Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Challenge of the the 2016 Elections

We find ourselves immersed in the debate that will conclude with the election of the next president of the United States of America. The contest is between the candidates of the nation’s largest and most traditional political parties: the candidate for the Republican party, Donald Trump, and that of the Democrats, Hillary Clinton.

The Republican party, traditionally conservative and allied with the powerful interests that have sustained the capitalist system and promoted the material and economic success of this great nation, faces today, with their candidate Trump — among others — two serious problems. On the one hand, he promotes discrimination and intolerance; on the other, this candidate does not belong to the traditional political structure of the Republican party.

The discourse of Trump gathers and exploits the worst sentiments of those who, like himself, forget the condition of immigrants while claiming to be natives and owners of a land that does not belong to them; they forget that this nation has always been a land of immigrants. It has been this so-called melting pot, precisely, that has enabled America to become a powerful nation before the rest of the world. It is for this reason that this discourse becomes populist, demagogic, hurtful and dangerous for the political and social stability of the United States and the world.

The party of the Democrats, on the other hand, traditionally liberal and allied with the cause of the working class, those who have fewer opportunities to access the social benefits provided by this nation, has embraced — indiscriminately and finally — a series of causes and laws of a postmodernist type such as abortion or marriage between people of the same sex, that discount the traditions and fundamental human values upon which this nation was founded, like the right to life and the family; issues that, although novel, protect a few minorities and satisfy postmodern tendencies according to which each one — seeking their personal pleasure and satisfaction — build their own life as they please, distort and hide the truth in the midst of a thousand half-truths and take us dangerously close to the border of disaster with a moral relativism where it is no longer possible to discern — for the good of individuals as well as for society — what is fundamental from what is accessory, what is essential from what is accidental, what is permanent from what is transitory and ephemeral.

Given these political circumstances, succinctly described, today it is more difficult to decide for whom to vote, what person or political group to elect to guide the destiny of this nation. Today, the great majority of voters feel confused, uncertain and discouraged when it is time to choose between the political alternatives just described. Political alternatives — Democrats or Republicans — with extreme positions, both populist and equally dangerous — as we have said — for the near future of families, society, this nation and the world.

Moreover, and to worsen the political electoral atmosphere in which we find ourselves immersed, other social institutions that would have the role and the moral responsibility to orient Americans for the best political choice possible, find themselves today — as never before — discredited and, for that reason, without authority to guide us in this historical crossroad that is political, social, cultural and electoral.

We face a political choice will not be between two good proposals for the nation, or between a good proposal and a bad one; rather we find ourselves obliged to choose between them or, as they say in philosophy, to choose between the lesser of two evils.

In this situation, the electoral panorama proposed to us is very difficult and between which we must make a choice. The scene reveals the moral and spiritual decadence of our society according to which our material and economic progress as a society does not coincide with the human, moral and spiritual progress, unveiling the lack of political leaders who are well formed morally to fight for the common good and, finally, a political panorama that — for all that we have said — urges us to continue struggling in the search to establish and continue consolidating this society and nation in the grand values of humanity, such as the truth for liberty, justice for peace and solidarity for survival. Therefore, we have to choose between the lesser of two evils!

Friday, July 29, 2016

We are all responsible

The headlines and images, still fresh, show the massacre that occurred recently in the city of Orlando, Florida, here in the United States.

It was, without a doubt, a hate crime and a terrorist act. And among the thousand voices, opinions, speculations and assessments that have been made about the macabre event, I have been left thinking of a sentence from Oscar Arnulfo Romero, which - it seems to me - applies well to our current situation: "In our society, we all live as if no one is to blame, but the truth is that we are all responsible."

This is not the first time that our North American society has been shaken by an event like the massacre in Orlando, because it is not the first time in this society that a person with grave mental instability can easily access high-impact weapons that cause so much fear, so much pain, and so many regrets.    

Nor is this the first time that voices have been raised in our society both for and against gun control. But the effervescence of these debates fades like foam as the headlines for each new massacre fade, as we wait in fear of the next massacre. … And so we are growing accustomed to this reality; our hearts and memory are growing tougher, hardening. And, as the lyrics of the song go: "In the end, life goes on."

The occurrence of these acts of terrorism and massacres among us is very serious. These are cases in which the government of this nation has to examine its moral responsibility in the continued occurrences of these heinous acts such as the one that occurred in Orlando, and the ease with which anyone can, with the current legal, regular and daily access to purchase a weapon, produce such nefarious events in our society. 

The massacre in Orlando reminds us, unfortunately for the umpteenth time, that events like these require political volition in the legislation specific to the use of weapons, and, on the other hand, to achieve, equalize and balance human, moral, and spiritual growth in our society with economic and material progress, advances, and growth.
We work, we all strive for the progress and the strength, both material and economic, of this nation. We feel pride in being able to say that we all live in the most developed country, materially, in the world. But, this development and progress must correspond, simultaneously and in every situation, to development and progress humanitarianly and spiritually as well, so that we can proclaim to the world, with pride, that we also live in the earth’s most civilized nation.

The massacre in Orlando leaves much to be desired and much to ponder and question. It would seem that we have not overcome the shoot-outs we saw during the conquest of the Old West in the US. It would seem that the democratic system of which we boast and for which we are viewed as the world’s sitting expert, has serious cracks when you consider the ideals of tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

The Orlando massacre hurt its direct victims, and grieves us when we see the pain of the families of those who fell there, but it hurts, also and above all, because it confronts us with our real truths and some fundamental issues in American society: How much progress in coexistence have we achieved? How easily have we managed to tolerate, in our daily life, those who do not share our skin color, religious beliefs, political ideology, our historical and cultural history, our sexual preferences or identities, our economic situation, etc.? With how much hatred do we live in the presence of the differences of others?

Positively resolving these questions will allow us to live together, permanently, in a society that is large, prosperous, and more democratic, fairer, more humane and humanizing, more caring, more just, more livable, and more friendly -- with more hope for the future for the generations that follow us.

Leaving these fundamental issues unsolved will leave us vulnerable to face, every so often, the same painful headlines, the same tears, the same regrets and – worse still -- to continue in a coexistence full of anxieties, suspicions, prejudices, fears. ...

In either case, with our lives, with our deeds and words, with our attitudes and daily behaviors, with our anonymous works, be they small and basic or colorful and transcendental, we are all responsible for our personal and family stories as well as for our present and future as a society and nation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

EASTER: Transformation and Abundant life

On Ash Wednesday, Catholic men and women initiate a time of preparation for the celebration of the most important confession of faith and Christian rejoicing: EASTER, celebrating the RESURRECTION of JESUS CHRIST.

For Christians, since the earliest confession of faith in Jesus Christ, Easter has two fundamental meanings: NEW LIFE and ABUNDANT LIFE.

Following the death of Jesus, the early disciples experienced a transformation in their lives: although they were the same people, they were different. Many texts from the Gospels and the entire New Testament show us how TRANSFORMATION and NEW LIFE became the experience that enabled the early Christians to confess the crucified One as the LIVING ONE of all time. For example, they were no longer afraid, but valiantly preached the gospel openly around the world; they no longer felt like servants, but sons; they experienced a renewal of their minds, the way they viewed God (now as Father) and others (as brothers and sisters); they no longer felt stuck in their traditions (bound to the legal and cultural categories of the Old Testament); they were RENEWED.

Such TRANSFORMATION and NEW LIFE implies a life that is full, happy, eternal. Just as it is expressed on the lips of Jesus himself as a synthesis of his mission: “I have come that you might have LIFE and have it more ABUNDANTLY” (Jn 10,10).

These two basic aspects in the principal confession of the Christian creed contain an enormous and hope-filled program of life for every man and woman of good will and for the society and the world that we are committed to build.

Therefore, all of us must assume the daily task of becoming better human beings (“metanoia” = “conversion” as it is called in Christian theology), the task of being transformed into better citizens, fulfilling in the most practical way our professional and personal roles. We urgently need fathers and mothers who fulfill their responsibilities to the best of their ability; the same is true for students, athletes, artists, physicians, professionals in every area of knowledge, as well as politicians, legislators, business leaders, those in the armed forces, and leaders in all the social vocations. Better human beings will provide and build —in consequence— social structures that are more consonant with our better dreams and longings…[highest aspirations?]

Any diagnostic that is made today —however superficial— of our social, cultural, economic and political structures will reveal the need for change in the heart of every human being, of their principles, values, priorities, perspectives and their way of seeing others and the whole world. In the same way, a constant in social studies is the need to build a society that is more equitable, just, united, pacific, fraternal; that is to say, with lower levels of hunger, inequity, misery, violence and a thousand kinds of death.

This is where we see the true value of the central message that is transmitted to all men and women of good will in the Christian celebration of Easter through the confession of faith in the One who was crucified and rose again. Therefore, Easter is the celebration and the “step” (the meaning of the Hebrew word for Passover) from a life that is not abundant to a life that is fulfilled, from the routine of a life anchored to the past to transformed lives and social structures, renewed and full, offering and promoting abundant life to others.

May the Christian celebration of Easter be the celebration of our daily TRANSFORMATION into better men and women so that we might have social spaces full of LIFE.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas and Mercy

On December 8th, Pope Francis inaugurated this year as Jubilee Year, dedicated to contemplation and reflection on GOD’S MERCY toward us and to the requirements that his LOVE lays upon each one of Christ’s disciples in our daily life.

At the same time, during Advent, we prepare for the liturgical season of CHRISTMAS in which —once again— we commemorate the BIRTH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.

What is the message contained in this Jubilee Year of MERCY for the world, and what is the relationship between the merciful love of God for us and the season of CHRISTMAS?

Let us say in the first place that MERCY means literally “a shaking heart over the need of others”. Mercy is, according to the text of the Gospels, that which always moved Jesus to meet the needs (especially of hunger and forgiveness) of those who approached him to listen to him and follow him.

Thus we can say that if there is anything the world needs today, all of humanity, it is clear signs of compassion and mercy by people, communities and nations that have the most human resources (talents) and material goods (financial resources) to favor those who have fewer opportunities for health, education, shelter, work, and a life worth living.

The globalized world has made great advances in terms of material riches, technology and scientific progress of all kinds and yet we also perceive that such accomplishments have generated a global fringe of marginalized people and communities that are not only poor but impoverished due to the cold logic of the predominant economic structure. An impoverishment that constitutes a shame, an affront to the persons and the nations that manage the power, the riches and the technical and scientific resources.

This unjust, unequal and inhuman situation calls for compassion and MERCY. That is to say, there should be a profound inner shaking of everyone, especially for those that suffer the greatest needs of all kinds in our society. Mercy, compassion, inner shaking that is contrary to every kind of discrimination, segregation or simple indifference toward the pain that others suffer.

MERCY requires such a posture of people and nations that makes us aware of the common destiny shared by all human beings, inhabitants of our common home which is the planet Earth. Thus, nothing that happens to another human being (good, or especially painful, apart from his ideology, race, religion, etc.) should be treated with indifference by another person. In the world, we are all affected by what affects everyone else. We are benefitted by that which benefits another human being, and we should suffer for the need of those who are marginalized in our societies.

This is, precisely and essentially, the message of CHRISTMAS: In the baby Jesus “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” God shows pity, compassion and mercy on every person, especially toward the least in the world, on those who are born, live and die in stables. In Jesus of Nazareth God came to share the daily life, the common struggles and the definitive destiny of all humanity. We can say that CHRISTMAS is the manifestation of THE MERCY OF GOD TOWARD US. For that reason, the name of the long awaited One —according to the Old Testament prophets— is EMANUEL, which means “God with us”.

My friends, I invite you to turn our faith and our daily life into a space for MERCY toward all, especially toward the weakest, so that our life might always be CHRISTMAS. So that this Jubilee Year of Mercy might become all the years of our existence on earth, and that CHRISTMAS never end. Merry Christmas and a 2016 full of mercy and blessings!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

For the Home of Everyone

Currently, in the city of Paris, representatives of the governments of 195 nations are meeting for the task of accomplishing a global agreement concerning the earth’s climate. This is another opportunity to put the brakes on the phenomenon of climate change or —in more apocalyptic terms— the last chance to save our home, our planet.

Economic growth is possible without emissions, some say. It is possible to combine development, economic progress and the earth’s climate, others say. A difference of two degrees Celsius in the climate’s heat would be the point of no return, warn others. 660 million children (humanity’s future) live in zones at risk of climate change. 25% of the economic impact due to climate change would be felt in the rural areas of the planet. 2020 would be the entrance year for the agreement this week in Paris and would continue until 2050, when this agreement would be replaced by the second approved phase in the Kyoto agreement.

These are figures, warnings, opinions, news headlines that refer to the enormous catastrophe that is threatening humanity and for which all of us —in greater or lesser degree, collectively or individually— are both responsible and victims at the same time. Yet clearly, no one dare remain indifferent to this grave problem that involves all humanity.

Pope Francis also expressed his unity with this serious global concern with an urgent call in his recent Encyclical LAUDATO SI (on the care of our common home).

In it, Francis explains masterfully, at the outset, the various problems that constitute the serious ecological crisis we face (contamination and climate change, garbage and the culture of waste, the question of water, the loss of biodiversity, deterioration of the quality of human life, planetary inequality, the paucity of reactions to the ecological problem) and that which the pope considers the greatest causes of these problems (globalization of the technocratic paradigm and the serious consequences of modern anthropocentrism).

Other themes dealt with in the Encyclical are: “the intimate relationship between those who are poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that in the world everything is interconnected, the critique of the new paradigm and the forms of power derived from technology, the invitation to seek other ways of understanding economy and progress, the essential value of every creature, human awareness of ecology, the need for sincere and honest debates, the serious responsibility of international and local politics, the culture of waste and the proposal of a new life style”.(16)

All of us already know that if there is no change in the current tendencies (of irrational exploitation and environmental contamination), the relationship between humans and nature will continue to deteriorate with greater speed and gravity.

The hour has arrived —for the survival of the human species on the face of the earth— to make decisions that are set into clear and definitive actions to make possible what is known as “integral sustainable development”.

This integral sustainable development involves, in the first place, a perception of humans as administrators (not owners) of all that is created, in favor of, and at the service of all, especially of the most needy; a respect for nature in which ethical and moral principles (and not selfish and egocentric interests) are fundamental and are expressed in relationships between humanity and nature. All of this will make it possible to preserve the natural resources and all the good that is contributed by humans on the earth so as to transmit them as a rich inheritance to the generations to come.

The alarms are sounding. All that is left is for each of us to assume the responsibility that is ours in the care of our “common home” and to apply that responsibility every day in a consequential manner.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Joy of Gratitude

Gratitude is an anthropological posture; that is, a possibility that every human being has once he is able to recognize all the good that is in himself and in all that surrounds him.

It is possible for humans, even with positive experiences in life, to go through life without giving a lot of thought, or perhaps recognizing the good as personal merit or conquest through their own efforts. Or they can recognize a gracious and kind presence that brings good into human existence.

Societies and their correspondent cultures can, of themselves, promote a disposition in their citizens toward gratitude or they can ignore the issue.

In this transition from modernity to postmodernity, our culture is not well disposed or committed to gratitude nor willing to promote in other persons a readiness to be thankful. On the contrary, our culture is materialistic, making much of the conquests of what we are and have, emphasizing who we are and the goods and services we enjoy as achievements due exclusively to scientific and technical advance or to the global expansion of the world market and the ability of each person to acquire with money whatever he wants.

Herein lies the importance of Thanksgiving Day in our North American culture; it is an opportunity to remind ourselves that we should be grateful, that we can be thankful for what we are and have, in the midst of a society geared to opulence, luxury and waste, to comfort and exaggeration.

Thanksgiving Day thus becomes an annual event in which we are invited to remember, live, celebrate, share and express the essence of our humanity: that of being thankful. And for that reason this day constitutes a tacit but festive protest against pride and self-sufficiency.

This gives greater importance to the sense and significance of this North American celebration when we are reminded that this date — that brings together millions for the festive and thankful encounter with their loved ones at home and around the table — is not motivated by religious traditions or institutions, nor by political parties or an ideology of any kind. It constitutes simply a moment in the life of the family to recognize our debt to be thankful for what we have received —and, in the case of Christian humanism— to recognize that those benefits come to us from God, the Creator, the God of the Bible revealed in Jesus of Nazareth as our good and compassionate Father. That is to say, as Christians we recognize God’s loving presence in the daily activity of what we are and have, and the gratitude is therefore virtuous and an essential characteristic of the life of each Christian disciple.

Anyone able to express gratitude because he recognizes the presence of good is able to be joyful. That is to say that joy is the consequence of gratitude. Gratitude therefore, not only gives us joy but also commits us to share what we are and have with others, especially with the most needy.

Therefore, let us celebrate this day of THANKSGIVING in order to cultivate what should be a permanent attitude in our life: one of living with the joy of gratitude that expands as we share with others, with our brothers and sisters, and with men and women everywhere.