Thursday, January 11, 2018

Why Are You Thinking Such Things in Your Hearts?

Why Are You Thinking Such Things in Your Hearts?

The people, however, refused to listen to Samuel's warning and said, "Not so! There must be a king over us. We too must be like other nations, with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare and fight our battles." When Samuel had listened to all the people had to say, he repeated it to the LORD, who then said to him, "Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them." 1 Samuel 8:19-22A

Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves,
so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth" –he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home." Mark 2:8-11

Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a “culture of care” (ibid., 231) and “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature” (ibid., 139). “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology” (ibid., 112); “to devise intelligent ways of… developing and limiting our power” (ibid., 78); and to put technology “at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead…

A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.  (Pope Francis, Address to Congress, September 24, 2015)

We get a few interesting perspectives on persistence in today’s readings.

Samuel is dealing with the persistent demand from the people to have a temporal King so that the people of Israel can be just like every other nation. Although the prophet tried to warn them of the burdens they will face with a government – taxes, labor, demands – they refused to listen.

Jesus then encounters the persistent efforts by the companions to bring their paralytic friend before the Lord for healing.  They would not be stopped by the crowds.  So, they resorted to climbing up to the roof and lowering the crippled man down to be near Jesus.

Jesus then has to deal with the persistent doubt by the Pharisees who question whether he can or should use phrases like “Your sins are forgiven.”  While it is easier – and expected – that Jesus would tell the man to walk, he wanted to go beyond the visible healing of the body and get to the deeper healing of the soul.

Our Holy Father invites all of us to promote a “culture of care” with hearts that are filled with compassion and eyes and ears that are attentive.  Like the friends bringing the paralytic man to Christ, Pope Francis challenges us to “be in the streets” and in solidarity with those suffering, by way of encounter and accompaniment, speaks to the heart of the Catholic mission and the work that we are all called to perform. 

It is a privilege for us to carry someone to encounter Christ, to walk alongside those who are weak and in need, especially the rural poor, the marginalized, the prisoners and those in darkness.

In Monday’s scripture in the Catholic lectionary, the prophet Isaiah declares: “I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice…to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” (Is. 42: 6-7). 

Art Laffin from the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House asks us all a probing question: “What if we were to live as though this biblical mandate was a Divine summons for us to act on here and now, today? Now is the time to end the sin of torture and to proclaim liberty to the captives!”

Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when 25 Americans went to Guantánamo Bay and attempted to visit the detention facility. They began to organize more broadly to shut down Guantánamo, end indefinite detention and torture and call out Islamophobia. During demonstrations, members lift up the words of the detainees themselves, bringing them to public spaces they are not permitted to access. Witness Against Torture will carry on in its activities until torture is decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged, Guantánamo and similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed torture are held to account.

January 11 marked the 16th year since the first detainees were taken to prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  In 2007, there were 430 prisoners in Guantanamo. Today, 41 men are imprisoned there. 

Many who are working to free these prisons are in the midst of a week-long "Fast for Justice" to Close Guantanamo that will last through Saturday, January 13. The National Catholic Reporter included this witness in its new Justice Action Bulletin.  

On Thursday, there was a large demonstration with many groups, including Amnesty International, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and the Center for Constitutional Rights, calling for the closing of Guantanamo and for an end to torture and indefinite detention.

Please pray in solidarity with them from where you are and please do what you can to resist Islamophobia. 

Protesters wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods attend an early morning
vigil at the Pentagon Jan. 8, sponsored by Witness Against Torture and the
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, to call for an end to torture and the closure
of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
(Courtesy of Dorothy Day Catholic Worker)

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