Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, July 3, 2016

"Your heart shall rejoice and your bodies flourish like the grass; the Lord's power shall be known to his servants." -- Isaiah 66:14

“Your heart shall rejoice and your bodies flourish like the grass; the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.” — Isaiah 66:14

 

July 3, Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

      Cycle C. Readings:

      1) Isaiah 66:10-14c

      Psalm 66:1-7, 16, 20

      2) Galatians 6:14-18

      Gospel: Luke 10:1-12, 17-20 or Luke 10:1-9

 

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

Using Jerusalem as a metaphor in this week’s Scripture, Isaiah presents God as a mother providing her children with comfort, nourishment and nurture, and proclaims that “the Lord’s power shall be known to his servants.”

Confidence in God’s power and care are indeed essential to Jesus’ disciples, we see in today’s Gospel, when he sends them forth to pave his way in “every town and place he intended to visit.”

This passage offers us valuable instruction in the ways and means of evangelizing. Warning his disciples that they will face opposition “as lambs among wolves,” Jesus also tells them to be free of material comforts and rely instead on the hospitality of whatever community they visit.

Stay as long as you are accepted, he says, and respond by ministering to the people there. Further, he directed, pray for others to join the effort.

A present-day disciple I know, Adele, followed this very formula when she and two fellow women religious ventured forth from New Jersey to minister to migrant farmworkers in the American South. Welcomed by a community in Virginia, she stayed for more than 30 years.

In visiting the migrant camps, Adele and her colleagues discovered the workers, Haitian immigrants, were underpaid and living in squalid conditions. When they explained the situation to the pastor of the nearby church, he brought the men to live in his rectory temporarily while parishioners helped them find stable jobs in town.

The parish lent additional support while the men transitioned to independent housing and also gave the nuns part-time staff positions, which covered their living expenses.

Over the years, Adele’s ministry increased. She prayed for more laborers, and the harvest has indeed been abundant.

As the Haitians and the community embraced each other, local parishioners became interested in the families they’d left behind and in the country whose dire conditions had forced them to flee. A new mission to serve the impoverished people of Haiti was born and spread throughout the diocese with more than 40 parishes partnered, spiritually and materially, with communities in Haiti.

Follow the instructions: While we are sent forth by Christ, we mustn’t underestimate the call also to welcome, empower and join those who come among us to spread the Gospel.

QUESTIONS:

How have you reached out to spread Jesus’ message? How have you welcomed and supported others doing the same?

New blog celebrates first anniversary of ‘Ladauto Si”

Nicolette Paglioni

 (CNS photo/courtesy U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

(CNS photo/courtesy U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The Center of Concern has a beautiful blog called Integral Voices dedicated to raising awareness of social justice and environmental issues.

Inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si’,” the center hopes to use the blog to bring experts, leaders, and readers together to discuss a huge range of environmental, political, social, and economic concerns.

“Integral Voices will introduce our readers to the sophisticated and nuanced observations of leaders with the range of experience and wisdom to inspire us to think differently and to act differently, to imagine a globalization of hope,” said Dr. Lester Meyers, the president of Center of Concern.

Writers Franciscan Sister Ilia Delio and John Friedman, who is on the center’s board of directors, published the two inaugural blog posts about the pope’s encyclical and the unseen consequences of well-meaning environmental activism.

Sister Ilia has written 17th books and lectures concerning Christianity and evolution, and currently holds the Josephine C. Connelly Endowed Chair in Theology at Villanova University.

Friedman is an expert of communications and sustainability, has managed both of these offices for several businesses, and hosts Sound Living on MusicPlanetRadio.com, an online radio station featuring a charming combination of rock music and tips for living a more environmentally friendly life.

Other writers for Integral Voices include Jesuit Father John P. Langan and Mercy Sister Mary Alice Synkewecz.

Father Langan is the chair of the board of directors of the Center of Concern and a professor of Catholic social thought at Jesuit-run Georgetown University.

Sister Mary Alice is the director of the Collaborative Center for Justice. These writers were chosen by the Center of Concern for their knowledge and expertise on the wide variety of subjects that Integral Voices hopes to discuss.

Integral Voices, which was launched June 20, will be updated on a semi-monthly basis.

Word to Life — Sunday Scripture readings, June 26, 2016

"'Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?' Jesus turned and rebuked them." -- Luke 9:54-55

“‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them.” — Luke 9:54-55

June 26, Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle C. Readings:

1) 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21

Psalm 16:1-2, 5, 7-11

2) Galatians 5:1, 13-18

Gospel: Luke 9:51-62

 

By Jeff Hedglen
Catholic News Service

When I was in high school I signed up for a special district-wide class on criminal justice. The idea was to gather from every school students who were considering a career in law enforcement.

I had to travel across town to another school for the course and it turned out all the other students in the class went to that school. I was the only outsider. For an entire year the whole class treated me rudely, made fun of me and called me offensive names. Looking back, it was one of the best years of my life.

I had been taught by my family and my faith to turn the other cheek, and I strived all year to do just that. I never lashed out at these other students; I just took their insults and did my best to be the better person. This experience has had a lasting impact on me.

It came to mind when reading this week’s Gospel. Jesus wants to visit a Samaritan town, but the local people refuse to welcome him. Jesus’ disciples ask him, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” But Jesus rejects this idea.

To be sure, when I was in that class daily with students who refused to welcome me I wanted to “call down fire from heaven,” but by the grace of God I was able to lean more heavily on the message from St. Paul this week: “Live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.”

So often we are in danger of letting our worldly passions rule our life. But Jesus and St. Paul in unison reject this idea and call us to live by the Spirit.

Living by the Spirit does not mean that we cannot have passion; rather, it means we have surrendered to the will of God and have allowed his will to guide our passions.

As with most things in the spiritual life, it’s simple but not easy. We must be steeped in the things of the Spirit and avoid the thoughts and activities mired in the flesh if we are to have a fighting chance. But fight we must, lest we call down that fire from heaven and end up singed by our own wrath.

QUESTIONS:

Do you remember a time when you wanted to “call down fire from heaven”? What are some things you do to strive to live in the Spirit?

June is Torture Awareness Month

Chaldean Father Douglas Bazi holds a shirt he wore while enduring torture as a hostage in Iraq in 2006 during a conference at the United Nations April 28. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Chaldean Father Douglas Bazi holds a shirt he wore while enduring torture as a hostage in Iraq in 2006 during a conference at the United Nations April 28. (CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Sunday is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture as declared by the United Nations.

It’s one day during Torture Awareness Month to remember people who have been confined and beaten or tortured because of their political involvement, their religious beliefs, their writings or actions in war.

It’s also a day to remember that torture is illegal under international law.

Torture remains illegal under United States law as well, having been officially outlawed by Congress after it was revealed that the U.S. military and the Central Intelligence Agency had conducted or authorized “enhanced interrogation techniques” early in the Iraq War.

Despite the law, some members of Congress would like to overturn the ban and that concerns the Rev. Ronald Stief, a United Church of Christ minister who is executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, of which the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is a supporter.

No one should undergo torture, he told Catholic News Service.

“It’s important to remember that in the middle of all these policy fights that these are real people, they’re survivors and we need to keep them in in mind and pray for them,” he said.

Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, takes the same stance in the USCCB’s “To Go Forth” blog. He reiterates Catholic teaching in calling for an end to all torture.

“In his 1993 encyclical, ‘Veritatis Splendor’ (‘The Splendor of Truth’), St. John Paul II included physical and mental torture in his list of social evils that are ‘intrinsically evil.’ The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church says the prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances,'” Bishop Cantu wrote.

He reminds readers that torture debases human life and violates the principle of respecting basic human dignity, the blog says, adding, “Torture also degrades the moral fiber of any society that tolerates or sponsors it. Accepting torture undermines respect for everyone’s human rights and human dignity.”

Bishop Cantu is not alone in his opposition to the use of torture. Practically, military and intelligence officers have said, torture in its various forms has failed to yield solid information as victims offer what can be perceived as valuable information just to escape additional torture actions.

In addition, the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition is marking Torture Survivors Week June 22-26. Programs include a daylong seminar at The Catholic University of America today followed by a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Now in its 19th year, the program has served to shed light on the practice of torture through the eyes of victims from around the world who have found refuge in the United States.

Micro-lending site Kiva provides dignity, opportunity to disadvantaged

By Colleen Dulle

WASHINGTON (CNS) -– Julie Hanna, a two-time refugee and five-time entrepreneur, took to the stage at the United State of Women Summit June 14 to share how her company is bringing dignity and opportunity to talented but disadvantaged people.

A loan of $100 helped Cynthia in Ghana to stock up on beads and stones for jewelry she makes and sells. (Kiva photo/Juan Barbed)

A $100 loan helped Cynthia in Ghana to buy beads for jewelry she makes and sells. (Kiva photo/Juan Barbed)

Hanna, executive chair of the board at micro-lending giant Kiva.org, knows from experience that, as she says, “talent is universal, but opportunity is not.”

She told the audience of 5,000 women at the White House summit how she recalled seeing her parents looked upon with pity here after the family fled first from Black September — the Jordanian civil war — and then from the Lebanese civil war.

“The expression I saw on my parents’ face,” she said, “was their dignity being chipped away.” She realized the society they’d entered didn’t understand the difference between broken circumstances and broken people, but she began to dream of a world that would.

“I dreamt of a world that knows pity is the dear enemy of compassion. I dreamt of a world that regards dignity as an unalienable human right. I dreamt of a world that understands that talent is universal but opportunity is not,” Hanna said.

She went on to take advantage of every opportunity she had to channel her talent. She was one of the first girls to play Little League baseball in Alabama after Title IX passed and graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in computer science before moving to Silicon Valley and working for five successful startups including Healtheon, which became WebMD.

Hanna then went to Kiva, which pioneered what’s now known as “crowdfunding” 11 years ago. Its first borrower was a mother of five who took out a $500 loan to start a business without diverting funds from her children’s education.

Egyptian-born Hanna has seen the site transform communities around the world by empowering women in business. Of the entrepreneurs Kiva lenders have funded, 75 percent or 1.5 million are women.

Hanna sat down with Catholic News Service after her talk to reflect on this point.

She said she wanted her speech to convey that “investing in women and women entrepreneurs is the fastest way to transform a society, and that it takes very little money to do that.”

She cited examples of women who began sending their children to school thanks to Kiva loans, and those who have gone from being homeless to starting craft businesses that employ other women and create jobs.

“It’s so empowering and dignity-building for these women, and often times they’re in situations where they’ve been abused, they’ve been discriminated against, they haven’t had access to money, and all of a sudden, they come under their own power and their communities completely shift,” Hanna said.

“They’re so strong and powerful and become a force to be reckoned with, and they become role models for the children and lift up everyone around them.”

Teresa Goines honored in 2009 with community leadership award by FBI's San Francisco division. (Photo/Old School Cafe)

Teresa Goines is honored in 2009 with community leadership award by FBI’s San Francisco division. (Photo/Old Skool Cafe)

One example that has stayed with her through the years, she said, was that of Teresa Goines, who was a corrections officer in San Francisco who saw the same gang-involved teens and young adults come through prison over and over. She knew that jobs could change the course of their lives, so after some time in prayer, she started Old Skool Cafe, a jazz-themed dinner club that employs former gang members as cooks, waiters, and performers, among other jobs.

The cafe program graduates 25 students per year who go on to full-time education or employment.

It, like similar programs at Cafe Reconcile in New Orleans or the Jesuit-run Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, has transformed the employees’ community and provided an avenue out of gang life.

The transformative service Kiva provides makes it a natural partner for religious organizations.

“Faith-based organizations are actually a real fabric of Kiva’s lending community, a massive fabric, and they’ve been some of the longest-standing and earliest lenders,” Hanna said, detailing how Kiva is partnering with church-run organizations in the U.S. to identify borrowers and vouch for them.

“Matter of fact, the number one and number two lending teams on Kiva — we have lending teams that can lend together — are the atheists and the Christians, and they compete with one another,” Hanna laughed.

The Christians have fallen behind, with $24.5 million to the atheist group’s $26.7 million.

The friendly competition between the two and the other groups on Kiva (which even the Christian group outpaces by a $12 million margin) contribute to Hanna’s dream of restoring dignity to those whose circumstances have taken it.

“One dream can transform a million realities,” Hanna said. “It’s the only thing that ever has, and that’s the most hopeful truth I know.”

Make that 2 million borrowers’ realities — and counting.

Active collaboration was common theme at Given forum

By Ana Franco-Guzman

Given conference in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Given conference in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Highlighted in what many of the speakers said at the Given forum held earlier this month in Washington is what St. John Paul II would call the importance of feminine values in society. When God made Eve, he did not make her inferior but the opposite — his “ezer,” which means a vital helper.

Women should “thank God for our sex,” Helen Alvare, a professor of law at George Mason University School of Law told the audience of more than 300 young women at the Given Catholic Young Women’s Leadership Forum. The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious hosted the gathering June 7-12 at The Catholic University of America.

“In the world today there is what one would call a resistance of the notion of two-ness,” Alvare said, when women’s differences with men call for an active collaboration and appreciation of our differences.

Among the other speakers was Kara Eschbach, co-founder, editor in chief and publisher of Verily, a digital fashion and lifestyle magazine for women that aims “to empower and inspire women to be the best versions of themselves.”

She said the qualities women have, like beauty, are a gift.

“To reject the importance of the physical world is to turn the whole human experience into a sort of utilitarian exercise away of the use of a thing only in so far as it contributes to our salvation which misses the full scope of our creation,” she said. “The human heart is drawn to and attracted to beauty. That’s the thing for women, women are just absolutely beautiful.”

Feminine values also are human values, said Sister Norma Pimentel, another conference speaker. A Missionary of Jesus, Sister Norma is executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas.

Sister Norma Pimentel, Brownsville, at a White House event in April. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Sister Norma Pimentel is seen at a White House Easter breakfast in April. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande has been taking care of the needs of unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, who have flooded across the U.S.-Mexico border into the Rio Grande Valley.

“We as women in the world and especially in the United States are called to open our hearts as women to welcome the stranger, the child that needs us. Just like Mary would … open her heart to welcome us.” she told Catholic News Service. “Only we as women can understand a mother’s love that is needed to give to these families that are hurting.”

The Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious described the Given forum as “a launchpad for what St. John Paul II called the feminine genius and a response to Pope Francis’ call to activate women’s gifts in the church.”

World Refugee Day: Pope Francis-style

refugees epa

Somali refugees in a tent in 2011 at the Ifo Extension refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya.      (CNS photo/Dai Kurokawa, EPA)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis marked today’s World Refugee Day with an appeal to assist and accompany refugees as well as remedy the injustices and conflicts that force people to flee.

Throughout his pontificate, he has repeatedly underlined the plight of people compelled to leave their home and the Gospel call to “welcome the stranger”:

Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity. They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes …

— Pope Francis, World Message for Migrants & Refugees 2014

Too often you have not been welcomed. Forgive the closure and indifference of our societies, which fear the change of life and mentality that your presence requires. Treated as a burden, as problem, a cost, you are instead a gift. You offer witness of how our gracious and merciful our God knows how to transform the evil and injustice you suffer into a good for all.

— Pope Francis, Message to Jesuit “Astalli” refugee center in Rome 2016

 

ewf child

A displaced woman carries her sleeping child June 15 at a refugee camp near Mosul, Iraq. (CNS photo/Azad Lashkari, Reuters)

In an effort to give voice to some of the 60 million estimated refugees in the world, Jesuit Refugee Service interviewed a handful of the many people they help. They produced this video as part of their campaign, “Open minds, unlock potential,” which is promoting the need to offer education to and be receptive of new arrivals.

The International Catholic Migration Commission is also sharing stories of resettled refugees around the world as a way to encourage those still waiting for a place to call home and to call attention to the benefits refugees bring to host communities. It is using the #HandsOfMercy, #StoriesOfMercy and #WithRefugees to share or send personal stories or messages of hope on social media.

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