SoCS: Just Mercy

(I reviewed Just Mercy earlier this week, in case you want to check it out.)

When I hear the phrase “just mercy”, I think of Pope Francis. Pope Francis called a Jubilee year dedicated to mercy a few years ago and the spirituality study group that I facilitate was learning about and discussing mercy. Many people think of “mercy” in relationship to forgiveness. For example, many Christian churches say, “Lord, have mercy.” as part of their penitential rite. Francis, though, includes a broader understanding – mercy in the sense of lovingkindness. (For Catholics, this is more the sense of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, which includes actions like feeding the hungry and burying the dead and acts of compassion like offering consolation.) I appreciate the sense of mercy as lovingkindness, as a counterweight to forgiveness in that mercy is expanded to everyone, not just those who have done something wrong.

This, to me, ties into the way we use the word justice currently in the United States. Many people equate justice with vengeance. We use phrases like “criminal justice” in a context of punishment. I think of justice as the restoration of right relationship. This is the sense of justice in phrases like “social justice” and “environmental justice.” In this context, justice is tied to care and concern for people and for all created things. This is also evident in the term “economic justice”, recognizing that it is wrong for employers to enrich themselves at the expense of their employees who are not paid a living wage.

I will end this homilette before everyone’s eyes glaze over, although I may be too late…

It’s what can happen when I am writing off the top of my mind.
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is to base the post on the title of the last movie that we saw. If you would like to join in with Stream of Consciousness Saturday and/or Just Jot It January, you can get all the details here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/17/the-friday-reminder-for-socs-jusjojan-2020-daily-prompt-jan-18th/

JC’s Confessions #3

On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert does a recurring skit, now a best-selling book, called Midnight Confessions, in which he “confesses” to his audience with the disclaimer that he isn’t sure these things are really sins but that he does “feel bad about them.” While Stephen and his writers are famously funny, I am not, so my JC’s Confessions will be somewhat more serious reflections, but they will be things that I feel bad about. Stephen’s audience always forgives him at the end of the segment; I’m not expecting that – and these aren’t really sins – but comments are always welcome.
~ JC

When Stephen does Midnight Confessions, in his lead-up he often says that he doesn’t get to go to church as often as he would like and he misses one of his favorite things, going to confession. At which point, I usually think, “Said no Catholic ever!” Everyone with whom I have ever spoken about it feels that it is a stressful situation, even with a good confessor (and downright terrifying with a poor one).

For the last several years, our diocese has had a day during which every church is open for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, as confession is more properly called. I confess that I find it very creepy that they advertise this on television and with billboards, as though mercy and forgiveness are commodities.

It also makes it seem as though forgiveness is only available through this sacrament, even though the church recognizes many other routes for this, such as the penitential rite during liturgy, asking for forgiveness from someone whom you have hurt, prayer, making reparations, and receiving the Eucharist. Indeed, individual confession is only required in the case of serious sin, one which fractures the relationship of the person with God.

I admit, not confess, that I haven’t gone to individual confession in years. This is partly due to a priest from my past who was so unstable I was afraid to be alone with him. Even though he is no longer a threat to me, it makes the thought of going to confession even more fraught.

What is even more difficult is figuring out how to confess my own part in social sin. I grieve that the United States is participating in violence and injustice, degrading the environment and the climate, and lacking in compassion and assistance for those most in need. We are called in our Constitution to “promote the general welfare”; my faith tells me to love and serve my neighbors near and far. Even though I try to oppose what is unjust and to help those in need, I still bear guilt for being part of an unjust system. Seeking forgiveness for these social sins feels hollow, because I am no less a part of the social system after confession than I was before it.

Wow! When I said in my standard introduction to this series that my reflections would be “more serious,” I didn’t mean to make it quite this serious.  Still, we are living in very serious times with many very serious problems confronting us daily. I can only hope that my trying to do my part in repairing the damage will join with the efforts of other people of good will to improve our country and our world.

waking up to more violence

The level of violence in the United States and in the world was already much too high.

And then, there was this week.

It’s too much to bear.

Yet, we must go on.

But not with violence.

Not with vengeance.

We need to stop to reflect, to examine our problems as a society, to consider how to act with greater justice, mercy, peace, and love, to put the best solutions into practice, to uphold the dignity of each person and protect their safety.

We are all wounded, which makes us vulnerable.

Many want to repay violence with violence, but that is what has gotten us into our current untenable position.

The way of non-violence is not easy, but what has the way of violence gotten us?

I wish there was a way to magically draw us into harmonious communities, but there isn’t.

All I can do is look to my own thoughts and heart and keep them focused on positive change, not violence and vengeance.

And I can beg you to do the same.

Livestream for International Women’s Day

I am listening to a livestream from the Vatican in observance of International Women’s Day. It can be found here:  http://voicesoffaith.org.

Although I didn’t tune in as the program began, I was able to begin listening from the start of the program. I’m not sure if it will be archived for later viewing or not, but I hope so.

There are wonderful speakers from around the world, talking about their lives, about faith, about peacemaking, about listening, about mercy, about love, about action, about solidarity.

Wishing all women around the world safety, opportunity, equality, and the gifts of free expression and deep listening.

Update:  The video is available from the link above. I think the link will default to the English version, but it is also available in Spanish and Italian. So many powerful voices.

 

Muslim-American women seek change from within | National Catholic Reporter

Source: Muslim-American women seek change from within | National Catholic Reporter

I appreciate hearing from these young American Muslim women about their experiences and their faith. Like Sister Christine, I am especially drawn to the centrality of divine mercy which is common to both faith traditions.

Advent, mercy, and climate action

“…and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.”

I was struck by this passage from Luke chapter 21 this morning at church as we begin the new liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent. Every day there is news on television of some severe weather disaster, whether it is hurricane/typhoon, flood, tornado, drought, heat wave, landslide, ice storm, or blizzard. I am also acutely aware that the nations are gathering in Paris to begin the climate talks which are our best hope to avert the worst level of climate change which would destroy major ecosystems, cause extinction of many species, and kill millions and millions of people.

I realize that sounds very apocalyptic, but these are the effects that science indicates would happen under a “business as usual” scenario regarding the continued burning of fossil fuels.

This afternoon, I attended an event in solidarity with climate activists around the world in preparation for the Paris talks. We were sharing what brought us together and I said that during my years of writing commentary against fracking, while using science and economics in my arguments, I was energized by the moral and ethical grounding that I received from Catholic social justice doctrine, which teaches care for creation and upholding the dignity of each person. I thanked Pope Francis for his encyclical which is addressed not only to Catholics but to all people of good will, which makes clear that we must care for the world and for each other. Francis calls this “integral ecology.”

We do need systemic change and Paris has to be the start of it. Like the wounded-yet-strong city of Paris, the wounded-yet-strong earth needs our love, care, and attention. All the species of the earth need each other to survive and thrive. All the people of the earth bear responsibility for their neighbors, with those with the largest share of the gifts bearing the most responsibility to help those who are most vulnerable.

On December eighth, Pope Francis will open a Jubilee year dedicated to mercy. This is a particularly powerful symbol at this time. The works of mercy include such actions as feeding the hungry and comforting the afflicted. In the letter declaring the Jubilee, Francis writes  of “the commitment to live by mercy so as to obtain the grace of complete and exhaustive forgiveness by the power of the love of the Father who excludes no one.” We are called to exclude no one on earth from our love and care at the precise moment when we are facing the challenge of climate change.

The United States and the European nations that have contributed the largest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions must bear the most responsibility as we move forward. Besides making our own rapid shift to renewable energy, we must help less developed nations build their own renewable energy capacity to help and protect their people and environment, as well as extend assistance and welcome to climate refugees.

Today’s reading from the third chapter of the first letter to the Thessalonians begins, “Brothers and sisters:  May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…”  May we all, those who believe in divinity and those who do not, join in an advent of love and mercy to heal our societies and our planet.

It must begin. Now.

Light, Mercy, and Jubilee

Yesterday for SoCS I wrote about whether my chorus would “gird” or “put” on the armour of light. This morning at church the theme was light overcoming darkness, progressing to the concept of Jubilee and the upcoming Jubilee of mercy which Pope Francis announced on Friday.

The deacon who preached spoke about how this Jubilee calls us to welcome everyone without exception – and to not wait for the official start of the Jubilee on December 8, 2015 to do so.

My mind turned to how Jesus welcomed in the most profound way those who were marginalized in his society and faith – those who were ill or disabled, those without financial resources, foreigners, women, all those who were looked down on by the powers that be of his day.

As a woman who is a feminist and has chosen to stay within the church, knowing that it fails so often to fully reflect the radical gospel call of Jesus, this jubilee call is both an opportunity and a potential source of disappointment. While Francis has spoken often of a poor church for the poor and has championed causes of peace and social justice, he does not understand the profound ways in which the Catholic church has marginalized women and failed to challenge temporal powers that oppress them. Many other clergy in the church are openly dismissive of women’s gifts to the church and the world, unless those gifts are motherhood, domestic pursuits, or vowed religious life, preferably contained by convent walls.

Will this be the year when the church finally realizes that the call of jubilee to set the captive free applies to women both in its midst and in the world? Will the men of the church finally recognize that women are made in the divine image as much as they are?