Friday, April 6, 2018

John Bucki Has Something To Say 2nd Sunday of Easter

April 8, 2018
2nd Sunday of Easter

The first reading from Acts reminds us of the commitment by the early Christian community to the communal life. They shared whatever they had and held all their possessions in common. They responded to the needs of all, especially the poor. The life and practice of the very early community in Jerusalem invites us to look at how we possess and share material things. In what sense are we called to share our material goods with each other in a more radical way? In what way does our possession of material goods get in the way of being filled with that power that radiated from the early community? In what way does this first reading challenge those of us in the “developed world” to look at how we share our wealth with the rest of the world? How are we being called to “have everything in common?” We might think of applying this on the “micro level” to our personal lives and to our local communities. However, it might be even more fruitful to apply this on the “macro level” – to the level of nations and international institutions. Such an application might challenge us to look at the complex issues of global  development, international trade, agriculture policy, immigration, and educational opportunity in a new, challenging, and creative way.

The experience of Thomas in John’s gospel invites us to consider issues of faith and issues of inclusion. Thomas seems to be troubled because he has not enjoyed the experience of the rest of the disciples. We might say that he desires to be included. Thomas experiences doubt and uncertainty. We might apply this to our personal struggle to be included and our personal effort to come to faith.  However, we might also apply it to the macro level of nations and to all the structures and institutions of the international community. Not only do individuals struggle with questions of inclusion, but whole nations, cultures, and classes of people do as well. In our world we find stereotypes, racism, xenophobia, sexism, and many other forms of discrimination and exclusion. As peoples experience injustice they feel excluded. Our faith might in some way move into doubt as we find ourselves isolated and divided by injustice. We might find that it is hard to believe in a God of resurrection and new life, unless we are committed to a faith that works for justice in our society. Jesus says, “Do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

In light of our ongoing experience of war and terrorism, the appearance of Jesus in the gospel certainly reaffirms God’s desire for peace and reconciliation. The risen Jesus again and again says “Peace be with you.”  The risen Jesus shares the power to forgive, a power much needed by the early community after some in the community had betrayed and denied Jesus and after they had seen Jesus suffer and die. God wants us to apply this spirit to our own world situation as we try to work for peace and promote a new era of nonviolence and forgiveness. 

Father John P. Bucki, S.J., (1950 - 2017) was a voice for New York City’s poor and hungry while serving at St. Francis Xavier. He was a parochial vicar at St. Francis Xavier for 12 years, beginning in 1988. He established a soup kitchen and food pantry, which has helped thousands of needy individuals. He also served as chairman of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and was active in interfaith initiatives on behalf of the poor and hungry.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Claire Soupene Has Something To Say (Good Friday)

Good Friday – March 30th 2018

“It is good that we are here”, “It is good that we are here” – these are Peter’s words, not from today’s story but spoken in the Transfiguration that we heard earlier in Lent, “It is good that we are here.”
Let’s recall that when Peter speaks them, he and the other disciples are there on the mountain with Jesus and somehow Elijah and Moses have appeared before them.  I’ve read and heard this story dozens of times, and I still don’t fully get it so I can only imagine Peter’s experience of seeing it all in real time.  Naturally, he doesn’t get what is happening before his eyes.  In so many ways, it is beyond his comprehension – bizarre and confusing.  And as with many other stories, Peter gets it wrong, in the most understandable way, he gets it wrong.  But in this story, before he goes on to get it wrong, he starts with “It is good that we are here.”  He doesn’t understand it, but he senses its importance.
So often on Good Friday I am left to wonder where the “good” is in it.  Yes, we know the end of the story – we know that if we wait til Sunday, Jesus will rise – but Good Friday is the day of “not yet.”  Jesus will redeem our sins but not yet.  Jesus will conquer death but not yet.  Jesus will rise but not yet.  Today, Jesus is just someone we care about who has been nailed to a cross, nailed to a cross because of us, and that is something dark and difficult to face and seemingly not at all good.
But these words, “it is good that we are here” spoken in confusion without full comprehension, they come back to me on this Good Friday – because it is good that we are here, though we don’t understand it, it is good that we are here with each other as a community of faith and it is good that we are here with God.  And it is good that together we turn to face the cross.  So what does the cross mean to us?
We know today’s story well but when I hear it, I am reminded that the story of the gospel today is that of showing up.  You know the Woody Allen quote “80% of life is just showing up”?  Well 80% of our gospel reading today is just about showing up – or not showing up – to face the very worst darkness of our world.  Jesus showing up for us, every one of us, in the most vulnerable way that one could.  Peter, per the usual, showing us what not to do – don’t show up with swords, don’t run away.  And Joseph and Nicodemus showing up to face what our sin creates – looking that death in the face and caring for what has been left behind.  That’s the story today, and it is our story too.
Now I work at a Cristo Rey High School in East Harlem here in the city and I can tell you that most of my work is the very best light of our world.  My kids are silly and loving and bizarre and absolutely hilarious.  But many of my kids also live with hard realities, realities I wish they didn’t have to be so aware of.  And realistically not one of them would be able to attend college without the financial aid packages they receive.  So earlier this week, a coworker asked if anyone in the school could take one of our students to a last minute college visit at Manhattanville College.  The student had received full funding there and at the New School, and he had to decide by Friday, today, where his future would take him.  The only problem – he had never been to Manhattanville.
The trip would be about a 45 minute drive each way, we would go on a tour, and meet a student who was part of the same financial aid program my student would be in if he decided to attend.  All of this would translate into upwards of 3 hours of my day dedicated to one student while I would continue to have the work of the other 363 students at our school to worry about.  And all the same, I said yes.  And then, in a classic overly worked New Yorker type fashion, proceeded to spend the entire week stressing out about it – college counseling wasn’t giving me information I needed because they themselves didn’t have it, I couldn’t plan how much of my day it would take up or when I would be back, and I knew I had some Academic Support Programs for our struggling students that desperately needed my attention.  Not to mention that while I love our students to pieces, the prospect of spending that much time with a 17 year old boy was not sounding all that appealing.
So the day arrived, and I had every intention of going through the motions, turning up the radio, anything – I was planning to run away or at least to be there with my swords, my defenses, ready.  And then Carlos showed up in front of me ready to go and I knew he needed me to show up too, so I did.  And it was lovely.  We talked the whole drive there about his interest in movies and that he wants to study filmmaking and what our favorite movies are – in case you’re curious, he loves Tarantino but approved of my love of John Hughes, and he hasn’t seen Casablanca but has now added it to the top of his list.  And when we arrived at admissions and the man asked, "Are you our last family for the 12 o’clock tour?” I tried not to laugh because for that day that was who I was getting to be.  In reality, Carlos has his own family, but for that day, he needed me there with him.  And so I was; I showed up.
And now I wait.  Because this trip was a trip of “not yet.”  Carlos will make his decision but not yet.  Carlos will go to college and go on to do amazing things but not yet.  But those “not yet”s do not make this present reality any less important.  No, the kingdom of God is not with us yet – we live in Good Friday most of our lives, waiting in hope for the Easter of our existence – but that does not make Good Friday less meaningful.  It does not make showing up less important.
In fact, it only makes it more so.  Because the seeds we plant today will grow into the not yet’s we continue to wait for, the not yet’s of our lives: that our children in the U.S. can go to school without fear of assault weapons taking their lives, that our children in Syria can live without fear of war and bombs and death, that our black and brown people can live without fear of police brutality and deportation and double standards, that women no longer need say “Me Too”, that our leaders might mirror the integrity we strive so hard for in our own lives, and that the kids at my school can go to colleges of their dreams.  These are big things to wait for, but we cannot respond as Peter does with denial.  We cannot run away.
We must instead be Joseph and Nicodemus.  We must give witness to what our world has been a part of, what we have been a part of, and we must take it down from the cross and tend to it with our full attention – tend to it vulnerably and openly and honestly.  We must respond.  We must show up.  Not to would be to leave our sins and Jesus hanging there on the cross.

Claire has been with Xavier since she moved to New York City right out of college (2016). She came to the Jesuits by way of Loyola University Chicago, her alma mater, where she majored in English and Theology.  She has spent the year with Mercy Volunteer Corps, a service program that places candidates in a full time position in social services, education, or health related fields.  She’s been working at Mercy Center in the South Bronx and, after finishing her current program, will begin a one year program working at Cristo Rey NY in East Harlem this fall.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Moira Egan Has Something To Say

6th Station of the Cross: Veronica

We all know that when someone is hurting, we can’t always take the pain away, but we try anyway.  Wakes and shiva calls are, at their most basic level, to insure that the bereaved are not alone, and phrases like “I’m sorry for your trouble” give us something to say when nothing we say will change things.  When we offer a nice cup of tea, a pint of chunky monkey and two spoons or Kleenex, we acknowledge someone’s pain as Veronica did. 
Yet perhaps acknowledge doesn’t quite cover it.  We know that words of condolence (however formulaic), sharing a bit of a treat or crying with someone you trust make grief, anxiety, sorrow or heartbreak, even if only for a millisecond a smidgen easier to bear.
We forget this life lesson in compassion in the face of violence, war, poverty, persecution and other huge injustices that can overwhelm us.  At first, Veronica seems quite a daunting role model: she unveils herself as one willing to challenge cultural and political authority.  In an already-hostile crowd on the verge of erupting in violence, she draws attention to herself and to the injustice of Jesus’ torture and execution through a heart-felt act that stopped neither.  Missing from our accounts is Veronica’s “back story” of cultivating kindness and compassion.  She gives us hope that our own work for justice will bear fruit we cannot imagine and a reminder that we’re not called to fix everything, but to name, not hide from, another’s pain and to share others’ burdens. 
Moira Egan is part of the leadership team of The Women Who Stayed, and a member of the Xavier Peace and Justice Committee.

Christine Santisteban Has Something To Say

Reflection for the 15th Station Jesus Rises from the Dead    3/2/18
Christine Santisteban
 “It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going, because they were holding on to something.”  JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings Two Towers
As one who has personally experienced her own dark night; I struggled through depression, drinking, nearly GOT kicked out of medical school, and lost a number of friends; When I truly reached rock bottom, there was nowhere else to go but up.  The Risen Christ, our center and source, always cries out ‘Do Not Be Afraid!’  HE IS THERE BESIDE US TO GIVE US NEW LIFE. It is always darkest before the sun rises. Even the tail end of winter, so grim, so bleak, so muddy, murky, and messy. Those are the exact conditions that allow for spring to come forth, and blossoms to grow. WITH THE RISEN CHRIST US, let us grow and transform.  Let us Rise Up.
With choices ahead, what better time to seek comfort in the arms of a mother, a familiar feminine voice.  One cannot help but ask, WWMD? What would the Marys do?
For one, they were present at the crucifixion and witnesses to the suffering and passion. ‘Behold Your Mother.’John 19:27.  Mary, Our Lady and mother of Jesus was always present. From Jesus’s birth to the foot of the cross. What greater sorrow could one face than a mother who once tenderly embraced a newborn son, to a mother clutching the lifeless body of her son as he was taken down from the cross.  But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart “Nevertheless she persisted!”  
Mary Magdalene, was also among the Women who stayed, She was the first to witness the Rising.  Jesus asks her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”  “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”   Jesus CALLS HER BY NAME: "Mary.” AND THEN SHE KNEW HIM! Mary Magdalene goes to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!”.John 20:15-16,18  Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostle was the one to proclaim the Resurrection. She persisted!
Even after the Ascension, when all the Apostles hid in the Upper room out of fear, who courageously led and guided them? Mary, mother of Jesus, Queen of the Apostles.  She provided a model of prayer, leadership, and encouraged the Apostles to wait and pray for the Holy Spirit.  As she came to know the Holy Spirit, Mary helped prepare the Apostles to be ready to go forth into the world for their mission.

How can we face the seemingly insurmountable?  Whatever emotions you are feeling, let them be.  “What we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain.” Embrace the emotions. Pain and death, pave the way towards rebirth and transformation.  Mourn, cry, scream, grieve, groan, and wail if you have to.  We too call BS!  Keep all these things, and ponder them in your heart, then let them go.
Pick yourself up, and breathe. You are not alone. Hope can be found together.  That’s why we are a community of faith.  The light that burns deep inside, that desire for justice, for equality, for right, for a better world, for mercy, and for compassion, hold onto it. Together we can fan those flames. We are the arms, feet and heart of Christ in the world today. Together we can take steps and make a stand.  It’s not big actions we need to worry about.  It’s always the little steps that make a huge difference. “Do small things with great love.”  “Even if it feels like nothing, it is something.”  When people come together for good, there is no stopping the movement.  Let us imitate Our Lady And Mary Magdalene.  They persisted, so should we!  Let us be the People Who Stayed. Let us be Resurrection people.  Let us be Easter People.   And together we rise, to go forth and set the World on Fire. Ramah! 

(Ramah רָמָה in Hebrew means height, also She lifts up or He casts down)


Christine Santisteban is native of Queens has been a parishioner since 2014. She helps co-lead the Xavier Young Adults group, and dabbled in the many wonderful ministries at Xavier including the shelter, Xavier Bible Study, It was the women Who Stayed. She is a passionate physician, a lover of all things furry, a clarinetist, honorary Irish woman, pilgrim, and aspiring writer and poet. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mary McAleese Has Something To Say

On International Women’s Day earlier this month, Mary McAleese, former President of Ireland, delivered a keynote address at the Voices of Faith Conference, on the theme 'Why women matter' - held at the Jesuit Curia in Rome. You can view her powerful speech at or read the text below. She certainly didn't hold back:

Today we challenge Pope Francis to develop a credible strategy for the inclusion of women as equals throughout the Church's root and branch infrastructure, including its decision-making. A strategy with targets, pathways and outcomes regularly and independently audited. Failure to include women as equals has deprived the Church of fresh and innovative discernment; it has consigned it to recycled thinking among a hermetically sealed cosy male clerical elite flattered and rarely challenged by those tapped for jobs in secret and closed processes. It has kept Christ out and bigotry in. It has left the Church flapping about awkwardly on one wing when God gave it two.

"Historical oppression of women has deprived the human race of untold resources, true progress for women cannot fail to liberate enormous reserves of intelligence and energy, sorely needed in a world that is groaning for peace and justice". (extract from presentation by Professor Maryann Glendon, member of Holy See Delegation to the UN Conference on Women, Beijing 1995)
The Israelites under Joshua's command circled Jericho's walls for seven days, blew trumpets and shouted to make the walls fall down. (cf. Joshua 6:1-20). We don't have trumpets but we have voices, voices of faith and we are here to shout, to bring down our Church's walls of misogyny. We have been circling these walls for 55 years since John XXIII's encyclical Pacem in Terris first pointed to the advancement of women as one of the most important "signs of the times". … "they are demanding both in domestic and in public life the rights and duties which belong to them as human persons" .… The longstanding inferiority complex of certain classes because of their economic and social status, sex, or position in the State, and the corresponding superiority complex of other classes, is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

At the Second Vatican Council Archbishop Paul Hallinan of Atlanta, warned the bishops to stop perpetuating "the secondary place accorded to women in the Church of the 20th century" and to avoid the Church being a "late-comer in their social, political and economic development". The Council's decree Apostolicam Actuositatem said it was important that women "participate more widely … in the various sectors of the Church's apostolate". The Council's pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes said the elimination of discrimination based on gender was a priority. Paul VI even commissioned a study on women in Church and Society. Surely we thought then, the post-Conciliar Church was on the way to full equality for its 600 million female members. And yes-it is true that since the Council new roles and jobs, have opened up to the laity including women but these have simply marginally increased the visibility of women in subordinate roles, including in the Curia, but they have added nothing to their decision-making power or their voice.

Remarkably since the Council, roles which were specifically designated as suitable for the laity have been deliberately closed to women. The stable roles of acolyte and lector and the permanent deaconate have been opened only to lay men. Why? Both laymen and women can be temporary altar servers but bishops are allowed to ban females and where they permit them in their dioceses individual pastors can ban them in their parishes. Why?

Back in 1976 we were told that the Church does not consider herself authorized to admit women to priestly ordination. This has locked women out of any significant role in the Church's leadership, doctrinal development and authority structure since these have historically been reserved to or filtered through ordained men.

Yet in divine justice the very fact of the permanent exclusion of women from priesthood and all its consequential exclusions, should have provoked the Church hierarchy to find innovative and transparent ways of including women's voices as of right and not in trickles of tokenism by tapping, in the divinely instituted College of Bishops and in the manmade entities such as the College of Cardinals, the Synod of
Bishops and episcopal conferences, in all the places where the faith is shaped by decision and dogma and doctrine.

Just imagine this normative scenario - Pope Francis calls a Synod on the role of Women in the Church and 350 male celibates advise the Pope on what women really want! That is how ludicrous our Church has become. How long can the hierarchy sustain the credibility of a God who wants things this way, who wants a Church where women are invisible and voiceless in Church leadership, legal and doctrinal discernment and decision-making?

It was here in this very hall in 1995 that Irish Jesuit theologian, Fr. Gerry O'Hanlon put his finger on the underpinning systemic problem when he steered Decree 14 through the Jesuits 34th General Congregation. It is a forgotten document but today we will dust it down and use it to challenge a Jesuit Pope, a reforming Pope, to real, practical action on behalf of women in the Catholic Church.
Decree 14 says:

We have been part of a civil and ecclesial tradition that has offended against women. And, like many men, we have a tendency to convince ourselves that there is no problem. However unwittingly, we have often contributed to a form of clericalism which has reinforced male domination with an ostensibly divine sanction. By making this declaration we wish to react personally and collectively, and do what we can to change this regrettable situation.
"The regrettable situation" arises because the Catholic Church has long since been a primary global carrier of the virus of misogyny.. It has never sought a cure though a cure is freely available. Its name is "equality"

Down the 2000 year highway of Christian history came the ethereal divine beauty of the Nativity, the cruel sacrifice of the Crucifixion, the Hallelujah of the Resurrection and the rallying cry of the great commandment to love one another. But down that same highway came man-made toxins such as misogyny and homophobia to say nothing of anti-Semitism with their legacy of damaged and wasted lives and deeply embedded institutional dysfunction..

The laws and cultures of many nations and faith systems were also historically deeply patriarchal and excluding of women; some still are, but today the Catholic Church lags noticeably behind the world's advanced nations in the elimination of discrimination against women. Worse still, because it is the "pulpit of the world" to quote Ban Ki Moon its overt clerical patriarchalism acts as a powerful brake on dismantling the architecture of misogyny wherever it is found. There is an irony here, for education has been crucial to the advancement of women and for many of us, the education which liberated us was provided by the Church's frontline workers clerical and lay, who have done so much to lift men and women out of poverty and powerlessness and give them access to opportunity.
Yet paradoxically it is the questioning voices of educated Catholic women and the courageous men who support them, which the Church hierarchy simply cannot cope with and scorns rather than engaging in dialogue. The Church which regularly criticizes the secular world for its failure to deliver on human rights has almost no culture of critiquing itself. It has a hostility to internal criticism which fosters blinkered servility and which borders on institutional idolatry.

Today we challenge Pope Francis to develop a credible strategy for the inclusion of women as equals throughout the Church's root and branch infrastructure, including its decision-making. A strategy with targets, pathways and outcomes regularly and independently audited. Failure to include women as equals has deprived the Church of fresh and innovative discernment; it has consigned it to recycled thinking among a hermetically sealed cosy male clerical elite flattered and rarely challenged by those tapped for jobs in secret and closed processes. It has kept Christ out and bigotry in. It has left the Church flapping about awkwardly on one wing when God gave it two. We are entitled to hold our Church leaders to account for this and other egregious abuses of institutional power and we will insist on our right to do so no matter how many official doors are closed to us.

At the start of his papacy Pope Francis said "We need to create still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church" words a Church scholar described as evidence of Francis' "magnanimity". Let us be clear, women's right to equality in the Church arises organically from divine justice. It should not depend on ad hoc papal benevolence.

Pope Francis described female theologians as the "strawberries on the cake". He was wrong. Women are the leaven in the cake. They are the primary handers on of the faith to their children. In the Western world the Church's cake is not rising, the baton of faith is dropping.. Women are walking away from the Catholic Church in droves, for those who are expected to be key influencers in their children's faith formation have no opportunity to be key influencers in the formation of the Catholic faith. That is no longer acceptable. Just four months ago the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin felt compelled to remark that "the low standing of women in the Catholic Church is the most significant reason for the feeling of alienation towards it in Ireland today".

Yet Pope Francis has said that "women are more important than men because the Church is a woman". Holy Father, why not ask women if they feel more important than men? I suspect many will answer that they experience the Church as a male bastion of patronizing platitudes to which Pope Francis has added his quota.

John Paul II has written of the 'mystery of women'. Talk to us as equals and we will not be a mystery! Francis has said a "deeper theology of women" is needed. God knows it would be hard to find a more shallow theology of women than the misogyny dressed up as theology which the magisterium currently hides behind.

And all the time a deeper theology is staring us in the face. It does not require much digging to find it. Just look to Christ. John Paul II pointed out that: 'we are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women.….. Transcending the established norms of his own culture, Jesus treated women with openness, respect, acceptance and tenderness….As we look to Christ…. it is natural to ask ourselves: how much of his message has been heard and acted upon?'
Women are best qualified to answer that question but we are left to talk among ourselves. No Church leader bothers to turn up not just because we do not matter to them but because their priestly formation prepares them to resist treating us as true equals.

Back in this hall in 1995 the Jesuit Congregation asked God for the grace of conversion from a patriarchal Church to a Church of equals; a Church where women truly matter not on terms designed by men for a patriarchal Church but on terms which make Christ matter. Only such a Church of equals is worthy of Christ. Only such a Church can credibly make Christ matter. The time for that Church is now, Pope Francis. The time for change is now.

**** ******
Mary Patricia McAleese is an Irish Fianna Fáil and Independent politician who served as the 8th President of Ireland from November 1997 to November 2011. She was the second female President of Ireland. She was first elected in 1997, succeeding Mary Robinson, making McAleese the world's first woman to succeed another as President.  She was re-elected unopposed for a second term in office in 2004.  McAleese is the first President of Ireland to have come from either Northern Ireland or Ulster.

McAleese graduated in Law from Queen's University Belfast. In 1975, she was appointed Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College, Dublin and in 1987, she returned to her Alma Mater, Queen's, to become Director of the Institute of Professional Legal Studies. In 1994, she became the first female Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Queen's University.[5] She worked as a barrister and also worked as a journalist with RTÉ.

McAleese used her time in office to address issues concerning justice, social equality, social inclusion, anti-sectarianism and reconciliation. She described the theme of her presidency as "Building Bridges" This bridge-building materialised in her attempts to reach out to the unionist community in Northern Ireland. These steps included celebrating the Twelfth of July at Áras an Uachtaráin and she even incurred criticism from some of the Irish Catholic hierarchy by taking communion in a Church of Ireland cathedral in Dublin.  Despite being a practising Roman Catholic, she holds liberal views regarding homosexuality and women priests. She is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders and was ranked the 64th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes. In spite of some minor controversies, McAleese remained popular and her Presidency is regarded as successful. 

Moira Egan Has Something To Say

This Sunday’s first reading has become a particularly meaningful one for me.  For a number of years, I was part of a parish folk group with whom I occasionally still sing now that I’ve moved too far away to attend regularly.  Paul Wrynn’s “I Will be Your God”, a setting of it is very special to the folk group, and we only half jokingly call it “our anthem” or “our song”.  We have sung it at funerals, weddings and parish celebrations because it deeply resonates with the community.  Part of its power is certainly Wrynn’s setting, beautifully combining words and music in a way that makes the text a pleasure to sing.  The song, and of course Jeremiah’s text tap a deep longing within all of us for connection. 

We have heard a lot about covenant during Lent, and this reading presents God’s covenant with us in very simple terms.  God is our God, and we are God’s people.  That’s it.  There’s no precondition or potential revocation of the covenant.  If we want to enter into it, we have simply to live in relationship with God.  There are no complicated terms and conditions that could trip us up and there’s no background check to determine whether we are really worthy of a covenant with God. 

Finally, I am struck by the breadth and depth of the relationship we are offered.  Individually, God promises to be deeply concerned for and connected with us.  Yet God’s promise is not exclusive.  Because it’s available to all of us, all of us are called to be in community with each other.  The Greeks in this Sunday’s Gospel wanted to share in the experience of knowing Jesus.  At first, the convoluted way this happens makes me laugh, but then I am reminded of the power of community.  I imagine that by getting Andrew and then the two of them going to Jesus, Philip was including his new friends in the whole community.  Getting to know Jesus means that they also get to know lots of others who are working for social change as Jesus was.  We too can experience this ever-widening circle of justice, friendship, concern and inclusion.  As I try to deepen my relationship with God, I am buoyed and strengthened by the wonderful people journeying with me.  In the words of another song “May the circle be unbroken”!

Moira Egan is part of the leadership team of The Women Who Stayed, and a member of the Xavier Peace and Justice Committee..

Friday, March 9, 2018

Nancy Small Has Something To Say

The church felt warm and welcoming on the feast of the Holy Family this past December. Before Mass began, I offered my usual prayer to be open to the graces of the liturgy. Soon after, my heart abruptly closed as I listened to the epistle reading. After proclaiming St. Paul's instruction to "put on heartfelt compassion, kindness and humility" in his letter to the Colossians, the lector read:

"Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18).

It had been years since I'd heard these words proclaimed in a church. This time, the message seemed even more offensive than in the past. For months, we've been hearing a host of women speaking out about sexual harassment, abuse and impropriety at the hands of powerful men. We've also heard women saying, "Time's up," meaning the time has come when this behavior is no longer being tolerated and women are no longer remaining silent.

Hearing a Scripture reading supporting women's subordination in this context felt seriously wrong.

Webster's dictionary defines subordinate as "inferior to or placed below another in rank, power, importance, etc." Instructing wives to be subordinate to their husbands perpetuates the idea that women are to be submissive to men and contributes to a culture of male dominance. This kind of thinking opens up a Pandora's box to the subjugation of women on a broader scale. Indeed, if women are considered inferior to their partner in marriage, they are sure to be treated as inferior in the larger society.

St. Paul's words were written in a time when women were considered inferior to men. But times have changed. Why, in this day and age, are Catholic Churches still proclaiming Scripture readings that support an understanding of women as subordinate?

One reason is because they can. The lectionary for the feast of the Holy Family offers three options for the epistle reading. The Colossians reading can be proclaimed with Verse 3:18 telling wives to be subordinate. But the lectionary also offers a more merciful option that omits this verse and ends with the instruction, "Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Colossians 3:17). And the lectionary provides a third option of choosing a different reading altogether (Hebrews 11:18-19).

If you read Colossians 3 in its entirety, you'll see that it gives instructions to slaves, saying, "Slaves, obey your human masters in everything" (Colossians 3:22). We don't hear this part proclaimed from the pulpit because it's not included in the lectionary. If we did hear it, we'd recognize that the reading is outdated. We might object when we realize the church is accepting slavery by proclaiming Scripture that tells slaves how to behave.  So why does the lectionary include Scripture regarding wives that is also outdated and objectionable?

The subordination of women in the context of marriage is inconsistent with church teaching and pastoral practice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman and speaks of mutual love (1602, 1604). The nuptial blessing offered during the Catholic wedding ceremony prays, "May her husband entrust his heart to her … acknowledging her as his equal and his joint heir in the life of grace."
Pope Francis develops this message of mutual love further. In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, he writes about married love as "a union possessing all the traits of a good friendship: concern for the good of the other, reciprocity, intimacy, warmth, stability and the resemblance born of a shared life. Marriage … shares everything in constant mutual respect."  Expanding upon this notion of married love, he writes, "Love trusts, it sets free, it does not try to control, possess and dominate everything. This freedom, which fosters independence … can only enrich and expand relationships."  This kind of love holds no place for subordination.

The pope's understanding of love as a force that does not control, possess or dominate is a message sorely needed in church and society today. This kind of love in the context of marriage supports equality between spouses and encourages growth individually and together. This kind of love that enriches and expands relationships promotes healing and holds the power to transform.

We have a long way to go in changing our culture from one where sexual misconduct against women is widespread and tolerated to a culture where women are treated with dignity and respect. The church has an important role to play in bringing about this transformation. We can take a simple yet substantive step in this direction by no longer proclaiming Scripture texts that subordinate women. Better yet, let's remove these texts from our lectionaries altogether.
Time's up.


Nancy is a former St. Francis Xavier parishioner. She is a hospice chaplain, spiritual director and the author of Seizing the Nonviolent Moments: Reflections on the Spirituality of Nonviolence Through the Lens of Scripture. She and her husband, Carl, Oblates of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, live in Worcester, Massachusetts.