January 2, 2017

Basil and Gregory

January 2, 2017:
SS. Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors

  • 'Children around the world' tie:  Children, remain in him (1st reading); All the ends of the earth have seen God's saving power (psalm)
  • 'Treble clef with cross' pin:  Sing to the Lord a new song (psalm)
  • 'Hand' tie pin:  The Lord's right hand has won victory (psalm)
  • 'Christmas trees' suspenders, "No-'L'" button:  Christmas season continues through Jan. 9
  • Sandals (not shown):  "I'm unworthy to untie the sandal strap of the one coming after me" (gospel)

Pope Francis World Day of Peace message: Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace
I wish everyone peace and pray that the image of God in each person enable us to acknowledge one another as sacred dignity-endowed gifts.  Let us respect our dignity and make active nonviolence our way of life.  "Peace is the only true direction of human progress....  [Resolve] international controversies by... negotiations founded on law, justice, and equity" (Bl. Pope Paul VI, 1st World Day of Peace message).  May God help us cultivate nonviolence in our thoughts and values.  May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other.  Victims of violence who don't retaliate are the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking.  May nonviolence mark our decisions, relationships, actions, and political life.
A broken world:  We're engaged in a world war fought piecemeal.  This violence causes great suffering:  wars, terrorism, organized crime, unforeseen acts of violence, abuses suffered by migrants and victims of human trafficking, devastation of the environment.  Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering, because resources are diverted away from the needs of young people, families experiencing hardship, the elderly, the infirm, and most other people.  At worst, it leads to physical and spiritual death.
The Good News:  Jesus lived in violent times but taught that the true battlefield is the heart:  “evil intentions come from within, from the human heart.”  His message offers a positive approach:  he preached God’s unconditional, welcoming, forgiving love.  He taught his disciples to love their enemies and turn the other cheek.  He marked out the path of nonviolence when he stopped the stoning of the woman caught in adultery and he told Peter to put away his sword.  He walked that path to the end, to the cross, putting an end to hostility.  Whoever accepts the Good News acknowledges the violence within, is healed by God’s mercy, and becomes an instrument of reconciliation.  “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure you have greater peace in your hearts” (Francis of Assisi).
Following Jesus includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence, “realistic because it takes into account that there's too much violence and injustice, and this situation can only be overcome via God's love and goodness.  Nonviolence isn't merely tactical behavior but a way of being, the attitude of those so convinced of God’s love and power that they'll tackle evil with love and truth alone.  Love of one’s enemy is the nucleus of the ‘Christian revolution.’  The command to do so is the magna carta of Christian nonviolence; it's not succumbing to evil but responding with good, breaking the chain of injustice” (Benedict XVI).
More powerful than violence:  Nonviolence isn't surrender, lack of involvement, and passivity.  Mother Teresa stated her message of active nonviolence:  “We don’t need bombs and guns.  To bring peace, just get together, love one another, and we'll overcome the evil in the world.”  The force of arms is deceptive.  “While weapons traffickers work, poor peacemakers are giving their lives to help individuals.”   Mother Teresa made herself available for everyone “through her welcome and defense of human life, the unborn, abandoned, and discarded.  She bowed before those left to die, seeing their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard, so the powers of this world might recognize their guilt for the crimes of poverty they created.”  She, and millions more, reach out to the suffering, touching and binding up wounded bodies, healing broken lives.
Nonviolence has produced impressive results including the liberation of India and combatting racial discrimination.  Women are often the leaders, such as Leymah Gbowee and the Liberian women who organized pray-ins and nonviolent protests that ultimately ended Liberia's second civil war.  In the decade that ended with the fall of Communist regimes in Europe, Christian communities contributed their prayer and courageous action.  Momentous change in people, nations, and states came about “by means of peaceful protest, using only the weapons of truth and justice” (Centesimus Annus).  This peaceful transition was made possible in part “by the non-violent commitment of people who, not yielding to force, found effective ways to bear witness to the truth.”  “May people learn to fight for justice without violence....”
The Church has been involved in nonviolent peacebuilding strategies.  Many religious traditions make such efforts; “compassion and nonviolence are essential elements pointing to the way of life.”  “No religion is terrorist.”  Violence profanes God's name of God.  "God's name can't be used to justify violence.  Peace alone is holy, not war!”
Domestic roots of a politics of nonviolence:  If violence has its source in the heart, then nonviolence must be practiced first in families.  The family is the crucible in which its members learn to communicate and show concern for one another, and in which frictions and conflicts must be resolved by dialogue, respect, concern for the other, mercy, and forgiveness.  From within families, the joy of love spills into the world and radiates to society.  An ethics of fraternity and peaceful coexistence must be based on responsibility, respect and dialogue, not fear, violence, and closed-mindedness.  I plead for disarmament, the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons, and an end to domestic violence and the abuse of women and children.
The Jubilee of Mercy encouraged us to look within and allow God’s mercy to enter; it taught us to realize how many individuals and groups are treated with indifference and subjected to injustice and violence.  They're part of our 'family' too.  Nonviolence has to begin in the home, then spread.  “St. Therese of Lisieux invites us to practice the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, smile, or any gesture that sows peace and friendship.  An integral ecology includes daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation, and selfishness.”
My invitation:  Peacebuilding through active nonviolence complements the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by applying moral norms; she does so by participating in international institutions and through Christians' helping draft legislation.  Jesus offers a peacemaking “manual” in the Sermon on the Mount.  The Beatitudes portray the blessed, good, authentic person:  meek, merciful, peacemaking, pure in heart, hungry and thirsty for justice.  This is also a program and challenge for leaders, heads of institutions, and executives:  apply the Beatitudes.  It's a challenge to build up society, communities, and businesses by acting as peacemakers.  Show mercy by refusing to discard people, harm the environment, or seek to win at any cost.  Doing so requires “the willingness to face conflict, resolve it, and make it a link in the chain of a new process”; it means choosing solidarity and building friendship.  Active nonviolence shows unity is more powerful and fruitful than conflict. Everything is interconnected.  Differences can cause frictions.  But let's face them constructively and non-violently, so “tensions and oppositions achieve a diversified, lifegiving unity,” preserving “what's valid and useful on both sides.”
The new Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development just began its work to promote “justice, peace, and the care of creation” and concern for “migrants, those in need, the sick, excluded, marginalized, imprisoned, unemployed, and victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, slavery, and torture.”  Every response helps build a world free of violence, a step towards justice and peace.
Conclusion:  Mary is the Queen of Peace.  At her Son's birth, angels gave glory to God and wished peace on earth to all of good will.  Let us pray for her guidance.  “We all want peace.  Many build it through small gestures and acts; many are suffering yet persevering in their efforts to be peacemakers.”  May we dedicate ourselves to banishing violence from our hearts, words, and deeds, becoming nonviolent people, building nonviolent communities that care for our common home.  “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God.  Everyone can be an artisan of peace.”
    1st reading:  Who's the liar?
    (not lyre; image is for psalm)
  • 1 Jn 2:22-28  Whoever denies Jesus as the Christ is a liar; whoever confesses the Son has the Father too.  If what you heard remains in you, you'll remain in the Son and the Father.  He teaches you about everything; remain in him.
  • Ps 98:1-4  "All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God."  Sing to the Lord a new song; the Lord has made his justice, kindness, and faithfulness known.
  • Jn 1:19-28  When asked, “Who are you?” John admitted, “I'm not the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet but one crying, ‘Make straight the Lord's way.’”  Pharisees / John:  “Then why do you baptize?” / “I baptize with water, but one is coming whose sandal I'm not worthy to untie.” 
      • Creighton:  The apostles and followers of Jesus were ordinary people.  When questioned, John tried to make people understand that Jesus wasn't like what came before. John, like us, had to grapple with the idea of God made man, but he believed and baptized.  In the midst of not understanding, I have to open my heart, pray, and have faith.
      • One Bread, One Body:  "Body parts":  Our true identity is based on our relationship with Christ.  John the Baptizer said he was a voice in Christ's body.  What body part are you, and how does the Lord primarily work through you?  A voice can do several things, but John knew the main thing the Lord did through his voice was cry out, "Make straight the way of the Lord!"  If by the Spirit you can answer these questions, you'll know yourself, and the Lord can use you mightily....
      • Passionist:  In today’s gospel, John handles queries about his role by pointing people to the one coming after him.  If we hope to see Jesus in our midst, we have to recognize him in our brothers and sisters.  May we look for Jesus in our surroundings and point him out to others.
      • DailyScripture.net:  "Christ stands among you":  John the Baptist stirred the peoples' expectation of the Messiah's arrival, that many thought he might be the Messiah himself, or at least Elijah.  But he said he was only a voice bidding people to prepare the way for the Messiah.  He's the last Old Testament Prophet who points the way to the Messiah and the first New Testament witness, preparing the way for Jesus and announcing his mission as Lamb of God.  He saw the Messiah came to redeem us from sin and adopt us as God's children.  The Church has given John many titles:  Witness of the Lord, Trumpet of Heaven, Herald of Christ, Voice of the Word, Precursor of Truth, Friend of the Bridegroom, Crown of the Prophets, Forerunner of the Redeemer, Preparer of Salvation, Light of the Martyrs, and Servant of the Word.  Do I point others to Christ by my witness and example?  When the Lord's presence was revealed to Mary Elizabeth, John the Baptistm, and Zechariah, they were all filled with the Spirit.  Lord, fill me with the Spirit and renew in me the gifts of faith, hope, and love, and the courage and boldness to point others to Christ.

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