Friday, November 25, 2011

Jesus' House

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Eclesalia Informativo

Mark 13:33-37

Jesus is in Jerusalem, seated on the Mount of Olives, looking towards the Temple and speaking privately with four disciples -- Peter, James, John and Andrew. He sees they are worried about knowing when the end times will come. He, on the other hand, is worried about how His followers will live when they no longer have Him among them.

So, once again He shares His concern with them: "Watch, stay awake." Then, leaving aside the terrifying language of apocalyptic visionaries, He tells them a little parable that has gone largely unnoticed among Christians.

"A man went abroad and left his house behind." But, before leaving, "he entrusted a task to each of his servants." On parting, he only stressed one thing: "Watch, because you do not know when the lord of the house is coming." When he comes, let him not find you asleep.

The story suggests that Jesus' followers are a family. The Church is "Jesus' house" which will replace "the house of Israel." In it, all are servants. There are no masters. All are waiting for the one Lord of the house, Jesus Christ. Never forget it.

In Jesus' house, nobody has to remain passive. Nobody has to feel excluded, without any responsibility whatsoever. Everyone is needed. All have some mission entrusted by Him. All are called to contribute to the great task of living like Jesus who was known to always be devoted to serving the kingdom of God.

The years will go by. Will the spirit of Jesus remain alive among His own? Will they go on remembering his style of service to the neediest and the helpless? Will they follow Him along the way He opened? His great worry is that His Church will fall asleep. Therefore He urges them up to three times: "Stay awake." It isn't a recommendation to the four disciples who are listening to Him but a command to believers of all time -- "What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'"

The most common trait of Christians who haven't left the Church is certainly passivity. For centuries we have taught the faithful to be submissive and obedient. In Jesus' house, only a minority feel they have any ecclesial responsibility today.

The time has come to react. We can't continue broadening the distance between "those who command" and "those who obey." It's a sin to promote disaffection, mutual exclusion, and passivity. Jesus wanted to see all of us awake, active, and working lucidly and responsibly.

Thoughts and dreams about Brazil

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia and in Portuguese on his blog. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

1. The Brazilian people became accustomed to "facing life" and getting everything through "the struggle", ie, by overcoming difficulties and hard work. Why wouldn't they also "face" the ultimate challenge of making the changes necessary to create more equal relationships and end corruption?

2. The Brazilian people have not finished being born. What we inherited was the Enterprise-Brazil, with an enslaving elite and a mass of dispossessed. But from the heart of this mass, social movements and leaders were born with consciousness and organization. Their dream? Reinventing Brazil. The process started from the bottom and is now unstoppable.

3. Despite poverty and marginalization, the poor invented paths to survival. To overcome the negative situation, the government and politicians need to hear and appreciate what the people already know and have invented. Only then will we overcome the elites-people division and be a single complex nation.

4. The Brazilian has a commitment to hope. It is the last thing that dies. Therefore, he is sure that God writes straight with crooked lines. Hope is the secret of his optimism, it lets him relativize dramas, dance in his carnival, be a fan of his soccer team, and keep the dream alive that life is beautiful and tomorrow could be better.

5. Fear is inherent in life because "life is dangerous" and always carries risks. These force us to change and reinforce hope. What the people, not the elites, want most is to change so that happiness and love would not be so difficult.

6. The opposite of fear is not courage. It is faith that things can be different and that, organized, we can move forward. Brazil has demonstrated that it is not only good at carnival and soccer, but it is also good at agriculture, architecture, music and in its inexhaustible zest for life.

7. The Brazilian people are religious and mystical. Rather than thinking of God, they feel God in their daily lives, which is revealed in the expressions "thanks be to God," "may God repay you", "go with God." God is not a problem for them, but the solution to their problems. They feel protected by saints and good spirits and orixás who anchor their lives in the midst of suffering.

8. One characteristic of Brazilian culture is the joy and sense of humor, which help alleviate social contradictions. That joy comes from the conviction that life is worth more than anything else. So it should be celebrated with fiestas and humor should be kept up in the face of failure. The effect is the levity and enthusiasm that so many admire in us.

9. A union that we still have pending in Brazil is academic knowledge with conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is born of suffering, of a thousand ways of surviving with few resources. Academic knowledge is born of studying, drinking from many sources. When these two forms of learning unite, we will be invincible.

10. Caring is part of the essence of all life. Without caring, life gets sick and dies. With caring, it is protected and lasts longer. The challenge today is to see public policy as caring for Brazil, its people, its nature, education, health, justice. That caring is proof that we love our country.

11. One of the hallmarks of the Brazilian people is their ability to interact with the whole world, adding, gathering, synthesizing and syncretizing. Therefore, they aren't intolerant or dogmatic. They enjoy and welcome foreigners. These are core values for globalization with a human face. We are showing that it is possible and we are building it.

12. Brazil is the largest neo-Latin nation in the world. We have everything to also be the greatest civilization in the tropics, not imperial, but in solidarity with all nations, because Brazil has incorporated representatives of 60 peoples who came here. Our challenge is to show that Brazil can be, in fact, a piece of paradise that was not lost.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The stars, the Araguaia and we ourselves are witnesses: Dom Pedro Casaldáliga's 40th anniversary as bishop

By Antonio Canuto (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Practically during the same period that Dom Leonardo left the pastorship of this church, and Dom Eugenio Rixen assumed it as apostolic administrator, it's the fortieth anniversary of Pedro Casaldaliga's ordination as bishop.

It was October 23, 1971. A moment of greatest importance for the prelature that was welcoming its first bishop. A time not to be forgotten. It was an event that profoundly marked the church and especially those who were privileged to participate in it.

Three years after the arrival of Pedro in the second half of 1968 to start a new mission field, accompanied by brother Manuel Luzon, the church of the prelature was consolidated with the ordination of its first bishop. Pedro was ordained by Dom Fernando Gomes dos Santos, archbishop of Goiânia, Dom Tomás Balduino, Bishop of the Diocese of Goiás, and Dom Juvenal Roriz, Bishop of Rubiataba.

Three rather significant elements stamped that ceremony with a completely new and prophetic character which had a strong impact not only on the church in Brazil, but also on many churches around the world and on society.

First, the ordination took place in the richest and largest cathedral in the world. The dome of this cathedral was decorated by the incalculable multitude of the stars of heaven. The walls were formed on one side by the free waters of the Araguaia, on the other, by the sands of the hill of Sao Felix. In the background, the poor little church of the community. At the foot of the hill, as if to recall how temporary and fragile life is, the cemetery where so many people, dead or "killed", were resting, next to the Karajá secular cemetery.

Second, Pedro refused any outward sign that would differentiate him within the church. I could be wrong, but I think he's the only bishop in Brazil -- and perhaps the world -- who considered never using any episcopal insignia. The episcopal insignia delivered to bishops at their ordination today are the ring, the crosier, the miter, and the pectoral cross. Outward signs of the place of the bishop in a hierarchically structured church. Signs of his authority and power. The bishop still has a shield that represents his motto for life and service. His clothes also differ from those of ordinary priests (Years ago, bishops still wore gloves, special shoes, and different vestments in the celebrations. All this to show their importance in the Church). Well, on that night of October 23, 1971, the sky, the waters of the Araguaia and all of us who were there saw something new happening. A bishop refused the signs of power in order to fully insert himself into the life of the people. These prophetic-poetic words echoed forth: "Your miter shall be a rustic straw hat, the sun and the moon, the rain and calm weather, the eyes of the poor with whom you walk and the glorious gaze of Christ the Lord. Your staff shall be the truth of the Gospel and your people's trust in you. Your ring shall be faithfulness to the New Covenant of the Liberating God and loyalty to the people of this land. You shall have no shield but the freedom of the children of God, or use any gloves other than loving service."

The third element that marked this ordination left a trail of light and hope. On one hand, he aroused immediate support of Christians throughout the church and in the most diverse sectors of society; on the other, he provoked an angry and violent reaction in the agents of the military dictatorship and those who enriched themselves through public incentives at the cost of the sacrifice, pain and slavery of many.

His pastoral letter, released on that occasion, was titled, "Uma Igreja da Amazonia em conflito com o latifundio e a marginalização social" ("The Church in Amazonia in conflict with the latifundio and social exclusion"). It was a document that marked an era and became a divider of currents within the Church in Brazil. The pastoral letter doesn't look inside the Church. It's the Church's look on the raw, naked reality of the people whom this Church came to serve.

It recounts the situations faced by the "squatters" who were expelled from the lands they had occupied and been working for decades, the situation of the indigenous people whose territory had been invaded for the benefit of capital, and the exploitation of laborers, workers brought in from various regions of the country and subjected to the most degrading conditions, in a situation similar to that of slaves.

Clear and prophetic words denouncing the injustices that were being committed against the people and that resounded in Brazil and around the world. Pedro said in the introduction: "If the first role of the bishop is to be a prophet, and 'the prophet is the voice of the voiceless'(Cardinal Marty), I honestly could not keep silent once I had received the fullness of priestly service."

The ordination was not just a celebration. It became reality in every corner of the prelature, in a simple and poor life, in a life shared with sertanejos and indigenous people, in collective and fraternal decision-making where lay people, religious and clergy had a voice, always considering the people and their history.

Forty years have passed. We can not forget those events that were the foundation of our diocese.

Message of Pedro Casaldaliga to the 21st meeting of the Base Ecclesial Communities: