Lent, Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

Lent 2018: Reflection for Palm Sunday, March 25 – Announcing the Good News

From the Maryknoll Office for Global Concern’s 2018 Lenten Reflection Guide: Embracing Jesus’ Practice of Nonviolence

Mark 11:1-10 or John 12:12-16 | Isaiah 50:4-7 | Philippians 2:6-11 | Mark 14:1-15:47

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In the Gospel reading, Jesus’ journey finally reaches its destination – Jerusalem. Rome’s representative, Pontius Pilate, has also arrived. Pilate rides into Jerusalem on a horse past crowds shouting praise – an entrance befitting a conquering ruler.

But Jesus rides on a donkey. In eastern cultures, like the one in which Jesus lived, the donkey was considered an animal of peace; the horse was a war animal. A king riding a horse intended to wage war, and one who rode a donkey was conveying a message of peace. Riding a donkey into Jerusalem symbolized Jesus’ entry as the Prince of Peace.

The reign of God that Jesus announces during his ministry is a reign of peace and nonviolence. The first reading is from Isaiah, chapter 50, and is part of the third Song of the Suffering Servant:  “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.”

The second reading from Philippians continues with: “[Christ] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday completes this reflection. In his book Jesus, An Historical Approximation, Father José Antonio Pagola reflects on the death of Jesus and concludes, “Jesus understands his death as he always understood his life:  as a service to God’s reign for the benefit of all. Day by day he has poured out his life for others; now if necessary he will die for them.”

Those of us who receive our palm branches, who attempt to follow Jesus and announce the reign of peace, are called to this same commitment to serve others, without reliance on great sources of funds, without the use of manipulations, with respect for the dignity of our neighbors, and without weapons of destruction, like the latest missiles and drones.

The sixth and final principle of nonviolence defined by Dr. King in Stride Toward Freedom is: Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.

We all know someone who, despite tragedy and hardship, gives of herself or himself with such dedication and cheerfulness, that you wonder how they do it. Where do they find the strength and the determination to go on?

Often in being humbled by life’s losses and suffering, we are offered the gift of faith, and with it, the love that sustains and calls us to be more than we think we are. For Maryknoll’s founders, the heart of being a missioner is love expressed with joy. In serving, in being humbled by our vulnerability when immersed in a strange culture, we lose ourselves – only to encounter Jesus in new ways.

Click here for the rest of this reflection, questions, a prayer, suggestions for fasting and action, and more.

* Photo credit: “Christ of Maryknoll” icon by Robert Lentz, http://robertlentz.com/featured-icons-christ-of-maryknoll/.
Lent, Nonviolence, Peace Spirituality

Lent 2018: Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent, February 25 – The Beloved Son and the Beloved Community

From the Maryknoll Office for Global Concern’s 2018 Lenten Reflection Guide: Embracing Jesus’ Practice of Nonviolence

Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 | Romans 8:31b-34 | Mark 9:2-10

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This week we hear the awe-inspiring story of Jesus’ Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John went up a mountain and spent the night in prayer with Jesus. There they saw Jesus transformed in glory and the prophets of old talking with him. “Then from a cloud came a voice: ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’”

The Transfiguration conveys two affirmations: God is with us and God can transform us.

When Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here,” Jesus gives him a firm rebuke. Maryknoll Father Stephen Judd in Bolivia points to the teaching of Spanish Scripture scholar, José Antonio Pagola, on the message of the Transfiguration: Listen to Jesus’ words and apply them in creating the kinds of right relationships that build communities in the here and now. “Peter’s mistaken attitude is one of exclusion, wanting to hoard the presence of Jesus for a select group of followers,” Father Judd says.

Father Judd also reminds us of Pope Francis’ warning against exclusivity in our relationships, which the pope calls ‘the globalization of indifference’. “How many of us, myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live; we don’t care; we don’t protect what God created for everyone, and we end up unable even to care for one another!” Pope Francis said.

This fits well with Dr. King’s second principle of nonviolence: Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation and the purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

As explained by The King Center, “Dr. King’s Beloved Community is a global vision in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.” Fundamental to the concept of the Beloved Community is inclusiveness, both economic and social. At the same time, Dr. King believed “conflicts could be resolved peacefully and adversaries could be reconciled through a mutual, determined commitment to nonviolence.”

The central vision of world history in the Bible is that all of creation is one, Walter Brueggemann writes in Living Toward a Vision: Biblical Reflections on Shalom. “Every creature in community with every other, living in harmony and security toward the joy and well-being of every other creature.” … “That persistent vision of joy, well-being, harmony, and prosperity is not captured in any single word or idea in the Bible; a cluster of words is required to express its many dimensions and subtle nuances: love, loyalty, truth, grace, salvation, justice, blessing, righteousness. But the term that in recent discussion has been used to summarize that controlling vision is shalom.”

When asked years later what he saw as a vision of shalom for Christians today, Brueggemann said, “I think it means peaceable life together among the nations and tribes and religious traditions, and economic justice so that everybody has enough resources to live a life of safety and dignity.”

Click here for the rest of this reflection, questions, a prayer, suggestions for fasting and action, and more.

* Photo credit: “Masais” by Flickr/Leon Cabeiro, licensed in the creative commons 2.0 and available at http://bit.ly/2F3F30f.