Lenten Journey Journal: Friday, March 24th

Today is the feast day of a rather new “blessed” and one of my top Catholic heroes – Archbishop Oscar Romero. Picking any of his powerful and prophetic quotes and prayerfully reflecting on it is a valuable meditation for me.

Please download and share these slides – PDF and Google Slides

And today is the last day before our week long (and much anticipated) Spring Break. So, the next post of the Lenten Journey Journal will be for Monday, April 3rd!

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Prayer Numbers – Nine Days for Life and One Hundred Days of Prayer

As I wrap up this weekend, I share a few prayer intentions my classes and I will be praying with this coming week.

First, the USCCB offers many wonderful resources to pray over Nine Days for Life (21 Jan to 29 Jan). I put some pro-life prayer intentions in the slide deck for this week’s lectionary gospel. 

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Additionally, I found a thoughtful, “must-read” article on the U.S. Catholic blog which offers six numbers which pro-life Catholics should keep an eye on during the presidency of Donald Trump.

And, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange are publishing a calendar of the first 100 Days of President Trump with a prayer intention each day related to life and justice.

The slide above, which combines the prayer intention and the pro-life numbers, can be accessed in Monday’s Saint O’the Day and in each Saint O’the Day posting going forward.

Excellent USCCB Video for “Poverty Awareness” January

A quick post this Wednesday afternoon.

I blogged the other day about the USCCB’s designation of “Poverty Awareness” during the month of January 2017.

Today I discovered and showed my students an extremely valuable video (pictured above) which illustrates through dollars and cents how unbearably difficult it can be to get out of poverty. It’s created by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and their “Poverty USA” initiative and it is found directly HERE and indirectly (in a list of other videos) HERE.

Prayer for Peace in Our Communities (Sept. 12th)

Rather than create a presentation for and then pray with The Saint O’the Day, I’m offering something different today. On Friday, the USCCB invited Catholics and other people of faith to offer “A Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities”

Since I didn’t discover this invitation until today, I’m praying it tomorrow. And since I couldn’t find a prayer service put forth by the USCCB, I created one for use tomorrow.

Please feel free to download, share and pray this service for peace in our communities:

PDF

And here’s the “prayer card” referenced in the prayer service above.

Peace.

Today (March 22nd)is World Water Day!

Yes, it’s late in the day and ideally this post should have come yesterday or at least earlier today. But, with something as essential as H2O , better late than never.

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When you think about it, I really should have had this day highlighted well in advance on my calendar (rather than just discover it right now on the Google blog). I don’t give much credence to the Zodiac, but I do know that I’m the “water bearer” – Aquarius. This suits me to a T as I’m known to leave home with far more (reusable) bottles of water than I’ll ever need. BTW, for what it’s worth, the best reusable I’ve ever owned is by Kleen Kanteen. 

To celebrate World Water Day, here’s some important facts from the International Business Times:

1. 1.8 billion people around the world lack access to safe water.

2. Globally, a third of all schools lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

3. In low- and middle-income countries, a third of all healthcare facilities lack a safe water source.

4. The World Economic Forum in January 2015 ranked the water crisis as the No. 1 global risk based on impact to society (as a measure of devastation).

5. The incidence of children suffering from stunting and chronic malnutrition — at least 160 million — is linked to water and sanitation.

6. More than 840,000 people die from a water-related disease each year, including diarrhea caused by bad drinking water, hygiene and sanitation.

7. Eighty-two percent of people who don’t have access to “improved” water live in rural areas.

8. More than one-third of people worldwide lack access to a toilet, more than the number of people who have a mobile phone.

9. Women and children spend 125 million hours collecting fresh water every day. Individual women and children spend as many as six hours collecting fresh water daily.

10. Every 90 seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.

11. Universal access to safe water and sanitation would result in $18.5 billion in economic benefits each year from deaths avoided alone, a return of $4 for every dollar spent on safe water access.

12. The amount of safe water could drop by 40 percent in 15 years if people do not change the way they use water.

Pretty shocking and downright scandalous realities about this absolutely essential natural resource. Especially #10 above, shouldn’t happen in the 21st century.

More facts and illustrations can be found at water.org 

And from Charity: Water comes this high-tech, heart-breaking and amazing short film:

Also DROP4DROP seeks to raise awareness of the global water crisis and aid communities in getting the water they desperately need.

So, this Easter Sunday, when you get splashed by holy water while renewing your baptismal vows, say a prayer for those without clean, safe water. And maybe also give to one or more of these worthy organizations.

Friday FaithPost: Scapegoating, Mimetic Theory and Another View of Atonement

OK, so the title of this post doesn’t roll off of the tongue very well. And you may be asking: Why should I read about atonement? How does it relate to scapegoating? Or even “What is atonement?

From a Christian theological perspective, atonement refers to how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection reconciled our sins. The “bumper sticker” version of this is “Jesus saves.” Many, if not nearly all, Christians, when thinking about how Jesus saves, adopt a transactional or legalistic view of this process.

Substitutionary Atonement is a general term for this view. The logic supporting it can be summarized:

+ Human sin, both Original Sin and the myriad individual sin flowing from it, offends God’s sense of justice.

+ This justice demands payment or punishment commensurate with the offense committed against God.

+ Since human sin is so massive, there is no amount punishment or ransom humans can endure or offer which can appease God’s justice.

+ Only God’s son – both human and divine – can take upon himself human sin. When he endures the violence of brutal punishment and sacrificially sheds his blood as a stand-in for humans (a substitute) God’s justice is served. And through this sacrifice, God and humanity are reconciled.

A very popular narrative representation of this view of atonement is in C.S. Lewis’ beloved and allegorical “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” Edmond betrays his siblings to the evil character. Even though he is forgiven for this by the Christ-like Aslan, the satanic witch cites the foundational justice of the land which requires traitors to become subject to destruction at her hands.Instead,  Aslan takes the witch’s violence himself, thus saving Edmond. And in doing so, an even “deeper magic” come into effect to restore him to life and energize all to defeat evil.

Another bumper sticker sized statement flows from this view of the mechanics of atonement – “Jesus Died For Your Sins.” Adherents of this perspective often emphasize how much Jesus suffered before and on the cross. A correlation is drawn between the magnitude of sin committed by humanity and the amount of pain Jesus endured as a direct consequence. The not infrequently stated: “Your sins drove a nail in to Jesus” is the harsh conclusion of this belief.

The question at the heart of this view of atonement is: “Did God the Father need (or want) Jesus to die in order to save humanity from sin and death?” Certainly Jesus died a violent death at the hands of the Romans. But, did God want/need this? If the answer is “yes,” then violence and the resulting salvation proclaimed by Christianity is sanctified and glorified. The implications cut right to the heart of Christian ethics. Although Jesus lived a life proclaiming peace, if God the Father needs/wants the blood of his son for appeasement, then violence trumps peace as the core characteristic of God’s nature. And consequently, Christians may be justified in similarly using “righteous” violence.

A growing number of theologians are showing how the exact opposite is true – Jesus died as a result of sin, specifically the foundational human sin of scapegoating.  God didn’t need/desire this violence, but allowed it, in order to turn it inside out through the resurrection of the innocent, scapegoated victim.

Perhaps the most prominent American Catholic theologian, Bishop Robert Barron, has  been speaking more and more about the theology of non-violent atonement. Read or watch below Bishop Barron’s high praise for recently deceased sociologist and theologian Rene Girard who wrote extensively about mimetic theory and scapegoating.

Bishop Barron concludes about Girard:

There are some thinkers that offer intriguing ideas and proposals, and there is a tiny handful of thinkers that manage to shake your world. Girard was in this second camp. In a series of books and articles, written across several decades, he proposed a social theory of extraordinary explanatory power.

Girard also informs the excellent work of The Raven Foundation who offer this video mission statement:

I appreciate the dedicated work of the Raven team who frequently post commentary pointing out the many ways scapegoating happens all around us. Two thought-provoking, recent posts to check out are:

“Zootopia” How to Make the World a Better Place

“Spotlight” on Children

A bonus third post, my favorite one, also referencing a movie:

My Daughter, the Star Wars myth and Jesus – How to Defeat Evil

So, why did I spend time with this long post today? First of all, a week from now, on Good Friday, I hope this post and Girard’s powerful way of re-understanding how atonement happens allow you to experience the cross in a deeper, more profound way.  Next, as the violence, especially religiously justified acts, increases in the world, Christians must look at the root of our theology to critique how it may support God-ordained violence. Finally,  a deeper understanding of mimetic dynamics, the subsequent scapegoating and its ancient social power should lead all people of faith to prophetically expose this mechanism in order to defuse its seductive power.

 

 

 

Remember to Cry With Your Students on Patriot Day (September 11, 2001)

Sincere thanks to Mark Barnes and his Brilliant or Insane blog for sharing this video and invitation to educators.  I appreciate that he speaks of how he was brought to tears and the way his students responded to this show of emotion.

This day has personal meaning for me as my brother was in one of the WTC Towers on 9/11/01.  His was the second building attacked.  Thanks be to God, that he survived and fled to safety before the towers collapsed.  Although he doesn’t talk about it, I know his life was forever changed that day.  For me, I had an agonizing couple of hours when my family did not know whether he survived.  My wife, exactly six week old son, and I lived then in New Jersey, not far from Manhattan.  Communities all around our town mourned the loss of commuters who died that sunny, early-fall morning.

My freshmen students, like my son, were infants that day.  So please tell them about your experiences 14 year ago in order to remember, to celebrate life, and to work for peace and justice in order to counter evil in our world.