Friday, November 14, 2014

Creative searching

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
November 16, 2014

Matthew 25:14-30

Despite its seeming innocence, the parable of the talents carries an explosive charge. Surprisingly, the "third servant" is condemned without having done anything wrong. His only error was "doing nothing" -- not risking his talent, not making it bear fruit, keeping it intact in a safe place.

Jesus' message is clear. No to conservatism, yes to creativity. No to a sterile life, yes to the active response to God. No to obsession about security, yes to risky efforts to change the world. No to faith buried under conformity, yes to committed work to make way for the Kingdom of God.

The great sin of Jesus' followers could always be not daring to follow him creatively. It's important to observe the language that's been used among Christians over the centuries to see where we've often focused our attention: preserving the deposit of faith, preserving the tradition, preserving good customs, preserving grace, preserving vocations,...

This temptation to conservatism is stronger during times of religious crisis. It's easy then to invoke the need to control orthodoxy, reinforce discipline and rules, ensure membership in the Church,...All might be explicable, but isn't it often a way of distorting the gospel and freezing the creativity of the Holy Spirit?

For religious leaders and those responsible for Christian communities, it might be more comfortable to monotonously "repeat" the inherited ways of the past, ignoring the questions, contradictions, and approaches of modern people, but what use is all that if we aren't able to shed light and hope on the problems and suffering that trouble the men and women of our time?

The attitudes we should nurture today in the Church are not "prudence", "fidelity to the past", "resignation",...Instead, they have other names: "creative searching", "boldness", "ability to risk", "listening to the Spirit" that makes all things new.

The worst may be that, just as happened to the third servant in the parable, we believe we are responding faithfully to God with our conservative actions when we're disappointing His expectations. The primary task of the Church today can not be preserving the past, but learning to communicate the Good News of Jesus in a society racked by unprecedented sociocultural change.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The "dangerous remembrance" of Jesus

By José María Castillo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Teología Sin Censura Blog
November 10, 2014

The assassination of the five Jesuits and two employees of UCA (Universidad Centroamericana in San Salvador), November 16, 1989, coincides on the same day and month with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It has been said that the events of that historic moment, not only in Europe but in Central America too, were "the ultimate metaphor of the triumph of freedom." And that, as Bertrand de la Grange, the Central American correspondent for Le Monde in those days, wrote, in November of '89 the world witnessed the "collapse of the Soviet bloc that condemned the armed struggle and accelerated the peace processes in Central America."

The coincidence (only a few days apart) between the murders at UCA in El Salvador, and the fall of the Wall in Berlin, represents the two sides of the struggle to achieve equality and freedom, two pillars on which human rights and peace in the world can be (and have been) built. To win this ideal, both those who fell at the Berlin Wall and those who were killed in El Salvador suffered and died.

Through opposite, and at first sight contradictory, ways, both groups died for the same cause -- the struggle for freedom and dignity. In the end, when it comes to achieving freedom, it doesn't matter whether oppression comes from the right or the left. In either case, they are stealing the greatest thing you can take away from human beings -- their dignity. And that's what was snatched both from the victims imprisoned by the Berlin Wall and the 4,000 or so Salvadorans who were killed in the two weeks of fighting between guerrillas, soldiers and civilians, starting November 11, 1989.

It's been said that was the offensive that opened the possibility for peace by making it obvious that the war could not be decided militarily. It was at this juncture, November 15th, that the Salvadoran army chiefs of staff decided to eliminate the "recognized leaders" that hindered them in their plan to continue to dominate the people. On the morning of the 16th, the UCA martyrs were killed.

The clear lesson all this leaves us is something that gives much food for thought: through the path of repression and domination, what we do is build walls and borders that divide us, separate and alienate us from one another. However, through the path of those who have given their lives because they can't bear inequality or lack of freedom, we take giant steps towards a world in which it will be possible to live in peace.

This is why I can assert that the ignorant fanatical stance of those who go on saying that all those who fought and died in Central America for the ideal of a more just, free and egalitarian society -- from Mons. Romero to the UCA Jesuits -- were just leftist political militants who were trying to impose a system of totalitarian domination, makes me very sad. Don't those who resort to these vulgar and hackneyed clichés realize that that whole process in Central America happened exactly at the time the Wall that separated the two blocs was going under and that this meant the end of the Cold War and the totalitarian system imposed by Communism?

So, can it be calmly asserted that Ignacio Ellacuría and the other Jesuits (like the peasants of El Mozote and so many thousands of dead in those months in El Salvador) were "the orphans of the Wall"? To those who dare take such a question seriously, I ask, "And what do we say about those who died to destroy the Berlin Wall forever? Were they enemies of justice and freedom too?"

Nothing troubles me more than people who don't think because they're incapable of thinking. Those who always think as others do are those who always live at the mercy of what matters to others, not what suits them. And this abounds a lot, now more than ever, to the misfortune of everyone.

I'm impressed by the freedom and consistency of Ignacio Ellacuría and those Jesuits. I myself saw it with my own eyes and felt it with my own hands when, shortly after the death of those martyrs, I had the great luck to be able to go to UCA to lend a hand -- for 16 years -- in the task of covering the vast void left by those witnesses to their deepest convictions, the convictions of the Gospel, the way of life etched in the "dangerous remembrance" of Jesus.

2015: Beatification of Monseñor Romero

By Jon Sobrino, SJ (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Noticias de la UCA
November 6, 2014

We have received unexpected news. At the November 4th clergy meeting, Monsignor Jose Luis Escobar said that during his stay in Rome, Pope Francis told him that Archbishop Oscar Romero will be beatified next year. The archbishop gave no details about the date and place. But the news has already filled us with joy.

The last two popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, talked about it, but not with much conviction and determination. And the fear of annoying the powerful was obvious: "It is not yet the right time." The Vatican's words were ambiguous and not very encouraging.

Everything has changed with Pope Francis. A year ago, he said Monseñor's cause was stagnating but that it certainly would advance. Rather than stagnating, I think it was blocked by many interests that have nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth.

We've said it many times: the joy and exultation of the people is assured. But I've tended to have a little fear and hesitation: what Monseñor Romero's act of canonization will say. Holy and virtuous he was in the highest degree. But he was something more, as Ignacio Ellacuría phrased it at the funeral mass at UCA immediately after the assassination of the Archbishop: "With Monseñor Romero, God passed through El Salvador." Around the same time, Dom Pedro Casaldáliga wrote the poem "San Romero de América, pastor y mártir nuestro". And the people spontaneously called him "saint." The cult of the people -- the popular one -- has been massive, although it's not allowed during the process of beatification.

Then let us await the coming year. In 2015, there will be no World Cup or Olympic Games. People won't be fighting against each other to win. We'll all win something or a lot, except for a few diehards. Trillions won't be spent to conceal poverty, violence and anguish. Yes, there will be pupusas and tamales.

In 2015, the little girl in a hut in Zimbabwe will win, who, when I asked her in 2007 what she knew of El Salvador, told me instantly: "A bishop". And days later, also in Zimbabwe, I greeted Desmond Tutu. I told him I was from El Salvador and he said: "The land of Romero! We used to remember him so much during wartime!" And so on, many other stories that wouldn't fit in all the books in the world.

My fear that they might beatify a watered-down Monseñor Romero has disappeared. It's hard to manipulate him today. And a prayer: "San Romero de América, pray for all the poor in the world. And pray for this Salvadoran people that is yours."

Point of clarification: After this article was published, the editors added a note that "The author of the article, Fr. Jon Sobrino, has clarified that the source of the good news about the beatification process of Monseñor Romero wasn't Pope Francis but Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, former president of the Catholic Bible Federation, and one of the founders of the Community of Sant'Egidio.