August 26, 2014

my first lesson plan

Tomorrow is a big day for me. It’s the day I begin teaching at George Mason University. And yes, I am excited. GMU is now the largest university in Virginia, with an enrollment of over 34,000 students.

Teaching at the college level is something that I have wanted to do for a number of years. I have taught dozens of classes at various colleges and universities and I always walked away from those experiences wanting more. I always leave those classes wanting the chance to do more, to interact more deeply with the students. Now I have been given the opportunity to do exactly that.

So for the next 15 weeks I will be commuting up to Fairfax, VA every Wednesday to teach Sociology 352: Social Problems. Not surprisingly, the class will focus on global hunger.

I am not exactly excited about the drive, but I am thoroughly pumped about spending 3 hours a week engaging young people in learning about ending hunger. I have already been enjoying the challenge of learning to fully integrate the internet as a teaching tool.  (And I used the word “challenge” intentionally. Those that know me best know my abilities with electronic media)

But the reality is that this semester is a tremendous opportunity for both me and the students in the class. Together we get to figure out how our spirituality, our values and our lifestyles all merge together in the midst of a hungry world. And hopefully, by the time Christmas rolls around, we will all have learned how each of us can make a real and lasting difference in that world. I want us all to leave the class knowing that by working together we can end hunger in our lifetime.

At least that ‘s the lesson plan.

August 24, 2014

a prayer for those in greatest need

God of grace and God of glory, we pause this morning to offer you praise and thanks for the truly awesome creation we call home. We cannot begin to fathom love so deep that you would send you only son to make sure we remained in a perfect relationship with you. Thank you for such love. Thank you for such mercy. Thank you for such grace. Help us to live in that love, Help us to walk in that mercy. And help us to share that grace with all those we meet.

Let each moment of our lives reflect to those around us the same love you have given so freely to us. May every day of our lives bring us ever closer to you. And may those in greatest need, those who feel most alone, those whose hunger is the deepest, those who are most oppressed, those who have nowhere left to run or nowhere left to hide, those who you loved enough to allow your son to die for, may each  one of them feel your presence in a special way this morning. 

And may your presence so move us this morning that we would seek out those we know are in need. Allow us to be your love incarnate to bathe the dirty, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless, and above all, forgive us our indifference and lack of compassion, and  grant us the grace to simply be your disciples in a broken world. In your son’s name, Amen.

August 19, 2014

Pope Francis does the right thing

 

The following article is reprinted in its entirety from Huff Post Religion.

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (AP) – Pope Francis opened the way Monday to a quick beatification for Oscar Romero, saying there are no more doctrinal problems blocking the process for the slain Salvadoran archbishop who is one of the heroes of the liberation theology movement in Latin America.

Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was gunned down in 1980 while celebrating Mass. He had spoken out against repression by the Salvadoran army at the beginning of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war between the right-wing government and leftist rebels.

Francis told journalists traveling home from South Korea that Romero’s case had previously been “blocked out of prudence” by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith but has now been “unblocked.” He said the case had passed to the Vatican’s saint-making office.

  The congregation launched a crackdown on liberation theology under then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, fearing what was deemed as Marxist s excesses. The movement holds the view that Jesus’ teachings imbue followers with a duty to fight for social and economic justice.

Francis said of Romero’s case that “it is important to do it quickly,” but that the investigation must take its course.

He declared that Romero “was a man of God” and suggested that he wanted to expand the church’s concept of martyrdom to include a broader field of candidates.

Unlike regular candidates for beatification, martyrs can reach the first step to possible sainthood without a miracle attributed to their intercession. A miracle is needed for canonization, however.

Traditionally, the church has restricted the martyr designation to people who were killed out of hatred for the Catholic faith. Francis said he wanted theologians to study whether those who were killed because of their actions doing God’s work could also be considered martyrs.

“What I would like is that they clarify when there’s a martyrdom for hatred of the faith – for confessing the faith – as well as for doing the work for the other that Jesus commands,” Francis said.

Questions over that distinction have been at the root of the theological debate over whether Romero was killed by El Salvador’s right-wing death squads for professing the faith or because of his political activism in support of the poor.

Readers of this blog know my feelings about spirituality and standing alongside the poor. You also know how often I quote the words of the martyred Oscar Romero.

The archbishop of El Salvador was living out his witness during the early years of my ministry, and his deep faithfulness was a strong inspiration to me that we can make a real difference in the world. His words still continue to make me want to live more faithfully on behalf of the poor and hungry. And for me, well, that’s enough for sainthood.

Oscar Romero lived and died faithfully, and he demonstrated that faithfulness by his unwavering support and solidarity with the poor and oppressed. Thank you, Pope Francis for recognizing a man of true faith.

August 17, 2014

a prayer for new vision

Thank you, O God, for the wonders of your creation. Thank you for the perfection of the world which your grace has provided for us. Thank you for your constant and sustaining presence in our lives. Yet, even as we praise you for your goodness and your mercy, we must ask your forgiveness, as well.

Forgive us for taking your perfect creation for granted. Forgive us for wantonly destroying the irreplaceable  beauty that surrounds us. Forgive us for  our unrelenting greed for more and better while ignoring the cries of our family who have little or nothing.

Grant us new vision, O God. Open our eyes wide enough to see our world even as you do. May our hearts be melted with the grief you feel for those that are forced to needlessly suffer want in a world of plenty. Help us to love each other, even as you love us. And may you so fill us with the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit that our hunger for justice  would force us to act on behalf those of our family whose hunger for bread overshadows all else.

Let your justice fill the earth, O Lord. And grant each of us the grace to be a part in making it happen. In your Son’s name. Amen

 

August 14, 2014

is there honor among us?

When someone steals another’s clothes, we call him a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belongs to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor. — Basil the Great

St. Basil the Great was a man of deep personal holiness. Born in Caesarea of Cappadocia in 330 AD, Basil was a man of great learning and piety, a true giant of the early Christian Church. In 370 he was made bishop of Caesarea. Basil actively aided victims of droughts and famines, insisted on rigid clerical discipline and was fearless in the renunciation of evil.

Was Basil the Great correct in his assessment? If so, is it time to clean out a few of our closets?

August 12, 2014

the agony of a single biscuit

If you have never been hungry, you cannot know the either/or agony created by a single biscuit — either your brother gets it or you do. And if you do eat it, you know in your bones that you have stolen the food straight from his mouth….This was the daily, debilitating side of poverty,…the perpetual scarcity that…makes the simplest act a moral dilemma. — Charles Johnson

In a world created perfectly there is an abundance of nutritious food, far more than needed to feed all. Our moral crisis (our spiritual crisis) is that we not only eat all we want and more, we allow the rest to rot rather than offer our brothers and sisters a single biscuit. And yet, we still have the arrogance to dare profess that we love God?

 

August 10, 2014

a prayer to end hunger

O God, we give thanks for the progress that has been made against hunger in your world. Grant strength and relief to all those who still struggle  to get enough to eat. Give courage and wisdom to our country’s leaders so that they might make ending hunger a national priority. And inspire us to fulfill your will that daily bread be a reality for everyone on your earth. We pray in the name of Jesus, who is our Bread of Life. Amen.

A recent prayer from Bread for the World, a Christian advocacy organization that encourages all Christians to turn our faith into action for the poor and hungry.

August 7, 2014

life in all its fullness

Many would like the poor to keep on saying that it is God’s will for them to live that way.

But it is not God’s will for some to have everything and others to have nothing. That cannot be of God. God’s will is that all his children be happy.– Oscar Romero

Jesus said that he came so that we all might know life in all its fullness. That is found in the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel.

Life in all its fullness cannot be achieved when one lives in constant fear of hunger. Living in the shadow of starvation, watching your children live stunted and wasted lives, cannot be what Jesus intended when he talked about life in all its fullness. Poverty and hunger cannot be of God.

These words of Oscar Romero, the martyred Archbishop of El Salvador, remind us that God’s will is for all his children to be happy.  Faithfulness to the gospel calls for Christians to work toward achieving a world where all our family has access to life in all its fullness. That means not tolerating the huge gap between the obscenely rich and those existing without hope. That means actively working to bring the poor into a place of fullness and hope.

Jesus validated his ministry by his preaching to the poor and outcast and his service to those most in need.  Those of us who claim to be his disciples dare not do less.