contemplate the beginning of Jesus’ Passion and death.

Have you ever experienced a sense of betrayal and rejection after having a joyful encounter with someone?  Have you ever felt a bitter disappointment that took you by surprise?

Jesus endured everything we go through as human beings—except sin.  He experienced the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter, the abandonment of the disciples when he was most alone.  Jesus must have felt that his mission was a failure and that he had been forsaken by his Father during his darkest moments.  Yet, through it all, Jesus remained faithful and obedient to his Father out of love.  “There is no greater love than the one who gives one’s life for one’s friends.”

What does it mean to you to be faithful to Jesus through bad times and good times?  What is one of the greatest challenges you have faced? What speaks of God’s fidelity to you?

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us: “Your attitude must be that of Christ” [2:5].

The saving power of God is being manifested in Christ, who humbled himself, obediently accepting death on the cross.  Because of that, God highly exalted him, and the glory of the Father was manifested in his Resurrection.

We are invited to put on the heart and mind of Christ Jesus, growing in the awareness of our false self to find our true self in him.  We are also invited to embrace the healing power of Christ to lift us up:  from sin to grace; from spiritual blindness to a new consciousness; from carelessness of our planet Earth to a new awareness that we are part of the Earth and that it is a part of us.  In this way, we can taste and see the joy of his rising from death to new life in us.

Our life in Christ invites us to experience his sufferings through  our brothers and sisters who are victims of domestic and institutional violence, addictions, illnesses, poverty, prejudice and injustice.  Ours is a world threatened by fear, insecurity, individualism, competition, consumerism and pleasures.

Having the same attitude as Christ Jesus is a response to a call to participate in his Mission:  “Touching lives, changing lives.”

What is your unique call to embrace the heart and mind of Christ Jesus?

How can you be a joyful witness to his Resurrection in a world crying out for redemption by Christ Jesus?

“See, I am doing something new!  Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

                                                                                                                       [Isaiah 44:19]