Holy Week Justice and Peace Meditations
As I have done, so you must do, Holy Thursday
Solidarity unto death, Good Friday
Daily meditations on the lectionary readings for Lent 2000
As I have done, so you must do.
As I have done, so you must do.TOP
Readings: Exodus 12:1-8, 11 - 14 -- 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 -- John 13:1-15
Holy Thursday this year comes the day after the anniversaries of the Oklahoma City Bombing
and the Branch Davidian massacre, and is the one year anniversary of the Columbine tragedy.
The pyramid of skulls we are building on the plains of Iraq continues to mount, it begins to dwarf
those erected by the Mongols during their conquest heyday.
Last year United States missiles were raining down upon Serbia. One year later in Kosovo,
NATO troops seem to be making sure that Albanian drug smugglers' routes are safe and secure,
and Serbians must be guarded by troops or they will be massacred by their neighbors. Milosevic
appears secure. A new "strong man" with KGB ties has ascended to the throne in Russia, and the
Chinese military press is full of articles about fighting a war with the United States. I understand
that "We Are the Americans" and thus we feel that nothing very bad would ever happen to us,
but if China decides to fight a war with the United States, the homefront here in the US is part of
the front lines as far as the Chinese are concerned.
In response to this and other threats, the United States military is proposing to seriously beef up
defenses here in our "national homeland". We've already deployed rapid response teams to mop
up after terrorist incidents involving "weapons of mass destruction and death". Wouldn't it be
better if we chose to "sow not in furrows of injustice" so that we could avoid reaping that bitter
fruit? Absent heroic and wise leadership in the US (which given our political morality is
virtually a sure bet), we may not be able to avoid that fate on down the line, as the seeds of a US-China war were sown a hundred years ago by our great-great grandparents. The sins of the
fathers and mothers are indeed visited upon the children's children. We think we can hide
behind big walls and guns, and we close our eyes to the failed empires of history who trusted that
very same strategy while at the same time sowing in furrows of injustice.
Tonight in our liturgy we will recall the supper that was lovingly prepared for our Lord by his
Mother and the other women who followed him and cared for him. After the meal, he rose from
the table, took a basin and a towel, and began to wash his disciples' feet. This seems to have
caused some consternation among those present. Washing the feet of guests was the work of a
servant, a slave. Simon Peter pulls his feet back and says, "Lord, you are not gonna wash my
feet." But then Jesus teaches Peter about humility, and Peter becomes willing, not only for his
feet to be washed, but also for his whole body to be cleansed.
After washing their feet, Jesus reclined back at the table and asked them, "Do you understand
what I just did for you? Jesus is Master and Lord, yet he does the work of the lowest house
servant. He does this as an example for us. As Christ has done, so must we all do.
As the Church calls us together to celebrate that first Mass, we will watch our priests and
deacons set an example for us as they wash the feet of members of the Church. This custom is
not part of the hospitality traditions of most modern cultures, but the teachings on humility and
servant leadership that this act conveys remain relevant for us who live in a "Winning Through
Intimidation" world. Those who would be great must be the servants of all. As Christ has done,
so must we all do.
This is not the wisdom of this world. Our governments tell us to trust in bombs and missiles and
armies. Our economists tell us that servants make the lowest wages. Our entertainers tell us to
demand the best service for ourselves -- whenever the whim of instant sensuous gratification
strikes. But this isn't what our priests and bishops will be preaching tonight. This is a time to
leave behind the culture of death and embrace the culture of life. Servant leadership is the model
this night sets for all people throughout all history and the future. We can count the ways in
which we have fallen short of this vocation, but we can also count ways in which we have
embraced it and authentically lived it. Each solitary person -- each family -- each community
-- that follows this vocation builds the civilization of life and love which will redeem a future of
hope for all people.
Solidarity unto death.
Solidarity unto death.TOP
Justice and Peace Meditation for Good Friday
Readings: Isaiah 52:31 - 53:12 -- Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9 -- John 18:1 - 19:42
Solidarity unto death, painful death, and beyond. Never think that God doesn't understand your
pain. He was there. "He suffered, died, and was buried." Just like every other man and woman
who has ever lived on the face of the Earth. This knowledge of God's isn't something hard to
comprehend, it is blood red, it is water flowing from a spear wound, it is nails pounded into
human flesh. It just doesn't get more real than that. "For we do not have a high priest who is
unable to sympathize with our weakness. . . " He bore our infirmities and our sufferings -- and
by His stripes we are healed.
Can we bear to behold such solidarity? Today we venerate and kiss the Cross, symbol of our
Savior's offering, but isn't true veneration of the Cross the willingness to live what it
symbolizes? Today, tomorrow and the day after that? Can we take up our cross each day and
bear it? Sure, we reply, as long as it is a pretty cross, shining with gold, silver, and precious
jewels. But often we try to avoid the big, grubby, wooden crosses which we find laid upon our
shoulders or before us along our journeys.
Granted, we are not all Mother Teresa or St. Francis, does this mean that we must be alienated
from those among us who are in need? Where is our solidarity today with the Jesus who is
among us? Would we consider moving to an urban inner city? Would we volunteer our time to
help someone learn how to read? What about helping an impoverished rural community along
the Rio Grande, or in the Navajo Nation? Are we willing to learn what the poor have to teach
us? Do we spend more on fun and frivolity than we share with those who are in need? Can we
kiss a Cross in our church, and then turn our backs on it when we are out in the world? Do we
willingly encourage, participate in, and profit from, the egregious social sins of our era?
As we have journeyed through Lent and into Holy Week, the call to daily conversion of life has
been consistent and without ambiguity. We do not have to walk in misery and darkness. We
can break free of the chains of slavery to materialism and consumerism and lust and greed and all
the other sins of this era. We can rise with Christ to new life, a more holistic life, with balance
and healing and virtue, a generative life that brings forth harmony, reconciliation, and peace, a
joy that is rooted in service and holiness. Structures of death, alienation, violence, oppression,
and injustice can be redeemed as structures of beauty, wisdom, goodness, mercy, justice, and
As the Good Thief discovered on this day nearly 2,000 years ago, it is never too late to turn back
to God. There is never so much water under the bridge, that the bridge cannot be crossed. There
is no burden so great that Jesus cannot help you carry it. There is no one who is so far away that
they cannot be brought near by the Blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from all sin and
restores our relationship with God and each other.
"So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor and to find help in
time of need."
Easter meditation on justice and peace.
Easter meditation on justice and peace.TOP
Come out from Egypt and be free! Rise up and greet the New Dawn of hope! Break the chains of slavery, destroy every yoke, abolish every oppression.
You just can't keep a good man down.
When that Roman soldier thrust his lance into Jesus' side, and then when his body was taken down from the Cross and laid in the arms of his most Blessed Mother, and then when his body was wrapped up and placed in a tomb, and then when soldiers were posted as guards to make sure no one could steal the body, I'm sure that the ruling classes of Palestine thought that "that was that" for one obscure and troublesome red-necked rabbi from the provinces.
But the story doesn't end with a closed tomb and posted guards.
People get into a "that was that" attitude about justice issues, especially when there is so much
injustice, when power becomes arrogant, and when the poor are oppressed. It's raining, the boat
is filling up, and all I have is a teaspoon to bail with. Or you are in a swamp, and the alligators
are stacking up about waist high. Jesus is dead, his body is in the grave, the stone is rolled over
the doorway, guards are posted. Everybody go home and be sad, this is the end.
But "all that is" is not just what you can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell with your earthly senses.
There is an entire spiritual reality that is as "real" as anything you can bite and taste or feel and
smell. It is all around us, New Life -- Easter Life -- victory over death and evil!
The Reign of God is upon and among us. Every moment we live in justice and peace, we
experience the Reign of God. Chaos may rage and violence may come, but all of the powers of
evil will not win against God.
We are called to be an Easter people, washed in the waters of baptism, anointed with the oil of
salvation, fed at the table of the Lord, active in the work of redemption in our communities. To
understand Easter is to live this reality day by day, moment by moment. Thus, our eyes and ears
and hearts become open to the ever-renewing Spirit of the Lord.
The Church gifts us with 50 days of special celebration for the season of Easter. How better to
celebrate this than to eagerly and openly announce this good news of liberation from death and
sin to the poor -- and also to the rich. Jesus eagerly embraced people of all economic and social
classes, and so should we. We have a duty to those who commit oppression to warn them of
their sin and call them to repentance. God has called us to give them catechesis regarding their
duties to the common good. Sure, this isn't always welcome, people will think us odd, but the
rich and the powerful are part of this community too -- we owe them something better than
praising and glorifying and participating in and profiting from sins against justice and mercy.
As St. Francis once noted, when preaching the gospel, if it is necessary, it is OK to use words.
Which is to say that the first announcement that we must make is in our own ways and manners
of living. Preaching that is not rooted in an authentic lifestyle of justice and peace will always
sound a bit hollow and empty. Evangelism, like charity, begins at home, in the heart and life of
Growing your own tomatoes, so that you buy fewer vegetables imported from third world
countries, helps you to avoid stealing the food of the poor to fatten your own table.
Going on an "energy diet" and recycling are ways to practically honor God's creation of the Earth
and the "universal destination of all goods" by refraining from taking more than is your due and
ending your wasteful household practices which trash the earth (talk about sins of the parents
being visited upon the children's children!). Use Less Stuff.
Speaking out against injustice during casual conversations is a way to evangelize your family and
Watching the news -- or reading the newspaper -- while "awake", viewing and reading news of
world and local events intentionally, is a way to promote solidarity. Taking action upon what
you read or hear -- even if it is only writing a letter, sending an email, or making a donation --
lives that solidarity in a way that is pleasing to God and is of practical assistance to those in need.
Opening your eyes and ears while you are out and about will help you to see injustice and
poverty, and if you open your heart also, you will hear the Spirit's guidance as to what you
personally should do about what you have seen and heard. Daily prayer and weekly fasting will
keep you spiritually open to the call of God to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.
Volunteering your time to community organizations is a way to strengthen civil society and
protect the vital principle of subsidiarity which is so necessary to the common good.
The call to be an "Easter People" is not a status quo vocation. Couch potatoism is typically more
attractive -- why not sit back and be spoon fed by 500 channels of digital entertainment? Jesus
could have been satisfied with bread and circuses, but that wasn't his mission. And it isn't yours
either. (If it was, you wouldn't be reading this particular justice and peace meditation.)
During this Easter of the Jubilee Holy Year 2000, may the grain of wheat that was planted in the ground to die, bring forth a goodly harvest in your life, in that of your family, and throughout your community.