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

Lent 2018: Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent, February 18 – The first step takes courage

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

Genesis 9:8-15 | 1 Peter 3:18-22 | Mark 1:12-15

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Lent is an opportunity for us to set aside forty days for a time of repentance, of giving up things that tie us to this world and looking instead to the life and teachings of Jesus.n the first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading each year is about Jesus’ temptation in the desert. The forty days that Jesus spent in the desert are a reference to the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the desert after being led from slavery in Egypt and the forty days and nights the prophet Elijah also traveled in the desert.

In Mark’s Gospel, we hear that Jesus went into the desert immediately after his baptism, led by the Spirit. The desert marks the beginning of Jesus’ confrontation with evil. Our Lenten practices are a beginning for us as well, to shine light on whatever temptations we struggle to resist. This is no easy task; it requires courage.

In 1957, in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. described the six principles of nonviolence that he learned during the historic bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. The first principle is “Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.” It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.

The courage to resist evil requires overcoming the fear of consequences one may incur while doing good:  contempt, disapproval, or even physical or emotional opposition.

“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension,” Dr. King wrote six years later in Letter from a Birmingham Jail. “We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. Injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience at the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”

An example of this principle occurred during the civil war in El Salvador, when campesinos moved back to their land after being displaced by the military. Many had been living in refugee camps and were simply tired of doing nothing, waiting for the war to end.

“Their action was completely nonviolent,” recalls Marie Dennis, co-president of Pax Christi International. “Thousands went back to their villages within a few months. They knew moving home was dangerous; it was an active war zone. They knew they could be killed. We saw their remarkable courage and determination but we also saw their faith, their willing entry into the suffering of the cross – even death.”…

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

* Image of Arizona desert courtesy of No More Deaths/No Más Muertes, http://forms.nomoredeaths.org/en/. Used with permission. Image of Larry Parr in El Salvador courtesy of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners http://bit.ly/2B5D7So.