Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Of Abortion, Brutality and Torture: Living (and Dying) in the USA Today

I cannot say that I am too surprised about the Senate report on CIA torture engaged in by the United States.  This country long ago decided to go down a path that would lead to where we are today: police brutality of African-Americans and saying that effectively drowning a person is not some sort of physical violence (torture) to them. What sort of Orwellian Newspeak is this, where the police, sworn to protect, brutalize, and torture is not called torture, but "enhanced interrogation techniques"?
When a society decides to not protect those persons who are embodiments of the most fragile among us--namely pre-born human beings--it's not going to be too long until all classes of persons who represent the "other" are then objectified and their inherent personhood is thus removed.

It is hard to preach, point to and proclaim magnanimity in the midst of such pusillanimity.
Sometimes, I become very discouraged, approaching the depths of despair.  It is the "voice of one crying out in the wilderness," but without hope that I am preparing the way of the Lord.  But, I must steel my spine for what lies ahead.

The reason Pope Francis speaks to me on a deep level is that he has said the church must be a "field hospital in the midst of battle."  Being in the midst of battle is ugly.  One will not always see the nobility of human beings, but often their depravity.  So I preach magnanimity, hoping against hope that perhaps some semblance of metanoia will enter into a few people's lives.  Maybe I am naively optimistic, but it is more that I prefer to live in hope.

Pope Francis, in one of the greatest lines a pope has written, wrote in "The Joy of the Gospel": "The Son of God by becoming flesh summoned us to the revolution of tenderness" (Evangelii Gaudium, 88).  It would take a lifetime to unpack this sentence and to live it out.  But, one must, because God in Jesus initiated a revolution by taking on human flesh, not to abort it, not to brutalize it, not to torture it, but to tenderly love it...love us and every human being.

I am a Christian, a follower of Christ, God in human flesh, and as such I am summoned to be catholic and magnanimous in my love of human beings, all human beings...from the most fragile, pre-born child in the womb to the most depraved and ignoble criminal or terrorist.  When I can love with a love like that, maybe I'll be ready for the kingdom of heaven.  Until then, I'll be preaching metanoia, mine and everyone else's.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

                                                            Hands up!  Dont't shoot!

One dies in crucifixion from asphyxiation ("I can't breathe.") over time.  Jesus also died in the eyes of the Roman state as a condemned criminal.  The cross is on display again in our midst.
"I was in prison and you visited me" (Matthew 25).  Jesus suffers again in our midst.
O Jesus, save us from ourselves.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Letter (and Interview) of Bishop Olson

Bishop Michael Olson of the Diocese of Fort Worth has issued a pastoral letter addressing the response of the local church to the children who have sought refuge in the United States.  It is well worth a read.

In addition, Bishop Olson called for a prudential response to this "humanitarian" crisis.

In a development, Bishop Olson was interviewed on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC.

There is much magnanimity in the new bishop of Fort Worth.

Pope Francis

There are many things I love about Pope Francis.  His summons not to be a people of fear, his solidarity and connection with the marginalized--those on the "periphery" as he calls it.  His gentle acts that manifest the abundant mercies of God are an embodiment of magnanimity.
He has called for a "revolution of tenderness" (Evangelii Gaudium, 88).  

Perhaps, we might move from our normal vantage points (our "factory specifications") of fear and cowardice and resentment and pettiness and love-less-ness and embrace those who are different strange, foreign, alien to us.  God did precisely that to us in Christ Jesus.  Such was his magnanimity.

Pope Francis has now addressed the issue of the children of the "border," of the margins, of the periphery.  It would increase the space for love in our souls--make them more magnanimous--if we dared to listen.  Maybe we just might be Catholic in our embrace of human beings...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Border Bishop Speaks

Bishop Daniel Flores of the Diocese of Brownsville has this most awesome reflection situating the church's teaching on life with the teaching on the dignity of the immigrant.  I have always held that the two should be seen in concert as they are dual manifestations of the fundamental biblical principle of welcoming the "other," whoever he or she may be and in whatever condition or state of life they live, be it the pre-born baby in the womb or the woman seeking to cross the Rio Grande to clothe and feed her children.

Ruth the Magnanimous Moabite and Mothers and Children from Central America

I wonder if all these well-meaning people so fearful of mothers and children fleeing precarious situations in their native lands...I wonder if all these well-meaning people have ever read the book of Ruth.  What if Ruth the foreigner (hated Moabite) had not persisted in her pledge of covenantal loyalty and steadfast love to the Jew Naomi?  What if Ruth the foreigner had been told to leave Judah and return to her native land of Moab?  There would never have been this most subversive account of another time where the covenanted people are taught, educated by the Other, the outsider, the one from the margins.  And this foreigner, outsider, alien, stranger, undocumented one was the conduit and instrument by which the Lord God challenged and invited his people to an even greater magnanimity.  What if she had been cut off, refused entry, told to leave?  Then the Old Testament would never have been able to tell such a story of covenantal loyalty and steadfast love that is nearly unparalleled until the gospels themselves.  What a tragedy that would have been...

One never knows how Almighty God is going to cross one's path.  Many times it is through the one that the world would just as soon not notice, give no heed to, ignore, or tell to go back where they came from.  The mysterious letter to the Hebrews has that chilling verse which should give everyone who is serious about following the way of the Lord pause: "Do not neglect love of strangers [philoxenia], for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels" (Hebrews 13:2).  God himself may just be trying to seek hospitality and refuge right here and right now in some mother from Guatemala or some child from Honduras.  And instead of welcoming them with arms wide open (magnanimously), some of us would just as soon push them away (pusillanimously).

I think I will stay with Ruth and say as she said: "Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people are my people and your God is my God.  Wherever you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.  And may God do thus and so to me and even more if even death separates me from you" (Ruth 1:16-17).

Friday, July 4, 2014

Catholic and Magnanimous

Why this name for this blog?

The English word 'Catholic' comes from the Greek word katholikos (written in Latin letters), which itself comes from two Greek words (a preposition and an adjective): kata-holos.  It literally means "according to the whole."  In other words, one's disposition and orientation is opened to the whole, the entirety, the totality...everything...and everyone.  The typical definitional meaning in English is 'universal'.  But, parsing the word opens up the richness and depth of this most 'catholic' of words.

The English word 'Magnanimous' comes from the Latin word magnanimus, which itself comes from two Latin words (an adjective and a noun): magna-anima.  It literally means "large soul/mind."  One has an all-embracing, all-encompassing, wide embrace of everything and everyone.  The typical definitional meaning in English is 'greatly generous' and 'refusing to be petty and small-minded' which is what its antithesis pusillanimous means--literally, a "small soul."

These two words are sisters.  If one is truly catholic (oriented to the whole), one is truly magnanimous (a large soul).  And vice versa.  If one is truly magnanimous (a large soul), one is truly catholic (oriented to the whole).

And such is God.  There is no pusillanimity (small soul-ness, driven by fearfulness) in God.  You and I are made in the image and likeness of God, who is magnanimous and catholic (notice the small "c").  Yet, many times we want to make God in our image and likeness, which is anything but magnanimous and catholic.  Often we operate only out of our own pusillanimity, small-mindedness, hard-heartedness, pettiness, resentfulness, anger and fear...and say that God is the same.  What we have made is not God, but an idol that must be smashed and crushed.

I write this blog to begin a conversation with fellow Catholics, Christians and others of good will in order to offer a challenge and an invitation.  The challenge is to not live from the pusilla anima (the small, narrow, confined soul) anymore.  The invitation is to live from the magna anima (the large, big, wide, expansive, embracing soul), the One in whose image and likeness you and I have been made.