Thursday, February 27, 2014

END IT: Shine a Light on Slavery

In July 2011, Franciscans joined together at the Franciscan Federation's annual conference and made a commitment to help end human trafficking, provide healing for the victims, and prosecution for the perpetrators. I wrote a blog entry about it the following February: Slavery Has Not Ended. It Just Has a Different Name.

 I am proud to stay that this commitment still stands today! In fact, in our Community we were asked to pray a special evening prayer for this intention on the Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita. As always, we are educated about human trafficking and are asked to pay attention to any warning signs of it in our daily lives.

Human trafficking is a major problem, and the more people who have taken the time to read about it, the more lives we can save. Many times people who trafficked are hidden in plain sight. We can help give them freedom!

Lent begins this coming Wednesday. As many of you know, we are called to pray, give alms, and fast. Many times, when we think of fasting, we think of restricting our food intake. Yet the Lord calls us to a deeper form of fasting, one that requires a greater commitment:
Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke? -Isaiah 58:6, NAB
Let us pray for all those affected by human trafficking.
Let us give alms to organizations working to end human trafficking, provide healing for victims, and punishment for the perpetrators.
Let us fast from something we'd prefer to do and instead take time to educate ourselves about human trafficking so that we can save lives.

If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely listen to their cry. - Exodus 22:23, NAB

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Forgive Them Anyway

There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears. Although you have never seen him, you love him, and without seeing you now believe in him, and rejoice with inexpressible joy touched with glory because you are achieving faith's goal, your salvation. - 1 Peter 1: 6-9, ICEL

As a member of the choir in our parish, I am able to attend both Mass times. It affords me the opportunity to hear the homily twice and let it really sink in. This weekend, Father Arnel talked about an aspect of forgiveness that I had never really pondered before. He said that many times people get away with doing terrible things during their lives here on earth, but they will have to face Divine Justice:

Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. - Romans 12: 19, NAB

Justice is one of the cardinal virtues and it means giving everyone their due. God is not a pushover. He made that very clear when he overturned the tables of the money-changers in the Temple. Our God is a God of love, and part of love is protecting the beloved. If we have been hurt, He finds a way to not only make things right but make them better than they have ever been before.

Knowing this certainly makes it easier to let go of our grudges and offer them up to God. Truthfully, as long as we have stood up for ourselves, there isn't much more that we can do. Some people will never experience remorse for what they've done and will find a way to blame the victim. Others will deny everything and try to get other people to think that the victim is a liar. We can always remember that the truth wins out in the end.

Forgiveness doesn't excuse their behavior. Forgiveness prevents their behavior from destroying your heart. - Unknown

By offering our wounds to the Lord and allowing His grace of forgiveness to wash over us, we can be truly free. After all, what is better "revenge" than letting our enemies see that we are still standing? That we didn't just survive but we are thriving?

I was pondering this when the following song started playing on one of my Pandora stations:

Grieving is very important, because if we don't take time to grieve we are left with a false sense of happiness. However even in the midst of darkness we can see the light and the hope from this light is an aid for forgiveness, true freedom, and perfect joy.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. - Philippians 4:8, NRSV