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On Earth as it is in Heaven. . .

Lenten Meditations on Justice and Peace

by Robert Waldrop

Tuesday, March 3, the Memorial of the Blessed Katherine Drexel

Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11, Psalm 34; Matthew 6:7-15

Today's readings bring together two confident expressions of the ultimate victory of the Reign of God. Central to our journey to the peace and justice of that Kingdom is the going forth of reconciliation. Christ teaches us to pray that our sins are forgiven -- as we forgive the sins of others. Do you suppose he was serious about this?

Some immediate challenges spring to mind. One is the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Another is the situation between the Palestinians and the Jewish Zionists, a third is the Catholic-Protestant fight in Northern Ireland, a fourth is the Hindu-Muslim war in India/Pakistan, and a fifth is the Chinese-Tibet situation. Then there's the problem I have with the guy up the block. . . There is no lack of work for peace-weavers.

It's not hard to find ourselves in a position where we don't want to even try to forgive someone. And so God meets us at the place we are, wherever that may be, if it be in anger, sorrow, despair, or even hatred. His presence is a healing power that breaks open barriers and allows love and freedom to flow. We can begin to pray, "Oh Lord, I do not want to forgive, help me to want to forgive." When we pass to the place where there is the beginning of a desire for reconciliation, we can pray, "Oh Lord, now give me the strength to do what is necessary for reconciliation. Bless and heal my enemy."

Often, it is the victim who must take the first step. This is a great risk, but the potential rewards are justice and peace. It is not something we can undertake in our own human strength, because it is not likely to be sufficient to surmount the challenge. This brings us to a dependence on the grace of God as we cultivate a "poverty of spirit," an orientation which begins in the utter reliance on God as the source of life and strength.

The source of the problems that bring about the need for reconciliation is always sin and the structures of sin which result from the concrete acts of individual sin committed by human beings. A proper understanding of the source is part of the journey back to wholeness. Lent is therefore time for the examination of conscience, and the practice of right relationships -- with ourselves, with God, and with other human beings. It is not a burden we must carry alone. Through prayer, the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, we draw near to the Throne of God and receive grace to surmount the challenges that block our paths.

Without reconciliation, there is no justice and peace. As we remember that the road to war and hate began with the concrete evil actions of individual human beings, we now learn that the road to justice and peace begins with the concrete righteous and reconciling acts of individual human beings.

A little over 100 years ago, a young woman from a wealthy and prominent family in Philadelphia heard this call. Her name was Katherine Drexel and she began her ministry by donating money for the relief of Indians and African-Americans. But she came to understand that this wasn't enough, that personal solidarity with the poor and the marginalized was necessary. And so it came to pass that she founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, eventually spending her entire personal fortune of $20 million in this work of healing and reconciliation. She has been declared blessed, and today is her feast day. Let us remember with grateful hearts her noble and valiant evangelical witness to the power of reconciliation, and let us pray for an increase of reconciliation among all peoples.

Prayer intentions today:

+ For the powerful intercessions of the Blessed Katherine Drexel, for reconciliation among all races and classes, we pray to the Lord.

+ For victims of violence, that they will be healed and comforted and restored in justice, we pray to the Lord.

Praxis today:

+ This has been a week of list-making. We have begun lists of people that we need to be reconciled with, of poor people we are acquainted with, of major problems in our community, of our personal sins, and of our virtues. It's unlikely that these lists are "finished". Keep them in your prayers and add to them as necessary. Keep these lists together. And start a sixth list -- of the social sins in which you participate by advising or advocating or agreeing with the sin, or by remaining silent in the face of the sin, or by enabling or facilitating or praising such sin.

+ Do a good deed for somebody who comes from a different race, or culture, or ethnic group.

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