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Soul Mending

By Yvonne Zarowny


Non-engagement in today’s world is as political as ‘faith-in-action’ engagement

Mary Deutscher

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice for they shall be satisfied.”   — Matthew 5:6
Will those thirsting for justice be satisfied? Will that satisfaction be in this life or the next?
What is the role of those of us who aspire to be disciples of Jesus the Nazarene in ensuring those in need of justice/righteousness receive it?
According to the American Episcopalian theologian Marcus Borg, any reference to justice or righteousness in our scripture is to social justice or “right relationship.”  That is, our social structures should generate life with dignity for all God’s Creation.
According to Jesus and our social teachings, if they don’t we are to engage to transform them so they do.  
On Jan. 8, the theologians advising the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes declared Salvador’s Archbishop Romero was assassinated “in hatred for the faith.”    
While I am pleased with this declaration, I consider it “clever” — but disingenuous if there is no serious followup. 
Romero and numerous others were assassinated because of hatred by the powerful of their faith-in-action on behalf of the poor, marginalized and disenfranchised. They believed, as disciples of Jesus and in accordance with our teachings, they were to be prayer-filled vehicles through which the Divine satisfies those thirsting for justice or righteousness — in this life. 
These can be murky waters.
Last fall, both my pastor and I were on “Catholic” pilgrimages.  He was chaplain on one to Israel/Palestine. Mine included Jordan. However, they were different in more than the land covered.
In a recent conversation with him, I shared how difficult Advent and Christmas were for me. There was not one mention or prayer request for the suffering of the “living stones” of the areas we romanticize and mythologize this time of year. 
It turns out his tour guide did not even point out how one could tell Palestinian establishments from Israeli. 
The Israeli government allows Palestinians to have water only once every 20 days. Also, Palestinian electricity can be interrupted at any time — even in schools, clinics and hospitals. Consequently, all Palestinian residences and institutions have water tanks and solar panels on their roofs — including those in Jerusalem.  
And the Palestinians have no bougainvillea. Bougainvillea flowers are plentiful in Israeli gardens. Bougainvillea requires water. I came to really dislike bougainvillea as it came to symbolize for me, injustice.
I had the good fortune to stay at the Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame in East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is supposed to be part of the Palestinian territory. 
We had no water or electricity concerns.
The institute has a roof-top restaurant with an amazing view of Jerusalem. This includes the buildings all around it which are Palestinian. Their roofs were covered with water tanks and solar panels. There is no bougainvillea.
My pastor was brought to this restaurant to see the “view.” However, he was unable see the injustice before his eyes. He had not been educated to “read” the landscape. Therefore he was unable to “see” an indicator of the injustices about him. Therefore he was unable to be a vehicle through which Spirit works to right this injustice.
Although of a good heart, his eyes had not been opened.
If we are to be vehicles through which the Divine satisfies the deep hunger and thirst for justice we need to be able to “see” it both here at home as well as abroad.
Then we need to be able to discern for ourselves as well as together with others, our “faith-in-action” response — like Romero did. For that we need guidance.
We need for the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops to reinstate their Office of Social Justice. And we need for dioceses to reinstate their Justice and Life Ministry offices which have largely disappeared. 
Too many laity and priests, like mine, have no training or background in social justice. They have no skill in discerning for themselves or facilitating others appropriate faith-in-action responses.
Many experience the thought of engaging societies to transform them to ones generating life with dignity as stress-inducing and “political.”
It is less stressful to concern oneself with liturgies and handouts to the poor or emergency aid to the increasing number of “natural disasters.” They erroneous think this is “not” political.  
Of course, non-engagement is just as political as “faith-in-action” engagement. One supports the status quo while the other challenges it so the realities generated enable life with dignity for all God’s Creation.  
However, if our faith formation does not help us “see” injustice and the lack of right relationship, how are we to be vehicles for Spirit to work through us to satisfy the increasing thirst for justice in our world today? 
How are we to be soul-menders?