Embracing the Rejected

Worth Revisiting Wednesday! This post originally appeared on March 12, 2014.

Studying theology invigorates the mind and soul but sometimes, unfortunately, it can also distract us from God…or perhaps even hide Him.  January 23 was the feast of St. Marianne Cope (1838-1918), canonized 20 October 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. With all the media’s attention on Pope Francis (and rightly so!), it might help to recall one of the saints elevated by our Pope Emeritus.  Amid all the constant scandal and political chatter, St. Marianne’s example gives us a great reason to reflect on God’s love for those whom the world has rejected. From Twitter, January 23:

Community of Grace ‏@communitygrace Today is the Feast of St. Marianne Cope of Hawaii who risked her life to bring Christ to those whom the world abandoned. #saintoftheday  

Exactly. At age 45, St. Marianne took six of her Franciscan sisters from Syracuse, New York, 20140311-212746.jpgto minister to the leper colony isolated on Hawaii’s Molokai Island.  She had worked in a factory to support her younger siblings and then, after joining the Franciscan sisters, founded hospitals welcoming all patients, including alcoholics and single mothers, in Utica and Syracuse.  St. Marianne was no stranger to helping those whom everybody else had rejected.  She lived another twenty-five years working on Molokai, helping St. Damien DeVeuster build a community where previously leprosy patients had lived in abject poverty.

In an age where we obsess over Super Bowl performances, celebrity arrests, and viral videos, St. Marianne’s quiet heroism reminds us of what the Gospel can accomplish…precisely where nobody else is paying attention.  However, Gaudium et Spes, the crowning statement of Vatican II, opened by declaring the Church’s desire to share the Gospel with the world and in so doing embrace the hopes and concerns of all.  Theology students know that. St. Marianne’s life offers a sobering—and inspiring!—commitment to do just that. Of course, it is not easy, but St. Marianne (and Vatican II!) knew that…and embraced the rejected anyway.

Learn more at http://blessedmariannecope.org/index.html

Jeffrey Marlett teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online. Follow his blog, Spiritual Diabetes.

Immigration and the Kingdom of God

Worth Revisiting Wednesday! This post originally appeared on March 26, 2014.

Recently, I was fortunate to attend a lecture on the theology of migration by Fr. Daniel Groody (Notre Dame) at St. Peter’s Church in Charlotte, NC. The following quotation from his article in Theological Studies indicates the themes:

The visio Dei [vision of God] also challenges people to move beyond an identity based on a narrow sense of national, racial, or psychological territoriality. It holds out instead the possibility of defining life on much more expansive spiritual terrain consistent with the kingdom of God. Corresponding with the positive dimensions of globalization that foster interconnection, it challenges any form of ideological, political, religious or social provincialism that blinds people from seeing the interrelated nature of reality. http://www3.nd.edu/~dgroody/Published%20Works/Journal%20Articles/files/TSSeptember09Groody.pdf

I began thinking of how the Gospel of Luke explores similar issues. On Gabriel’s announcement of her upcoming pregnancy, Mary’s response is to ask an intelligent question to this oddly invasive and unsolicited migration of God. “The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you’” (Lk 1:35), the same image as the presence of God filling the tent of meeting (Ex 40.34); in other words, Gabriel uses the image of God migrating with the Hebrew people after leaving Egypt. Only then does Mary make a commitment to the kingdom of God rather than to social custom. The requirements to build the kingdom of God, foretold in covenantal theology, trump the local laws of humans.

This commitment sets a tone for the Gospel, in which we see various examples of those who will, and who won’t, migrate with the kingdom of God. We find, for example, a parable of a man with excess grain. Surprised by unexpected bounty, the man asks himself (not God, not his priest, not his neighbor): “What should do, for have no place to store my crops…” (Lk 12.12). His first person soliloquy continues; then he is condemned as a fool by God. This man won’t budge an inch from his own concerns, and by staying stationary in every way, refuses to see “the interrelated nature of reality” and thus rejects all covenant relationships. In contrast, outcast and tax collector Zaccheus breaks strict social rules in several ways, and Jesus responds in like manner. The encounter outside the boundaries creates conversion, and salvation came to that house (Lk 19.10).

Pamela Hedrick teaches Sacred Scripture for Saint Joseph’s College Online.