Monday, November 3, 2014

Promoting Justice

One summer in the village, the people gathered for a picnic. As they shared food and conversation, someone noticed a baby in the river, struggling and crying. The baby was going to drown!  Someone rushed to save the baby. Then, they noticed another screaming baby in the river, and they pulled that baby out. Soon, more babies were seen drowning in the river, and the townspeople were pulling them out as fast as they could. It took great effort, and they began to organize their activities in order to save the babies as they came down the river. As everyone else was busy in the rescue efforts to save the babies, two of the townspeople started to run away along the shore of the river. “Where are you going?” shouted one of the rescuers. “We need you here to help us save these babies!” “We are going upstream to stop whoever is throwing them in!”

This is a parable you might be familiar with, but illustrates parts of the mission of the Province of Saint Barbara.  As Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara we are dedicated to serving the poor by providing food, clothing, housing, and social services.  These activities are traditionally called the corporal works of mercy by the Church. It is our way to share the mercy and love of God and for us to experience the mercy and love of God through the poor and marginalized.  The peace prayer ascribed to St. Francis of Assisi beautifully illustrates this; it is in giving that we receive.   

This week we reflected on the second part of this parable, the two men running upstream to stop whoever is throwing the babies in the river.  As Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara we are dedicated to promoting justice.  What is justice? 

Justice is a central theme that is pervasive throughout the Bible.  Justice calls for the fair and equitable distribution of life's necessities.  The scriptural idea of justice is based in the truth that all human beings have dignity, worth and are children of God.  Therefore, God created human beings to live in a society of justice, in which everyone would receive everything necessary for life (Gen 1:29). 

The Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara work to address the structural causes in our society that prevent others from receiving what is necessary for life.  The prophets also declared that God defended the poor, the oppressed and those who had experienced injustice (Am 5:11-12).  This is our call as Franciscans too, to be defenders of the poor and marginalized.  However, we don't simply stop there, Jesus also proclaimed that the wealthy were obligated to see the poor and take care of them (Lk 16:19-31).  Franciscans work among the wealthy too; we help them see the marginalized and provide opportunities for them to share their time, talent and treasures in benefit of the poor.

We are all called to promote justice, but as Franciscan it is a central part of our life.  If you are interested in our way of life you'll need to test your abilities and clarify your desires to serve the poor and marginalized by promoting justice.  Start by searching out opportunities to promote justice.

As you volunteer or work in this field you'll again need to become aware of the movements of consolation and desolation before, during, and after engaging in each political action, march, rally, organizing event, etc...  As you reflect on your experience you'll ask:  Did I experience desolation?  Did I feel weary, dry and dissatisfied?  Did I feel consolation?  Did I feel cheerful and satisfied?  Was I able to engage in these activities with a joyful and generous heart?  These two movements well help reveal the movement of the Holy Spirit in your discernment process.  Read the blog post "Consolation and Desolation" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, take your experiences and engage in theological reflection.  Theological reflection is an essential ingredient in the process of spiritual discernment.  It holds the possibility of discerning God's presence and/or direction.  It's the process of standing before your experience 'open' to what may or may not be revealed through the lens of faith.  Read the blog post "Theological Reflection" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Next, share you experiences with your spiritual director and/or vocation director.  This person will listen to your story with an ear for the movement of the Holy, of the Divine.  They will also help you discern between your voice, the world (family, culture, and society) and God's voice within your experiences and theological reflection.  Read the blog post "Spiritual Direction" for more information on using this discernment tool.

Lastly, remember to be nourished by the Word and the Eucharist at Mass in order to be sent forth in mission to love and serve the Lord.  Read the blog post "Freely You Have Received, Freely Give" for more information on why Mass is important for discernment.

At this stage in the journey you are trying to put on the "habit" of serving the poor and marginalized by promoting justice.  You're trying to see if you have the abilities and the desire to work towards justice as a possible religious brother or priest.  Through this process you will ultimately ask, "Am I called to love and be loved as a religious brother or priest through caring for the poor and marginalized by promoting justice?"

This work is not easy, but it's the love of God that sustains and nourishes us in this work.

Peace and all good,
Bro. Scott Slattum, OFM

Catholic disciples on mission are called to put Two Feet of Love in Action! This foundational tool describes two distinct, but complementary, ways we can put the Gospel in action in response to God's love: social justice (addressing systemic, root causes of problems that affect many people) and charitable works (short-term, emergency assistance for individuals).  Download the Program.

Personal Reflection:

To begin the discernment process you'll need to reflect upon your abilities, talents, and experiences.  Then you'll ask, "Can these gifts be used in the mission of the Franciscan friars of the Province of Saint Barbara to promote justice for the poor and marginalized?"  How have you or will you promote justice in your community?

Contact Information:

Franciscan Friars
Office of Vocations
1500 34th Ave
Oakland, CA 94601
Phone:  (408) 903-3422

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