Saturday, September 30, 2017

Jesus hated borders

by José María Castillo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
September 26, 2017

A border is the line that separates and divides one nation from another, one country from another, and often one culture from another. Therefore borders separate us, perhaps divide us, and often alienate us from one another. Hence, so often, borders make us oppose each other. It's inevitable.

You'll say I'm exaggerating the negative. It's possible. But no one can deny that history is full of peripeteia and unfortunate events related to what I've just pointed out.

That said, because of my professional formation (or deformation), when I see a problem or a situation like the one we're experiencing right now in Spain, in Europe and the world, I dip into the Gospel and ask myself, "Does Jesus of Nazareth teach me anything that will help guide me in what is happening?".

Jesus gave nationalist signals. When he sent his apostles to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, the first thing he told them was not to go to the pagans or to the Samaritan cities (Mt 10:5). And to the Canaanite woman who asked him for healing for her sick daughter, he said that he had only come for the lost sheep of Israel (Mt 15:24). Scholars of these stories look for explanations for these strange episodes. Because, among other things, we know very well that Jesus greatly valued the Samaritans (Lk 9:51-56, 10:30-35, 17:11-19; Jn 4). And it's that, apparently, in Jesus' mind the "lost sheep" were precisely among his people, in Israel. Hence his emphasis that the apostles attend first of all to those who are lost and astray. Jesus' mentality wasn't nationalist. Not at all. It was a humanitarian mentality.

So it draws one's attention that the first time, according to Luke's gospel, that Jesus went to his hometown (Nazareth), they asked him to do the reading in the synagogue. And nothing else occurred to him but to, when reading a text of the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2), just mention the "year of favor" and skip the "day of vengeance" bit. Which caused the confrontation (according to the most correct translation. J. Jeremias) of the people (Lk 4:22). And the worst was that, instead of calming his fellow citizens, he went on to say that God prefers strangers (a widow from Zarephath and a politician from Syria) (Lk 4:24-27) to his Nazareth nieghbors. That made the people furious and it was truly a miracle that they didn't shoot him down (Lk 4:28-30). Jesus hated borders to the point of risking his life to make it clear that he didn't support borders that separate and divide us.

But this isn't what's most striking. One of the most surprising things in the gospels is that the three most notable compliments Jesus gave about faith, he didn't give to his apostles or to his compatriots or his friends. He gave them to a Roman centurion (Mt 8:10), a Canaanite woman (Mt 15:28), and a Samaritan leper who came to thank Jesus, as opposed to the nine Jewish lepers who were just satisfied with fulfilling "their law" (Lk 17:11-19).

Jesus, on dying, "handed over the spirit" (Jn 19:30). Did he leave this life? Of course he did. But something much deeper: he "handed over" ("paradídomi") the "Spirit". For the 4th gospel, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, everything happened in that moment (H. U. Weidemann). And from that moment, which changed History, the myth of the Tower of Babel, the many languages, our divisions and inability to understand one another and live together as one and in peace, ended. It's the pinnacle of the Gospel. And if the God thing is good for anything, what good is it to us if each passing day it becomes more unbearable for us to live united together? Is it that Spain and Catalonia are more important than the Gospel of Jesus? From what we're seeing, for many Christians and quite a few priests, that's how it is. Or that's the impression they're giving.

Interview with Dom Pedro Casaldáliga

by José M. Vidal (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
September 26, 2017

He was always like a small thin reed, but with iron health and steel nerves. Today, at 89 years old, Dom Pedro Casaldáliga (Balsereny, 1928), the poet-bishop of the marginalized, remains a reed but doubled over by Parkinson's. From his wheelchair, he administers his silences and husbands his words which, from time to time, continue to flow like prophetic darts -- laconic and right on. He doesn't want Catalan independence, he asks young people to move on to action, and he asserts that Francis is "a blessing from God".

Padre Angel (L) and Dom Pedro Casaldaliga (R)
 in the chapel in Sao Felix do Araguaia, Brazil

Don Pedro, do you like to receive visits?

Some, yes.

As a Catalonian and Catalonia International Prize winner, what do you think of the [independence] process?

We'll see what happens with independence. I would prefer that it not be. There are wise people who are going to approach the matter differently. It's not a natural process. It makes no sense.

Did you know Tarancón [Cardinal Vicente Enrique y Tarancón]?

Yes, when I was a seminarian in Barbastro and he was bishop in Solsona. He was a worthy figure with the vocation of intermediary during that difficult time in Spain.

Where do your hope and strength come from, despite everything?

Relying on somebody.

Who is that somebody?

It could only be Him.

What nourishes your hope?

The Resurrection of Christ.

If you could change just one thing in the world, what would it be?

That everyone who has power would stand in the right place: life.

And what would you change in the Catholic Church?

Put power in the people's hands. Otherwise, it becomes a problem. In the Church, the crucial thing is giving one's life for others and a gospel devotion to the Beatitudes.

Did you have problems with the hierarchy?

Yes, I did.

What did you do and what should be done in those cases?

Continue to stand firm on the side of the poor and always bear witness.

Would you order the churches to be open 24 hours?

Yes, so the people might come in, sleep, eat, and pray, if they want.

Some advice for young people.

That they remain rebels with hope, despite the despair. And always on the side of the poor and excluded. We've been talking about consciousness raising for years. That time is over. It's time to act and respond to specific calls.

What do you say to Father Ángel [García Rodríguez] who came to see you from Madrid?

That he keep on being a prophet and looking out for peace, which is lived out and is a process.

What do you think of Pope Francis?

A blessing from God.

Are you, like him, a blessing from God?

We're all blessings from God, if we are listening and if we are committed to interchange and dialogue. Because the problem is how to live daily life in the midst of this violent world.

Do you regret anything?

Not having enough attitude of dialogue.

What are you most proud of?

The many people who still accompany me on the journey and having given my life to the excluded, the marginalized, the little ones.

Your favorite saints?

Saint Francis of Assisi (when I went to Rome, I wanted to go to Assisi to see Father Arrupe, but I couldn't).

And poets?

Antonio Machado, Saint John of the Cross (his "Spiritual Canticle" comes first), Espriu, Neruda and Maragall.

Thank you very much, Dom Pedro.

You're welcome. We have talked. Now it's about doing.