Sermon in the week of prayer for Christian Unity 20th January 2013
Oxford Catholic Chaplaincy by Rev’d Dr. Jonathan Arnold, Chaplain, Worcester College.
Isaiah 62: 1-5; Ps 95; 1 Cor 12: 4-11; Jon 2: 1-11
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
It is very good to be with you this morning in this week of prayer for Christian Unity and thank you to Father Simon for the invitation to preach. I’m also very much looking forward to Fr. Nicholas King from Campion Hall preaching at Worcester Chapel this evening.
At college each Monday in term I hold a discussion group over lunch. This term we are looking at the ten commandments, so of course last Monday we considered the first one: ‘I am the lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me’. In the chat, we discussed how, in a multi-faith, pluralist and partly secular society, this commandment was to be kept whilst respecting each other’s faith. Can Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians all believe they are right and yet genuinely respect each other’s beliefs? One answer that emerged was the metaphor that people had been told at school, that we are all like blindfolded people trying to describe an elephant purely by the sense of touch. The person at the trunk end has a completely different idea of what the animal is than the person at the tail end or at the side. This, apparently, is how different people approach their notion of God. Each person has part of the truth but no individual or religion or denomination has the whole truth, and yet everyone is talking about the same God.
Now, I had never come across this analogy before and initially I thought it was fine and it created much merriment. But it also left me feeling uneasy. It seemed to be, frankly, a little bland – that everyone has a little bit of the truth but no one can ever have a chance of a full revelation of God. The idea that there is one big truth that everyone can see a little part of and yet which no one can fully comprehend seems appealing, but we are still left with the questions of who has the truth and who is being deceived, and surely someone must be more right than someone else? And if no one can ever get anywhere near the truth, and everyone’s view is equally valid, why bother looking for enlightenment at all? I rather think that many secularists have done precisely that. Given the plethora of religions and spiritualities out there they shrug their shoulders and say, well might as well believe nothing.
In this week of prayer for Christian unity I find myself unified with other Christians, in all our diversity, in a religion in which I can wholeheartedly believe, as I would expect a good Muslim to wholeheartedly believe in his or her religion, without the need for aggression against another’s point of view, or complacency about all religions. Indeed, having to assess just what we believe and why can be a very positive exercise. One can find that struggling with the more difficult questions of our faith is well worth while and very good for us. When I was researching for a book recently I interviewed the Scottish Catholic composer James MacMillan who related an interesting story about when he was at University and how his Chaplain arranged a forum for just this kind of scrutiny of faith:
In Edinburgh, my chaplain there was a young man, Aidan Nicholls. He laid on these talks [entitled] ‘Objections to Catholicism’, and it was just one speaker after another coming in and laying into our faith. It was a dialogue. They presented their objections to faith. Some of them were Marxist, some of them were atheists of a pre-Dawkins type and some of them were of an extreme Protestant type – Ian Paisley type figures. I think a lot of students were absolutely shocked. Not just shocked by the aggression but shocked by hearing strident opposition to the faith for the first time, and saw their faith was not just challenged but undermined by it. But that’s the risk you’ve got to take. Some of us took a different line – let’s deal with the objections head on and try to enunciate our response. I think that’s what happens in these days of increased aggression against Christianity. The Church will get better for it and purify itself. I think it already has become less slovenly in its actions as well as in its thoughts. I’m quite excited about it. It may be unpleasant at times but I feel it’s doing us good.
I like James’ attitude. He has a firm idea of what he believes and has not been shy in making that public, but he is also delighted to hold dialogue with those of differing opinions, not because he goes into a belligerent position of insisting his truth over anothers, nor shrugs his shoulders to say that we are all correct in our own way, but welcoming the opportunity to scrutinize his own stance and to be forced to justify it. Diversity of opinion in our society does not have to lead to aggression or banality. As St. Paul tells the community in Corinth, there are many different roles and positions to take but there is unity in the Spirit. This acknowledges that real truth is to be found in the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ himself, our salvation and our example is one of supreme generosity, as we heard in the story of the Wedding at Cana, providing the best possible wine even at the end of days of celebrations. God’s generosity is in abundance in creation; in nature, in art, and in love and his ultimate sacrifice for us. Of course, it is our tragedy that it is so often squandered by greed, corruption and selfishness or power. Christ assured his disciples that after him would come the Spirit that would lead them into all truth and that same Spirit which came upon the disciples is there for us today. So how do we gain access to this Spirit of truth, to this unity in the Spirit? For, surely the Holy Spirit provides the strength for all Christians to find unity and harmony in our relations, whilst keeping our own identities and characters, and we must not just pray for a closer bond of love in this week of prayer for unity but throughout the year, both in our silent petitions and by our prayer in action, reaching out to one another in that same Spirit given by God.
So where do we start? Perhaps today’s psalm provides a clue. The Psalms speak of our humanity in all its experience and emotion. As the Christian philosopher Roger Scruton puts it, ‘Every single possible religious attitude is expressed in them … The fact that the Psalms are in all our church services, both Anglican and Catholic, gives them a special place …’.
Psalm 95 particularly shows us where we should place ourselves in the picture.
O come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
Our response to God’s generosity is joy, music, is the bow down and to worship , to sing and be joyful for all the blessings he has given us, and to be one in our gratitude, our praise, our worship, our prayer, and our love for God and for one another, and so follow the two great commandments to love our God and our neighbour.
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
For God has given us every possible blessing in Jesus Christ, who understands our suffering, pain, and loss as well as our joy and our happiness. He is with all of us in everything, and especially in this season of Epiphany we rejoice in his revelation to the world. This week, and every week, may we continue to pray for unity of love and purpose of the diverse Christian denominations throughout the world, and let’s also rejoice in the source of our faith and his generosity to us that has brought us life, and life eternal. Thanks be to God. Amen.
I’m sure that, like me, many of you were glued to the Olympics over the summer. One of the reasons I enjoyed the Games so much was that it was so refreshing to get excited about winning, about who is fastest or strongest, who is the greatest in a particular sport or race. It felt good to celebrate achievement, when it so often seems that in today’s Britain achievement is something to be ashamed of: Everyone’s a winner; it’s the taking part that matters, we should all get gold stars just for being. As if being the greatest is somehow offensive, or impolitic, or contrary to some nebulous notion of diversity.
Actually, the world is rather more comfortable with ambition, and achievement, and self-promotion. You are number one; Nobody loves a loser; nice guys finish last—these echo deep values of our contemporary world. There are no gold medals and adulation for those who come last. It’s that sort of mindset that see in the disciples in this morning’s Gospel. Jesus is on his final journey to Jerusalem and says that there he will suffer and die. Far from expressing sorrow or sympathy, James and John skip the thought of suffering and move to the thought of resurrection and ask Jesus to let them sit at his right and left when he enters his glory. They want to be more important than anyone else. They want position, and power, and status. They want to win! Jesus answers that they may get what they ask for, but they certainly will follow his way of suffering.
But then the other 10 disciples also miss the point and start shouting at James and John for they too want some share in power. Earlier in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus predicted that he would suffer their reaction was to argue about who would be the greatest, who would be first.
Jesus then gives them a lesson on what power should be among those who follow him – those who followed him then, and those who choose to be his disciples today. Gentile rulers lord it over their subjects, and their great ones throw their weight around. Throughout the Gospel of Mark Jesus describes the way things work in the world – in a world that lives apart from the message he proclaims: what people want for themselves: self-centeredness; saving one’s own life; acquiring the world; being great; lording it over others; being anxious about wealth. But Jesus rejects this way in a ringing statement. “But it shall not be so among you. ”
“But it shall not be so among you.”
Jesus speaks of his way of being powerful which is paradoxically the way of the loser:
Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus points not to a way of being number one, of lording it over and dominating others, but a way of service. True followers are to be available to others with help and service. If we must compete with each other, we must compete in this way. We must outdo each other in doing good. Jesus gives himself as an example of such service; he did not come to be waited on by others but to serve and give his life for others. Throughout the Gospel Jesus serves by being with the sick and suffering of this world, by feeding the hungry and speaking up for those who are weak and oppressed and marginalised and forgotten and despised. And he will give his life as a ransom. A ransom is a price paid to free. The price paid to free us from slavery – slavery to this world, slavery to ourselves. Jesus’ offering was to be a liberating offering and we his followers are to be engaged in liberating service. We are to help free each other from all that would bind us and imprison us.
In simple terms the Gospel calls on us, you and I, contemporary followers of Jesus, to reject a life-path that leads to power and dominance of others – be that in the Church, or in business, or in college, or in our everyday relationships and personal encounters. So often it is among ordinary Christians that we see the example of Jesus lived out. This liberating service shines forth in parents at the bed of a sick child, in a spouse caring for another with Alzheimer’s disease; in a person like St Marianne Cope who spent her life caring for the lepers of Hawaii – St Marianne, incidentally is being canonised by the Holy Father this very morning; in a person like Sr. Dorothy Stang, a Notre Dame sister who was murdered in Brazil in 2005 for protesting the exploitation of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. And whose last words as she was shot in the head were “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.
We do not have to look to Hawaii or Brazil to find examples of liberating service. Here at the Chaplaincy there is the SVP, there is CAFOD, and the Companions of the Order of Malta; our city has numerous organisations and institutions to serve the homeless, the abused, those who need shelter, a hot meal, a new start. But opportunities of service, real Christian service, liberating and life-giving service, are never far from us – they exist in the Church and outside, among strangers and friends, even in our own families and communities. Today is Mission Sunday, and such service is at the very heart of the Church’s Mission – it IS the Church’s mission. Our mission is not to be served, but to serve, and to give our lives.
Of course, we are to think and to pray specifically today about the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel, the Good News of our Redemption in Christ. That Gospel can only effectively spread and take root in the hearts and minds of those who do not yet know Jesus if those charged with preaching it – that’s you and me – live lives of service, really give of ourselves, really show our beliefs in the way we act and the way we love.
Those of you who are students know that your task at university is to learn and grow to the best of your abilities – and there is certainly a lot of competition here – both good and bad. But your fundamental, Christian task as human beings is not to be number one, but to become real losers, nice guys (and girls) who finish last – that is, last in the game of exploiting others and in pursuing selfish life goals, but who lose yourselves in serving others. After all Jesus said that the one who loses his or her life will save it, that is find true life – true, real, abundant, amazing, grace-filled life, in community with others and in union with Christ.
Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Day of Peace 2013:
Blessed are the Peacemakers
1. EACH NEW YEAR brings the expectation of a better world. In light of this, I ask God, the Father of humanity, to grant us concord and peace, so that the aspirations of all for a happy and prosperous life may be achieved.
Fifty years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, which helped to strengthen the Church’s mission in the world, it is heartening to realize that Christians, as the People of God in fellowship with him and sojourning among mankind, are committed within history to sharing humanity’s joys and hopes, grief and anguish, as they proclaim the salvation of Christ and promote peace for all.
In effect, our times, marked by globalization with its positive and negative aspects, as well as the continuation of violent conflicts and threats of war, demand a new, shared commitment in pursuit of the common good and the development of all men, and of the whole man.
It is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism. In addition to the varied forms of terrorism and international crime, peace is also endangered by those forms of fundamentalism and fanaticism which distort the true nature of religion, which is called to foster fellowship and reconciliation among people.
All the same, the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift.
All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).
2. The beatitudes which Jesus proclaimed (cf. Mt 5:3-12 and Lk 6:20-23) are promises. In the biblical tradition, the beatitude is a literary genre which always involves some good news, a “gospel”, which culminates in a promise. Therefore, the beatitudes are not only moral exhortations whose observance foresees in due time – ordinarily in the next life – a reward or a situation of future happiness. Rather, the blessedness of which the beatitudes speak consists in the fulfilment of a promise made to all those who allow themselves to be guided by the requirements of truth, justice and love. In the eyes of the world, those who trust in God and his promises often appear naïve or far from reality. Yet Jesus tells them that not only in the next life, but already in this life, they will discover that they are children of God, and that God has always been, and ever will be, completely on their side. They will understand that they are not alone, because he is on the side of those committed to truth, justice and love. Jesus, the revelation of the Father’s love, does not hesitate to offer himself in self-sacrifice. Once we accept Jesus Christ, God and man, we have the joyful experience of an immense gift: the sharing of God’s own life, the life of grace, the pledge of a fully blessed existence. Jesus Christ, in particular, grants us true peace, which is born of the trusting encounter of man with God.
Jesus’ beatitude tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort. In effect, peace presupposes a humanism open to transcendence. It is the fruit of the reciprocal gift, of a mutual enrichment, thanks to the gift which has its source in God and enables us to live with others and for others. The ethics of peace is an ethics of fellowship and sharing. It is indispensable, then, that the various cultures in our day overcome forms of anthropology and ethics based on technical and practical suppositions which are merely subjectivistic and pragmatic, in virtue of which relationships of coexistence are inspired by criteria of power or profit, means become ends and vice versa, and culture and education are centred on instruments, technique and efficiency alone. The precondition for peace is the dismantling of the dictatorship of relativism and of the supposition of a completely autonomous morality which precludes acknowledgment of the ineluctable natural moral law inscribed by God upon the conscience of every man and woman. Peace is the building up of coexistence in rational and moral terms, based on a foundation whose measure is not created by man, but rather by God. As Psalm 29 puts it: “May the Lord give strength to his people; may the Lord bless his people with peace” (v. 11).
Peace: God’s gift and the fruit of human effort 3. Peace concerns the human person as a whole, and it involves complete commitment. It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation. Above all, as Blessed John XXIII wrote in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris, whose fiftieth anniversary will fall in a few months, it entails the building up of a coexistence based on truth, freedom, love and justice. The denial of what makes up the true nature of human beings in its essential dimensions, its intrinsic capacity to know the true and the good and, ultimately, to know God himself, jeopardizes peacemaking. Without the truth about man inscribed by the Creator in the human heart, freedom and love become debased, and justice loses the ground of its exercise.
To become authentic peacemakers, it is fundamental to keep in mind our transcendent dimension and to enter into constant dialogue with God, the Father of mercy, whereby we implore the redemption achieved for us by his only-begotten Son. In this way mankind can overcome that progressive dimming and rejection of peace which is sin in all its forms: selfishness and violence, greed and the will to power and dominion, intolerance, hatred and unjust structures.
The attainment of peace depends above all on recognizing that we are, in God, one human family. This family is structured, as the Encyclical Pacem in Terris taught, by interpersonal relations and institutions supported and animated by a communitarian “we”, which entails an internal and external moral order in which, in accordance with truth and justice, reciprocal rights and mutual duties are sincerely recognized. Peace is an order enlivened and integrated by love, in such a way that we feel the needs of others as our own, share our goods with others and work throughout the world for greater communion in spiritual values. It is an order achieved in freedom, that is, in a way consistent with the dignity of persons who, by their very nature as rational beings, take responsibility for their own actions.
Peace is not a dream or something utopian; it is possible. Our gaze needs to go deeper, beneath superficial appearances and phenomena, to discern a positive reality which exists in human hearts, since every man and woman has been created in the image of God and is called to grow and contribute to the building of a new world. God himself, through the incarnation of his Son and his work of redemption, has entered into history and has brought about a new creation and a new covenant between God and man (cf. Jer 31:31-34), thus enabling us to have a “new heart” and a “new spirit” (cf. Ez 36:26).
For this very reason the Church is convinced of the urgency of a new proclamation of Jesus Christ, the first and fundamental factor of the integral development of peoples and also of peace. Jesus is indeed our peace, our justice and our reconciliation (cf. Eph 2:14; 2 Cor 5:18). The peacemaker, according to Jesus’ beatitude, is the one who seeks the good of the other, the fullness of good in body and soul, today and tomorrow.
From this teaching one can infer that each person and every community, whether religious, civil, educational or cultural, is called to work for peace. Peace is principally the attainment of the common good in society at its different levels, primary and intermediary, national, international and global. Precisely for this reason it can be said that the paths which lead to the attainment of the common good are also the paths that must be followed in the pursuit of peace.
Peacemakers are those who love, defend and promote life in its fullness
4. The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.
Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not realize that in this way they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace. The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so the killing of a defenceless and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace. Indeed how could one claim to bring about peace, the integral development of peoples or even the protection of the environment without defending the life of those who are weakest, beginning with the unborn. Every offence against life, especially at its beginning, inevitably causes irreparable damage to development, peace and the environment. Neither is it just to introduce surreptitiously into legislation false rights or freedoms which, on the basis of a reductive and relativistic view of human beings and the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia, pose a threat to the fundamental right to life.
There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.
These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation. Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.
Consequently, another important way of helping to build peace is for legal systems and the administration of justice to recognize the right to invoke the principle of conscientious objection in the face of laws or government measures that offend against human dignity, such as abortion and euthanasia.
One of the fundamental human rights, also with reference to international peace, is the right of individuals and communities to religious freedom. At this stage in history, it is becoming increasingly important to promote this right not only from the negative point of view, as freedom from – for example, obligations or limitations involving the freedom to choose one’s religion – but also from the positive point of view, in its various expressions, as freedom for – for example, bearing witness to one’s religion, making its teachings known, engaging in activities in the educational, benevolent and charitable fields which permit the practice of religious precepts, and existing and acting as social bodies structured in accordance with the proper doctrinal principles and institutional ends of each. Sadly, even in countries of long-standing Christian tradition, instances of religious intolerance are becoming more numerous, especially in relation to Christianity and those who simply wear identifying signs of their religion.
Peacemakers must also bear in mind that, in growing sectors of public opinion, the ideologies of radical liberalism and technocracy are spreading the conviction that economic growth should be pursued even to the detriment of the state’s social responsibilities and civil society’s networks of solidarity, together with social rights and duties. It should be remembered that these rights and duties are fundamental for the full realization of other rights and duties, starting with those which are civil and political.
One of the social rights and duties most under threat today is the right to work. The reason for this is that labour and the rightful recognition of workers’ juridical status are increasingly undervalued, since economic development is thought to depend principally on completely free markets. Labour is thus regarded as a variable dependent on economic and financial mechanisms. In this regard, I would reaffirm that human dignity and economic, social and political factors, demand that we continue “to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.” If this ambitious goal is to be realized, one prior condition is a fresh outlook on work, based on ethical principles and spiritual values that reinforce the notion of work as a fundamental good for the individual, for the family and for society. Corresponding to this good are a duty and a right that demand courageous new policies of universal employment.
Building the good of peace through a new model of development and economics 5. In many quarters it is now recognized that a new model of development is needed, as well as a new approach to the economy. Both integral, sustainable development in solidarity and the common good require a correct scale of goods and values which can be structured with God as the ultimate point of reference. It is not enough to have many different means and choices at one’s disposal, however good these may be. Both the wide variety of goods fostering development and the presence of a wide range of choices must be employed against the horizon of a good life, an upright conduct that acknowledges the primacy of the spiritual and the call to work for the common good. Otherwise they lose their real value, and end up becoming new idols.
In order to emerge from the present financial and economic crisis – which has engendered ever greater inequalities – we need people, groups and institutions which will promote life by fostering human creativity, in order to draw from the crisis itself an opportunity for discernment and for a new economic model. The predominant model of recent decades called for seeking maximum profit and consumption, on the basis of an individualistic and selfish mindset, aimed at considering individuals solely in terms of their ability to meet the demands of competitiveness. Yet, from another standpoint, true and lasting success is attained through the gift of ourselves, our intellectual abilities and our entrepreneurial skills, since a “liveable” or truly human economic development requires the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity and the logic of gift.
Concretely, in economic activity, peacemakers are those who establish bonds of fairness and reciprocity with their colleagues, workers, clients and consumers. They engage in economic activity for the sake of the common good and they experience this commitment as something transcending their self-interest, for the benefit of present and future generations. Thus they work not only for themselves, but also to ensure for others a future and a dignified employment.
In the economic sector, states in particular need to articulate policies of industrial and agricultural development concerned with social progress and the growth everywhere of constitutional and democratic states. The creation of ethical structures for currency, financial and commercial markets is also fundamental and indispensable; these must be stabilized and better coordinated and controlled so as not to prove harmful to the very poor. With greater resolve than has hitherto been the case, the concern of peacemakers must also focus upon the food crisis, which is graver than the financial crisis. The issue of food security is once more central to the international political agenda, as a result of interrelated crises, including sudden shifts in the price of basic foodstuffs, irresponsible behaviour by some economic actors and insufficient control on the part of governments and the international community. To face this crisis, peacemakers are called to work together in a spirit of solidarity, from the local to the international level, with the aim of enabling farmers, especially in small rural holdings, to carry out their activity in a dignified and sustainable way from the social, environmental and economic points of view.
Education for a culture of peace: the role of the family and institutions
6. I wish to reaffirm forcefully that the various peacemakers are called to cultivate a passion for the common good of the family and for social justice, and a commitment to effective social education. No one should ignore or underestimate the decisive role of the family, which is the basic cell of society from the demographic, ethical, pedagogical, economic and political standpoints. The family has a natural vocation to promote life: it accompanies individuals as they mature and it encourages mutual growth and enrichment through caring and sharing. The Christian family in particular serves as a seedbed for personal maturation according to the standards of divine love. The family is one of the indispensable social subjects for the achievement of a culture of peace. The rights of parents and their primary role in the education of their children in the area of morality and religion must be safeguarded. It is in the family that peacemakers, tomorrow’s promoters of a culture of life and love, are born and nurtured.
Religious communities are involved in a special way in this immense task of education for peace. The Church believes that she shares in this great responsibility as part of the new evangelization, which is centred on conversion to the truth and love of Christ and, consequently, the spiritual and moral rebirth of individuals and societies. Encountering Jesus Christ shapes peacemakers, committing them to fellowship and to overcoming injustice.
Cultural institutions, schools and universities have a special mission of peace. They are called to make a notable contribution not only to the formation of new generations of leaders, but also to the renewal of public institutions, both national and international. They can also contribute to a scientific reflection which will ground economic and financial activities on a solid anthropological and ethical basis. Today’s world, especially the world of politics, needs to be sustained by fresh thinking and a new cultural synthesis so as to overcome purely technical approaches and to harmonize the various political currents with a view to the common good. The latter, seen as an ensemble of positive interpersonal and institutional relationships at the service of the integral growth of individuals and groups, is at the basis of all true education for peace.
A pedagogy for peacemakers
7. In the end, we see clearly the need to propose and promote a pedagogy of peace. This calls for a rich interior life, clear and valid moral points of reference, and appropriate attitudes and lifestyles. Acts of peacemaking converge for the achievement of the common good; they create interest in peace and cultivate peace. Thoughts, words and gestures of peace create a mentality and a culture of peace, and a respectful, honest and cordial atmosphere. There is a need, then, to teach people to love one another, to cultivate peace and to live with good will rather than mere tolerance. A fundamental encouragement to this is “to say no to revenge, to recognize injustices, to accept apologies without looking for them, and finally, to forgive”, in such a way that mistakes and offences can be acknowledged in truth, so as to move forward together towards reconciliation. This requires the growth of a pedagogy of pardon. Evil is in fact overcome by good, and justice is to be sought in imitating God the Father who loves all his children (cf. Mt 5:21-48). This is a slow process, for it presupposes a spiritual evolution, an education in lofty values, a new vision of human history. There is a need to renounce that false peace promised by the idols of this world along with the dangers which accompany it, that false peace which dulls consciences, which leads to self-absorption, to a withered existence lived in indifference. The pedagogy of peace, on the other hand, implies activity, compassion, solidarity, courage and perseverance.
Jesus embodied all these attitudes in his own life, even to the complete gift of himself, even to “losing his life” (cf. Mt 10:39; Lk 17:33; Jn 12:25). He promises his disciples that sooner or later they will make the extraordinary discovery to which I originally alluded, namely that God is in the world, the God of Jesus, fully on the side of man. Here I would recall the prayer asking God to make us instruments of his peace, to be able to bring his love wherever there is hatred, his mercy wherever there is hurt, and true faith wherever there is doubt. For our part, let us join Blessed John XXIII in asking God to enlighten all leaders so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may secure for them the precious gift of peace, break down the walls which divide them, strengthen the bonds of mutual love, grow in understanding, and pardon those who have done them wrong; in this way, by his power and inspiration all the peoples of the earth will experience fraternity, and the peace for which they long will ever flourish and reign among them.
With this prayer I express my hope that all will be true peacemakers, so that the city of man may grow in fraternal harmony, prosperity and peace.
From the Vatican, 8 December 2012
BENEDICTUS PP XVI
Mon 26th Nov: St John Berchmans SJ
Apoc 14:1-5 (Ps 23) & Luke 21:1-4
6pm St Catherine’s College Mass
Tue 27th Nov
Apoc 14:14-19 (Ps 95) & Luke 21:5-11
6pm St Hugh’s College Mass
Wed 28th Nov
Apoc 15:1-4 (Ps 97) & Luke 21:12-19
7pm Lectio Divina: Prayerful reading of the Scriptures
Thu 29th Nov
Apoc 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9(Ps 99) & Luke 21:20-28
12.30pm‘ Rooted and Grounded in Love: Benedict’s legacy for us today’
Canon Dr Vincent Strudwick, Historical Theologian
6pm Advent Carol Service followed by
7pm CathSoc Christmas Party
Fri 30th Nov: St Andrew
Rom 10:9-18 (Ps 11) & Matt 4:18-22
1.45pm CAFOD soup lunch
Sat 1st Dec: St Edmund Campion,
St Robert Southwell, St Alexander Briant, St Nicholas Owen & Comp. SJ martyrs
Isaiah 53:3-11 (Ps 15) & John 17:11-21
11.15am – 11.45am Confessions
Sun 2nd Dec: First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1Thes 3:12-4:2 (Ps 24) & Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
5.30pm Spanish Mass
5.45pm No Mass
Morning Prayer Mon – Fri 8.00am – 8.15am
Silent Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
Mon – Fri 7.30am – 8.00am
Mon – Wed, Fri 5.15pm – 5.45pm
Thurs Holy Hour 6.00pm – 7.00pm
Christmas Vacation Highlights
Sunday Mass 9am, 11am (sung)
Weekday Mass Mon-Fri 1.15pm; Sat: 12noon
Fri 14 Dec 7pm Taizé Prayer
Mon 24 Dec 11.30pm Carols, Mass at Midnight
Tue 25 Dec Christmas Day Mass at 11am only
No Masses from Wed 26 Dec to Sat 5 Jan inclusive
Sun 6th Jan 2013 0th week
Masses at 9am, 11am & 5.45pm
Sun 13th Jan Hilary Full term starts
Today is the 23rd anniversary of the martyrdom in El Salvador of six Jesuit priests together with their house-keeper and her 15 year-old daughter. In the early hours of the 16th of November 1989 the Jesuits were dragged out of their beds by a detachment of soldiers from the crack Atlacatl Batallion trained in and funded by the United States. The soldiers made them lie on the ground in our university campus and were then ordered to shoot them in cold blood by Lieutenant José Ricardo Espinosa who had been a student of one of them at our Jesuit high school, the Externado San José. They then went and shot the two women who were sleeping in a parlour attached to the residence so that there would be no witnesses.
Who were these Jesuits ? There was the university rector Ignacio Ellacuría, an internationally known philosopher and tireless in his efforts to promote peace through his writings, conferences and travels abroad; Segundo Montes, dean of the sociology department and director of the University Institute of Human Rights which tried to help the families and relatives of those who had been assassinated, disappeared or imprisoned; Ignacio Martín Baró, a pioneering social psychologist who headed the Psychology Department; theology professors Juan Ramón Moreno and Amando López; and Joaquin López y López, the only native Salvadoran of the group and founding head of the Fe y Alegría network of schools for the poor. Julia Elba Ramos, wife of the caretaker at the UCA and her daughter Celina were sleeping that night at the UCA since they felt it would be safer than their cottage on the edge of the campus.
Why were they killed ? The reason was no different from that of the martyrdom in 1977 of the Jesuit Rutilio Grande, or the assassination three years later of Archbishop Romero or of the four American sisters Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Jean Donovan. They all shed their blood with tens of thousands of lesser-known civilian victims of El Salvador’s civil war of 1981 to 1992. They were looking for peace, but the peace they longed for was not peace at any price. They were one with Archbishop Romero who, shortly before his martyrdom, declared: “Let it be quite clear that if we are being asked to collaborate with a pseudo-peace, a false order, based on repression and fear, we must recall that the only order and the only peace that God wants is one based on truth and justice”.
The killings at the UCA took place during a major guerrilla offensive that began on Saturday November 11th 1989. Ellacuría returned to El Salvador from Spain the following Monday. A few hours after he arrived at the UCA, a commando unit of the Atlacatl Battalion, mentioned above, searched the Jesuit residence. It was clearly a reconnaissance. Two days later the High Command of the armed forces gathered at their headquarters a kilometre away from the UCA. In fear of losing the capital city, and perhaps the war, they decided to rocket the poor communities where the guerrillas were now entrenched and to act on a long hit list of civilians critical of the government and the armed forces. Almost all on this death list, including labour leaders, opposition politicians and some clergy, had gone into hiding once the offensive began. The six Jesuits did not.
Even after the Monday search, Ellacuría prevailed on his brothers to remain at their UCA residence. They had nothing to hide, they had done nothing wrong; nor were they members of the FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front) guerrilla movement. The accusations – that the UCA stored weapons and trained guerrillas – were patently false. And, with the campus surrounded by soldiers protecting the military installations close by, any harm done to them would be blamed on the army. It was a logical argument: yet, as frequently happens in wartime, unreason prevailed. Shortly after the Wednesday night meeting of the High Command, and with the apparent approval of the President, the Atlacatl Unit returned to the UCA to murder the Jesuits and the two women. The soldiers simulated a military confrontation, leaving over 200 spent cartridges, to make it look as if the Jesuits had fallen in combat. But they also split open Ellacuría’s head and spread his brains on the grass to make it clear why he had been killed.
Why were they killed ? Like many others, the UCA martyrs were killed for the way they lived, that is, for how they lived their religious faith, how they expressed their faith in love. They stood for a new kind of university, a new kind of society, a ‘new’ church. Together with their lay colleagues, they wrestled with the ambiguities of their university in a country where only a tiny minority finished elementary school and still fewer could meet the required academic standards to enter university and to pay the tuition fees. The Jesuits and their colleagues concluded that they could not limit their mission to teaching and innocuous research. They did their best to steeply scale tuition charges according to students’ family income. More importantly, they sought countless ways to unmask the lies that justified the pervasive injustice and the continuing violence, and they made constructive proposals for a just peace and a more humane social order. As a university of Christian inspiration, they felt compelled to serve the truth in this way. That is what got them killed.
Jon Sobrino, who would have been killed with them had he not been away giving a Scripture course in Thailand, expresses this very clearly in their new understanding of what a university should be and do in a situation of chronic injustice. He says: “The University should become incarnate among the poor, it should become science for those who have no science, the clear voice of those who have no voice, the intellectual support of those whose very reality makes them true and right and reasonable, even though this sometimes takes the form of having nothing, but who cannot call upon academic reasons to justify themselves”. This is precisely what the Salvadoran Jesuits did and it led to their death. Sobrino again: “They murdered these Jesuit academics because they made the university an effective instrument in defence of the mass of the people, because they had become the critical conscience in a society of sin and the creative awareness of a future society that would be different, the utopia of God’s kingdom for the poor. They were killed for trying to create a truly Christian university. They were killed because they believed in the God of the poor and tried to produce this faith through the university”. And he adds: “Truth told, analysed and presented in a university and Christian way, this is a kind of university that the idols will not tolerate”.
Who was responsible for the killing ? The report by the Archdiocesan Legal Aid Office (Tutela Legal) concludes after 38 pages of analysis that “All the evidence, taken together, establishes that those responsible for the murder of the six Jesuit priests and the two domestic workers were elements belonging to the Armed Forces”. And it goes on to point out: “It is difficult to explain how, in an area which was totally controlled and guarded by soldiers – who had already searched the house two days before and asked which Jesuits lived there – at 2.30 in the morning, in a state of siege and martial law, a large number of persons, about 30, could freely enter the house, remain there for a long time, murder eight people and destroy part of the building’s installations, using lights, making a lot of noise and causing a visible fire, without being interrupted by soldiers in the immediate vicinity, and leave afterwards unchallenged. Furthermore witnesses present have testified that they saw these 30 men dressed in military uniform. Indeed – ironically and tragically – the Jesuits stayed in the house to sleep – despite their fear, reasonable in the light of their experience, that a bomb might be planted – precisely because the area was surrounded by many soldiers and they felt it was unthinkable that in these circumstances anyone would dare to make a physical attack on the house because it would be obvious who was responsible”. It could not have been more evident who in fact was responsible. The Jesuits realised well the danger they were in but this did not hinder them from carrying out what they saw as their duty.
They had made a similar choice once before in El Salvador when, in the late 1970s, they were told to leave the country within thirty days or be ready to face death at the hands of right-wing death squads. It was then that the slogan “Be a patriot, kill a priest” was daubed on buildings all over the capital. The Jesuits decided to stay since they felt the people needed them. As a result, some were banished, others tortured and Rutilio Grande was assassinated with an old man and young boy as he was on his way with them to celebrate Mass. The six Jesuits who died in 1989 made the same choice. Earlier that year, the Catholic University (UCA) was one of the principal partners in a national debate on peace which was sponsored by the Archbishop of San Salvador. After ten years of bitter civil war, which had cost the lives of more than 70,000 people, mostly civilians, women and children, the overwhelming conclusion was that the only hope for peace lay, not in military victory by either side, but in talks and negotiations. The UCA, and Ignacio Ellacuría in particular, played a leading role in promoting these negotiations. It was a long and complex process which the El Salvador government, aided and abetted by the USA, by then sending the country a sum approaching two million dollars a day, most of which was spent on arms such as the helicopter gunships by which thousands of innocent civilian were killed, both opposed attempts for peace. But the assassination of the six made a huge impact throughout the world and was a major factor in eventually leading to peace.
Personally I knew all six of the Jesuits as well as Julia Elba and her daughter Celina. I had lived with them for three years in El Salvador but by the time of their assassination was back in the UK attempting to be provincial of the British Jesuits. One day, shortly after the assassination, I was visited by three Scotland Yard detectives on their way to El Salvador to investigate their murder at the request of President Cristiani. They promised to get to the bottom of the crime and report back on their return. But it was the last I saw of them. And Colonel Guillermo Benavides, directly responsible for organising the assassination, though arrested and charged, was ‘confined’ in a luxury hotel near a beach and then released. The judge who tried him and found him guilty had to flee the country with his family after an assassination attempt in his own house. One of the better-known death squads threatened they would “physically eliminate all persons, lay or religious, in or out of the government, who are involved in this case”. The reason they gave was: “Never before in the history of El Salvador has a military man been brought to trial… No military man has been or should be subject to any law of the Republic”.
I end with the following assessment Jon Sobrino makes of the six martyrs. “I would like to say a few words about what impressed me most in these Jesuits as a group – although of course there were differences between them. I would like to suggest what is their most important legacy to us. Before all else they were human beings, Salvadorans, who tried to live honestly and responsibly in the midst of the tragedy and hope of El Salvador. This may not seem adequate praise for glorious martyrs, but it is where I want to start, because living in the midst of the situation of El Salvador, as in that of any part of the third world, is before all else a matter of humanity, a demand on all to respond with honesty to a dehumanising situation, which cries out for life and which is inherently an inescapable challenge to our own humanity. These Jesuits, then, were human in a very Salvadoran way, solid, not like reeds to be swayed by any wind. They worked from dawn to dusk and now will have presented themselves before God with their calloused hands, maybe not from physical work, but certainly from work of all sorts: classes, writing, the important if monotonous work of administration ,masses, retreats, talks, interviews, journeys and lectures abroad…. They were men of spirit, although outwardly they were not ‘spiritual’ in the conventional sense… Above all I want to call these Jesuits ‘men with spirit’. And this spirit showed itself, as St Ignatius recommends in the meditation to attain love, ‘more in deeds than in words’…. It was above all, a spirit of service. If anything emerges clearly from this community, it is their work, to the point where they called us fanatics. But it was work that was really service. In this they were certainly outstanding disciples of St. Ignatius”.
It is a tardy though entirely fitting tribute that Mauricio Funes, the new President of El Salvador, has publicly recognised the six Jesuit martyrs as eminent citizens who rendered extraordinary service to their country, and awarded them the National Order of José Matias Delgado, the highest decoration it can give. As he said: “We can’t understand our country or recognise ourselves as a community if we ignore our common past, and our martyrs, their pains and joys, their bloody struggles and above all, in this case, their extraordinary contribution to this country”.
M C-J SJ
Sun 18 Nov 33rd in the Year
11am Fr Simon Bishop SJ (Chaplain)
Tue 20 Nov 6pm Brasenose College Mass
8.15pm God in the Lab: Faith for Scientists:
Prof Sir Martin Taylor FRS,
Warden Merton College
Wed 21 Nov 7pm Lectio Divina
Thu 22 Nov 5-6pm Cake and Catechism with Fr Simon SJ
6-7pm Holy Hour & Adoration
Fri 23 Nov 1.45pm CAFOD soup lunch
7pm President’s Dinner
From the College Mass in Teddy Hall, Monday 29th October, in the 12th century crypt where, it is thought, St Edmund of Abingdon, may also have celebrated Mass.[gallery link="file" columns="1" orderby="title"]
Sun 11th Nov: Remembrance Sunday
9am Fr Dushan Croos SJ
11am Fr Peter Newby
(Parish Priest St Mary Moorfield, London)
5.45pm Fr Prem Fernando
(Chaplain Oxford Brookes University)
1 Kings 17:10-16 9Ps 145) & Heb 9:24-28
Mon 12th Nov: St Josaphat
Titus 1:1-9 (Ps 23) & Luke 17:1-6
6pm Hertford College Mass
Tue 13th Nov: St Stanislaus Kostka SJ
Titus 2:1-8, 11-14 (Ps 36) & Luke 17:7-10
Wed 14th Nov: St Joseph Pignatelli SJ
Titus 3:1-7 (PS 22) & Luke 17:11-19
6pm Oriel College Mass
7pm Lectio Divina: Prayerful reading of the Scriptures
8.30pm Taizé Prayer at St Peters Chapel
Thu 15th Nov: St Albert the Great, BD
Philemon 7-20 (Ps 145) & Luke 17:20-25
12:30pm St Giles Lunch Talk
‘Benedict’s Rule outside the cloister
Balancing the active and contemplative life’
Emma Pennington, Parish Priest, Scholar of Mediaeval Christian Spirituality
5-6pm Cake and Catechism with Fr Simon SJ
6pm Worcester College Mass
6-7pm Holy Hour & Adoration
7pm CathSoc Gratin Dauphinois
8pm Karibuni Africa: Meeting the faith on the soil of Tanzania
Fri 16th Nov: Ss Roch Gonzalez, P and Companinons SJ
2 John 4-9 (Ps 118)& Luke 17:26-37
1.45pm CAFOD soup lunch
6pm Fr Michael Campbell – Johnston SJ
Mass for Salvadorean Martyrs of the University of Central America (1989)
8pm Fr Michael Campbell – Johnston SJ
Will speak at greater length in the blue room
7pm Taizé Prayer
Sat 17th Nov: St Elizabeth of Hungary
3 John 5-8 (Ps 111) & Luke 18:1-8
11.15am – 11.45am Confessions
Sun 18th Nov: 33rd of the Year
Dan 12:1-3 (Ps 15) & Heb 10:11-14, 18
Morning Prayer Mon – Fri 8.00am – 8.15am
Silent Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
Mon – Fri 7.30am – 8.00am
Mon – Wed, Fri 5.15pm – 5.45pm
Thurs Holy Hour 6.00pm – 7.00pm