Crossing the Divide: Part II

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Last week we turned to Daniel Groody’s Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees as a means of providing a fuller discussion on the current discussion of immigration in the United States. Beyond solely the financial and security considerations, we have been given as Catholics a tradition that protects and promotes the dignity of the human person. With this there is the inherent challenge to strive to see all of creation with the eyes of God…

Visio Dei

Finally, with visio Dei we are called to view the world around us with God’s eyes, envisage a path for conversion, and step forward in committed discipleship.[1] Imperative here is a complete transformation and a response, both individually and as a church, to those situations that perpetuate injustice and fuel inequality. In a theology of migration, in particular, we are being asked to walk in solidarity with the marginalized, “crossing borders that make possible new relationships” and leaving behind identities which have defined us, to be in communion together.[2] To do so requires that we ethically reevaluate those decisions that reinforce barriers, to place ourselves at risk, and see in the “vulnerable stranger a mirror of (our)selves, a reflection of Christ”.[3]

In this reading, there are several noticeable insights that Groody presents in seeking a meaningful dialogue between a theology of justice and the faith experience of a migrating people. Beginning with  imago dei, we see how far removed humanity has become in understanding the dignity of all creation and our shared journey towards God. It is a poignant reminder that in a society geared towards economic profit that there is an immeasurable worth in every human being. Rights, therefore, are not something to be given by a few, but rather to be recognized in all as endowed by God. Thus, the implications of imago dei present difficulty for those in positions of power, perceived as superior, who seek maintenance of the status quo. Theology then offers a renewed sense of empowerment for those defined as “social and political problems”, and challenges all to reconciliation in our understanding of human nature and relationships.[4]

Likewise for the migrant and refugee, imago dei directly confronts society’s image of God, calling for a reexamination of both their understanding of God as well as of themselves. Rather than “interiorizing the image of the oppressor as superior and exclusively Godlike”, they are beckoned to recognize the “God-given spirit that (creates) and sustains them in their collective life”. [5] It is to encounter their true identity, and embrace their true relationship with their Creator, who is not distant but ever a part of their journey. This renewed vision is essential in awakening the promise within, hope in the world beyond, and in the potential to determine one’s future.  It further illustrates how interconnected and indispensable all of the premises for migration theology truly are in seeking to grasp the salvific message of the Gospel.

While this is necessary for the study of Latino Catholicism, ministerially, this message is important for people of all ages and ethnicities. In conversations with our youth, it is easily discoverable that they often find themselves not only labeled economically, but socially defined by race, gender, sexuality, or perceived talents.  Yet, can we as a church fully answer the nature and diversity of mission unless we also acknowledge, discuss and celebrate our diversity that exists within this unity?  The advantage, it seems, rests in recognizing the different voices and face of the contemporary church and in its gifts that we are best able to respond to the challenges of Christian mission today. Then with our elderly, it is equally apparent that they too suffer from humanity’s inability to recognize the dignity and worth of those who are no longer seen as contributing members of society. They are frequently pushed to the fringes of the community, and without family or savings become some of the most vulnerable in our culture.

This is an example of the mission set before us, calling us as a church to go forth to those most in need. The distance reminds us that quite often we have rendered theology as static and immovable when, in fact, it is to be dynamic and alive as our God has been shown to be. Instead, the church is called to be “constantly realized anew and given new form in history by our personal decision of faith”.[6] These are two points that Groody exemplified in missio and Verbum dei. Following in the footsteps of Christ, we are called to go to the outcast, to leave our places of comfort and meet the mission that God has set before us. Thus, our faith is to be both inclusive and wider in scope than the restricting boundaries we have set amongst each other.

In order to see with the vision of God, thus, requires that we accept our new identity both individually as a disciple and collectively as the body of Christ. It demands a reorientation to the communion that we share in the Eucharist to the crucified and suffering Jesus, understanding our “complicity in the suffering of others”, and commitment to a life of action and hope.[7]  Copeland’s historical accounts of racism call us into accountability not just for our actions, but our inaction towards God’s ordering and desire for human fulfillment and purpose. That same call for reconciliation in the experience of mystery of Christ, calls us also to see, do and be Christ for one another. It is not a commitment to shallow understandings of unity, or half hearted gestures of commitment but a complete conversion of heart and mind to that of God. As a Eucharistic minister, I readily see the beauty that Groody speaks of in visio Dei, in the experience of communion. Together we approach the mystery of the Incarnation as a people blessed and broken, gathered and invited to “assume a new way of looking at the world, living out a different vision, and ultimately learning to love as God loves”.[8] The challenge that the church as a whole faces, however, is realizing the extensive, inclusive, and demanding acceptance this identity implies. A unity, as witnessed in the border masses, that breaks through all boundaries, including the visible doors of the church.

Peace,

Signature


[1] Ibid., p. 660
[2] Ibid., p.663
[3] Ibid., p. 667
[4] Ibid., p. 645.
[5]Elizondo, The Galilean Journey: the Mexican American Promise. Orbis Books. Maryknoll, NY. 2000, p. 97
[6] Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen,  An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical & Global Perspectives (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2002) p. 103.
[7] M. Shawn Copeland, Enfleshing Freedom: body, race and being (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010) p. 128
[8] Groody, p. 662.

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Reappraisal- Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees

With the most recent attention on immigration within our nation’s political sphere, there was ample discussion on the cost, danger, and long term effects of our current policy on immigration. While each of these are worthy considerations from a financial and security standpoint, there still remains a profound understanding that under guards our Catholic teaching  and our relationship with our Creator

…that of the human person.

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Over the next couple of weeks, I would like to take a look at Daniel Groody’s Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees as a means of providing a fuller discussion on this very tenuous current discussion.

In this piece by Groody, theology is examined not as a static discipline set apart from an understanding of migration, but as inherently entwined and alive in the migrant experience. For through the perspective of the migrant, we become witnesses to the prophetic voices of those who encounter the Gospel anew in their struggles and hopes for a changing world.  Here, we are invited to glimpse the fundamental nature of the human person, and its relationships with God, others, and the world as it is, as well as how it should be.[1] We are challenged to hear how God is speaking to the particular social location of the migrant, while calling us to accept responsibility and embrace our relationality with all humanity. Thus, as we are beckoned to reconcile with God, we are also called to reconcile with one another working towards the Kingdom values of the Gospel. Correspondingly, we lessen the divide between us and reach through the borders which mankind has created towards the unity that God intended.

Imago Dei (Image of God)

First, through a revisiting of imago Dei, we are called to transcend the social and political labels that humanity has imposed on one another, to recognize our intrinsic creation in the image of God.  Rather than the disproportionate relationality created by these labels and intended to “control, manipulate, and exploit”, migrant and native alike are called to affirm mutual equality and identity as children of God.[2] Further, imago Dei is a reminder that our existence is linked from the very beginning to God sharing also in the Trinitarian relationship. As such, it carries immense moral responsibility to ensure the dignity and protection of life for its most vulnerable, as part of the universal human community.[3] Groody aptly points out that Catholic social teaching and encyclicals like that of Gaudium et spes, and Laborem exercens, summon us to examine the social and economic structures themselves.[4] Here, we come to understand many of the root causes of migration and become aware that change is needed in creating opportunities for economic growth, education, and political status. [5]

Verbum Dei (God’s revelation to us)

Next with Verbum Dei, we receive the truth of God revealed through Jesus Christ entering into our world and “movement in love to humanity”, leading us back to God.[6] In Jesus we witness the self-sacrificing love reaching beyond societal borders to the outcast and sinner, all the way to the cross. For in the midst of pain and suffering, the light of Christ’s love is fully revealed calling us to see the “other” and follow him.[7]

Missio Dei (Mission of God)

As a church then, with missio Dei, we recognize that the mission of Christ calls us forth to spread the Good News of salvation and hope throughout the world. For those denied their inherent rights endowed by God, to justice and equality under the law, or a voice in determining the course of their lives, this is indeed Good News! Beautifully, Groody points to the idea of “creating space” in migration theology to allow the message to take root in hearts and lives of those who hear it.[8]

Next week, we’ll touch on Fr. Goody’s consideration of Visio Dei (the vision of God) and some final reflections on the path forward as a community of faith..

Peace,

Signature


[1] Daniel Groody, “Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees,” Theological Studies 70 (September 2009):642.
[2] Ibid., p. 643.
[3] Ibid., p. 645.
[4] Ibid., p.646.
[5] Ibid., p. 647.
[6] Ibid., p. 649
[7] Ibid., p.652
[8] Ibid., p. 659

Living a Life of Privilege

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privilege
noun priv·i·lege \ˈpriv-lij, ˈpri-və-\

  • : a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others

  • : a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud      (Merriam-Webster)

I grew up in a single parent home, the daughter and granddaughter of educators, not affluent but replete with love and the basic necessities of life. While I didn’t always like the food or the clothes I had, I never spent a day hungry or lacking shelter. Instilled in me was the understanding that despite the meager and lean times, there were always others who had so much less. I was indeed privileged.

One day when I was about 6, a young woman with three young children in tow approached the door of my house. I had recognized the two little toddlers clinging on her dress from the neighborhood, and had curiously wondered where they actually lived. Entering, they were unusually quiet and withdrawn not even wanting to make eye contact. Immediately  inviting them to take a seat, my mom got quickly to work. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, she had produced a fine meal from our dinner the night before. And using our best tableware she welcomed these new visitors as honored guests. The once shy faces lit up as they saw all of the food before them and boisterously became themselves once again.

Asking  me then to go and play with them for a bit, my mom sat down with their mother as she fed the infant in her arms. In hushed tones they spoke, their conversation forever remaining just between them. Packing up more food and clothing for them to carry with them, my mom reminded them that they could always return. This they did, though not staying for any great length of time. I asked my mom once why she gave, when that merely meant that we had less that week, or had given up that shirt she had just purchased with the tags still on it.

“This is what it means to love unconditionally”, she told me, “to care for others more than yourself. You may not understand this today but you and I have been blessed with the opportunity to share”.

This is the very definition of privilege and with it comes a tremendous responsibility to do all this with great love. Perhaps you do not feel that you have much to give or that others more able will step up to help. Yet, you have what only you can give…yourself. God knows your struggles, your needs and desires but he also knows your gifts. After all, he gave them to you. You see the world and ask why it all seems so troubling and unchanging- it begins with each of us to be the change in the world around us. One life at a time, every day anew. I promise that one life that will most certainly be changed is our own.

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them” – St. Teresa of Lisieux

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: Can I hear my Father’s Voice?

Can we even imagine a world where none of these exist? In small ways, I believe that we can, because we know the existence of good in knowing God. We have witnessed kindness and compassion, and instances whereby goodness has triumphed over evil. Yet in the kingdom of God, God’s goodness and reign is completely sovereign. I am not ready, however,  to give up the dream, and diligence toward a world where justice and goodness prevail. In fact, it is in posing this question that I am reminding myself again of that ideal that the kingdom of God reveals to us. In imagining it, it provides the vision to hope for, and the desire to work towards fulfilling it.

With the approach of Lent, I have been giving much thought to our journey of faith as a community, the lifelong invitation of dying to self and accepting a life transformed. The most striking reality is that Jesus also underwent this ongoing transformation of mind, heart, and action (metanoia) in becoming more and more who he was intended to be. We know that Jesus spent countless hours in prayer, and this was time spent in getting to know Abba more intimately, reconnecting with the Spirit, and redirecting his life towards infinite love. In doing so, he could see beyond himself to the poor, oppressed, and those in need of healing. Consciously he then answered God’s call to make a transformation not only within himself but in the world.

In understanding the dynamic, ongoing, and transformative conversion of life, we too need to make the necessary connection to one’s lived experience of faith- as a project of life integration.  Simply stated, as Christians our lived experience of faith in the Spirit calls us to continually redirect our hearts, minds and steps towards the values and actions necessary in being followers of Christ and in building the kingdom of God. Beautifully, I do believe we see metanoia in community in partaking in the Eucharist. For, here we are invited to bring our brokenness, recommit ourselves to God and the community, and are sent forth to be Eucharist to the world.

Even so, Lent gives us a period of time to reflect on our own desires, to surrender ourselves, and better discern where and who God is calling us to be. Do you feel a spiritual dryness in prayer? Is your day consumed with a laundry list of essential to-do’s with your energy and time in short supply? Like Jesus, we need this time with God to hear and become familiar with the voice of our loving Father.

So, in this way, I invite you to consider carving out quiet time and space this Lent to do just that. It needn’t be vast, but a committed time each day just to sit, “be still and know that He is God”. Pay attention to the stillness, to the absence of your voice, and the freedom found in just being present with God. Feel the Holy Spirit’s constant reminder of life in every breath you take.

Thank you God for the gift in rediscovering You. Here in your presence, I know that your love, truth and guidance both for me and for the world are always there to be found..if we truly seek to hear your voice!

Peace,

Signature

To Honor the Innocents

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“When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”                         Matthew 2:16-18

 As Augustine noted these “infant martyr flowers”; they were the Church’s first blossoms, matured by the frost of persecution during the cold winter of unbelief”. In remembering them, I cannot help but also be reminded of the countless martyrs that have given their lives long after them.

This Christmas,Pope Francis spoke to the “brutal acts of terrorism, particularly the recent massacres which took place in Egyptian airspace, in Beirut, Paris, Bamako and Tunis. These are “our martyrs of today,” those brothers and sisters, he said, “who in many parts of the world are being persecuted for their faith…”

ABC News on Dec. 23, 2015 reports that Iraq’s Christian population has dropped from 1.3 million people in the 1997 census to about 650,000 now. Lebanon, who has taken on many of Syria’s refugees, is an area where according to the NY Times Christians in 1925 constituted 85% of the population now constitute less than a quarter. The recent bombings in Beruit and Paris, as well as the attacks in Mali, and Tunisia this November show little regard for unarmed or innocent citizens.

What can we do?

Pray and…work – with courage towards promoting change, real substantive change. This means having a goal that involves more than just eliminating Isis, for as history has proven, there are others that will merely step into their place. Looking at the underlying problems of poverty, unstable governments with recruitment of child soldiers, not to mention human and drug trafficking we see that there is fertile ground for violence. Are we ready not just to fight but to witness God kingdom in the world? Are we prepared to get to the work of education, justice and peace?  Then, there is also a true need for dialogue, and reconciliation.

My mom, a high school math teacher in a very poor area of the south, understood this well. Her classes consisted of students who others had already given up on, those who were absent due to fights, arrests, drugs or early pregnancies. An expected typical day or life for a student, or child was not typical for them. Many were living the only life they knew, in cycles of violence, dependence and poverty where few had ever taken an interest in their potential. That is, before my mom. Meeting with students before and after school to mentor, she also created homework and make up for long extended absences and most importantly…let them know she cared. Years later, on innumerable occasions she would be stopped by a former student, all grown up who would tell her the difference she truly had made in their life.

Though a seemingly small step, these are the actions that each of us can do in promoting peace, and justice in our communities, in living out our faith with courage. In serving as spiritual mothers and fathers we too can nurture the children we encounter and give voice to Holy Innocents whose lives ended too soon.

Peace,

Signature

 

 

 

Worth Revisiting: Hearing My Father’s Voice

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

Lately, it seems, there has been much talk of violence.Violence in the streets of our major cities , and violence in the hearts and minds of those who see this as the only path to end injustice. Yet, I cannot help but feel that in our desire to change things in the world without we must begin by changing ourselves within. Thomas Merton once noted that, “There can be no peace on earth without the kind of inner change that brings man back to his “right mind.” (from Gandhi on Non-Violence). Yes, there is much work to be done and dialogue to be had. However, for lasting change to occur that work must begin within each one of us. 


Can we even imagine a world where none of these exist? In small ways, I believe that we can, because we know the existence of good in knowing God. We have witnessed kindness and compassion, and instances whereby goodness has triumphed over evil. Yet in the kingdom of God, God’s goodness and reign is completely sovereign. I am not ready, however,  to give up the dream, and diligence toward a world where justice and goodness prevail. In fact, it is in posing this question that I am reminding myself again of that ideal that the kingdom of God reveals to us. In imagining it, it provides the vision to hope for, and the desire to work towards fulfilling it.

As this season draws to a close, I have been giving much thought to our journey of faith as a community, the lifelong invitation of dying to self and accepting a life transformed. The most striking reality is that Jesus also underwent this ongoing transformation of mind, heart, and action (metanoia) in becoming more and more who he was intended to be. We know that Jesus spent countless hours in prayer, and this was time spent in getting to know Abba more intimately, reconnecting with the Spirit, and redirecting his life towards infinite love. In doing so, he could better see beyond the limitations and boundaries of our humanity to the poor, oppressed, and those in need of healing. Consciously answering God’s call to make a transformation,not only within but in the world.

In understanding the dynamic, ongoing, and transformative conversion of life, we too need to make the necessary connection to one’s lived experience of faith- as a project of life integration.  Simply stated, as Christians our lived experience of faith in the Spirit calls us to continually redirect our hearts, minds and steps towards the values and actions necessary in being followers of Christ and in building the kingdom of God. Beautifully, I do believe we see metanoia in community in partaking in the Eucharist. For, here we are invited to bring our brokenness, recommit ourselves to God and the community, and are sent forth to be Eucharist to the world.

This is but one way, I believe, that God continually invites us to reflect on our own desires, to surrender ourselves, and better discern where and who God is calling us to be. Have you felt a spiritual dryness in prayer lately? Is your day consumed with a laundry list of essential to-do’s with your energy, time and temperament in short supply? Like Jesus, we require this time with God to hear and become familiar with the voice of our loving Father. Only then can we then extend that love, healing and renewal out into our families, neighborhoods, and cities that are in such desperate need for all of these.

So, in this way, I invite you to consider carving out quiet time and space today to do just that. It need not be vast, but a committed time each day just to sit, “be still and know that He is God”. Pay attention to the stillness, to the absence of your voice, and the freedom found in just being present with God. Feel the Holy Spirit’s constant reminder of life in every breath you take.

Thank you God for the gift in rediscovering You. Here in your presence, I know that your love, truth and guidance both for me and for the world are always there to be found..if we truly seek to hear your voice!