Sunday, 22 April 2007

Letter from Jail

Letter from Muscogee County Jail
By Joseph Mulligan
Published in The Witness online, February 9, 2004

Letter from Harris County Jail
March 11, 2004

[Ed. Note: These two parts constitute one full article by Joseph Mulligan on U.S. foreign policy and Central America, specifically in terms of Nicaragua and the conservative/reactionary political leadership of that nation. The first installment was written from the Muscogee County Jail in Georgia. In late February, Mulligan and several other political prisoners were moved to the Harris Co. Jail in Georgia.]

This is the first chapter of a journal I wrote while I was in two county jails from late January to late April, 2004, serving a 90-day sentence for “crossing the line” onto Ft. Benning, Ga., in a November 2003 protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA). The School, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), has trained thousands of Latin American soldiers, some of whom have returned to their countries to be notorious torturers, assassins, and other human-rights violators.
For more information about School of the Americas Watch:

Stations of the Cross in Jail

Stations of the Cross in Jail: Part 1
By Joseph Mulligan
Published in The Witness online, February 28, 2006

As I enter the fortieth day of my fast (March 7), I begin to "do" the Stations of the Cross in my mind and imagination.....


Stations of the Cross in Jail: Part 2
Published in The Witness online, March 30, 2006

IV. JESUS IS DENIED BY PETER (Mk 14:66-72; Lk 22:54-62)

Peter, who was loath to admit the cross in Jesus' path, now could not accept it in his own. "I do not know this man you are talking about" (Mk 14:71).

Would I have had the courage to admit being a disciple of Jesus, knowing that I might be put in jail and tried with him as a "co-conspirator"?.......

This is a chapter of a journal I wrote while I was in two county jails from late January to late April, 2004, serving a 90-day sentence for “crossing the line” onto Ft. Benning, Ga., in a November 2003 protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA). The School, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), has trained thousands of Latin American soldiers, some of whom have returned to their countries to be notorious torturers, assassins, and other human-rights violators.
For more information about School of the Americas Watch:

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Meditating on the “Our Father” in Jail

Meditating on the “Our Father” in Jail
Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J.

The following is from my journal written while I was in two county jails from late January to late April, 2004, serving a 90-day sentence for “crossing the line” onto Ft. Benning, Ga., in a November 2003 protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas. The School, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), has trained thousands of Latin American soldiers, some of whom have returned to their countries to be notorious torturers, assassins, and other human-rights violators.
My “Letter from the Muscogee County Jail” was published by The Witness during my first month in jail –
Other jail journal entries have also been posted by The Witness.


If the Lord’s prayer is for all people,
then God is the God of all,
who then must be brothers and sisters of one family.

God of all nations, races, and language groups.
God of drug users and pushers
and of social drinkers and liquor dealers,
of smokers and tobacco advertisers;
of petty thieves in jail,
and of corporate criminals in country clubs,
and of the victims of both.
Of those who terrorize with chemical and bacteriological weapons,
and of those who hurt and kill by polluting the atmosphere for profit,
and of their victims.
Of those who assault and batter a person for a purse,
and of armies which attack nations for their oil and investment opportunities.
Of those who defraud with a bad check,
and of the company insiders who cheat by cooking the books
and steal by selling their stock before the crash,
and of their victims.
Of those who are in jail for perjury,
and of those who lie in advertising and governmental public relations.
Of those in prison for probation violation,
and of those in the White House, State, and Defense
who violate the rules of international law.
Of those behind bars for DUI (driving under the influence),
and of those equally reckless ones, behind desks, using and threatening WMD.
Of the drunk and disorderly,
and of the sober (or careful) executives of disorderly, rogue corporations.
Of those who fail to appear in court for driving without a license
and of those who invade without a license.

Today I finished reading Joyce Milton’s Tramp -- The Life of Charlie Chaplin (DaCapo Press, 1998). Chaplin’s Monsieur Verdoux, condemned as a serial wife killer who swindled his victims before killing them, accused the judge, jury, and spectators of hypocrisy: “As for being a mass murderer, does not the world encourage it? Is it not building weapons of destruction for the sole purpose of mass killing? Has it not blown unsuspecting women and children to pieces, and done it very scientifically? As a mass killer, I am an amateur by comparison.”
But he and they will be judged: “I shall see you all very soon.” (footnote 1)

“Our” Father,
of prostitutes in prison, and of their pimps on the street,
of business executives who cause unemployment,
and of politicians who allow social ruin in the maximization of profits.
Of the gun users and of the sellers of weapons,
and of those who promote violence by filling the media with it,
by exemplifying it in war, or in the home.

Bill Quigley, law professor at Loyola University of New Orleans and lead attorney in our trials, in “Yesterday My Friend Chose Prison” (4-9-03), dedicated to the anti-SOA prisoners of conscience, wrote:
“Yesterday my friend joined the people we put in the concrete and steel boxes,
mothers and children and fathers that we cannot even name,
in prison for using and selling drugs,
in prison for trying to sneak into this country,
in prison for stealing and scamming and fighting and killing,
but none were there for the massacres,
no generals, no politicians, no under-secretaries, no ambassadors.”

Who’s the criminal here? All of us stand in dire need of God’s mercy and transforming Spirit, but only some are judged “guilty” and punished by human justice.



“Abba” -- Dad/Mom
Love, care, and mercy for all the kids, especially the most difficult and needy.
Unearned, unmerited mercy,
not dependent on our talents, moral worth, or reputation;
grace generously given,
and thus powerful to free us from our self-righteousness, which is always self-deception,
since it makes us selective in our vision and protective in our blindness.

As Love, Abba frees us from our need to rationalize our anti-social behavior
and to justify ourselves by focusing on some “works” and looking away from others.
Frees me to be myself -- a sinner called to be a saint, an egoist called to be generous --
and to let the masks, props, and titles fall,
to know myself as I am before Abba,
to repent of hurting others either on a personal or world scale,
to stand up and continue on the journey, open to the Spirit’s energy
to change a heart of stone into a heart of flesh;
to try to be caring and responsible in my personal relations
and in my social, political, and economic ones.


“who art in heaven”

and who are here on earth, in society,
through your Incarnation (“becoming flesh”) in Jesus of Nazareth,
who is in the prisoner, the hungry, the naked, the homeless,
crying out to us as individuals and social groups,
denying us the escape of saying “I love God”
while hurting or ignoring my neighbor and my neighbor countries.

But yes, who art in heaven --
that is, everywhere,
on earth and above, throughout the galaxies,
to be confined, tamed, named, and domesticated nowhere.
Not as the tribal god of any gender, nation, race, or class,
nor under house arrest in Washington, Jerusalem, Rome, Mecca, or any other temple.
Who does not need our children to say,
in the pledge of allegiance, that our nation is “under God,”
but who does want every nation to acknowledge
that it is under higher laws and principles, not a law unto itself,
and that its citizens should not consider nationalism their “ultimate concern,”
their Absolute, especially in time of war,
which cannot be “just” for both sides at the same time,
no matter how fervently the chaplains bless both armies,
assuring them they are doing God’s work.

Abba “in heaven” is our Supreme Authority,
whose commandment is that we love one another.
Who, as Pater and Mater, does not forbid patriotism,
but keeps it in perspective,
reminding us that our true Patria is the universal Kingdom of justice, peace, and love,
not just the land under our flag.
Who inspired an anti-imperialist statesman to say: “My country right or wrong --
may it ever be right,
but when it is wrong, let us make it right” (Carl Schurz).
For it is always my country, for which I share responsibility.

Thus the true patriot, “under God” who is in heaven,
is not the one who simply waves the flag,
prays for the troops and urges them on (from the sidelines)
as they march off to wars around the world,
and consoles their families when they return in flag-draped coffins,
but the citizen
who democratically questions the government policies which send the soldiers
to kill and to die,
who exercises the rights to freedom of speech and redress of grievances,
who organizes to pressure for change,
and who invites soldiers and civilian collaborators
to let their conscience examine what they are about to do,
to be a conscientious objector before or after induction,
if that is where their Light leads,
and to obey their conscience, which for them is the voice of Truth,
of the Commander-in-Chief of the worldwide human nation.


“Hallowed be thy name”

May your name be held holy, revered, respected,
not tripping lightly off the tongue
of every political, civic, and church leader
who talks in public as if he/she had a special Internet link to your will.
And may your name, “Abba,” be understood correctly:
“Mom/Dad,” ever kind and merciful to all the kids,
and thus our liberator from all our pretensions.
Parent and Creator, who brought the universe,
with all its inhabitants, into being,
and so cannot but want life in all its fullness and joy
for all your universal family.

Your name is holy. You are all-holy, entirely Good.
No human construct is all-holy --
no nation or empire, no constitution, no tradition, no “sacred” book,
no human structure of organized religion or government.
When our human products fall into the common temptation
of deifying and sacralizing themselves,
then those idols which demand human sacrifice
need to be shattered, secularized, relativized, de-mystified --
that is, brought down to earth and shown to be of clay --
so that human beings may be free
to know the truth and to love Abba and all people.

Yes, in your holiness and goodness we are all called to share.
St. Paul addressed his letters to the “saints” in various communities,
invited to be a New Creation in Christ.
But Christ is the only human being who is totally holy,
totally filled with the Holy Spirit, one with Abba.
The rest of us share his life and holiness, in very limited measure.
Paul emphasized that he had not yet attained the crown
but was running toward it (Philippians 3:12-14).


“Thy kingdom come”

May human society be transformed into a loving and just community for all peoples,
and may nature and all the universe continue to evolve into their fullness in Christ.
We are delivered into your Kingdom
when we live and build the world in a way
that demonstrates that you are indeed King,
that your principles and values hold ultimate sway in our daily living
and in our political and economic relations,
when we love one another as individuals
and as citizens of sister nations and races in the community of all peoples.
May your Spirit change our hearts and world structures
so that peace with justice will reign.

St. Matthew used “kingdom of heaven” out of reverence for your name; he meant the same as Mark and Luke did when they wrote “kingdom of God” -- not some incredible fantasy of a spiritual realm filled with disincarnate souls floating around, but this universe and this earth transformed into the garden for all which you intended at the origin.
Jesus himself proclaimed that this Kingdom is at hand, among us, not merely within, as some translations put it, as if it were a kingdom of interior consolation, warm feelings, and nice intentions in our heart and mind.
The Kingdom is larger than that: Jesus is Lord of all -- of our hearts and minds and interior values, certainly, but also Lord of the work of our hands and of the structures we create to live socially, politically, and economically.
The federal magistrate conducting the trial of those who protested against SOA/WHINSEC, after listening to our testimony and hearing of our dreams for a peaceful society, delivered his opinion that what we were describing sounded like the Kingdom of heaven but that we should know that that is not of this world. Perhaps Matthew’s “kingdom of heaven” is foremost in the judge’s mind, or perhaps he has other reasons for holding his opinion.
Yes, your honor, Jesus did say that his kingdom is “not of this world “ (in a very specific situation in his life), meaning that he would not rely on the world’s violent methods of self-defense such as armies when the police came for him: “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here” (Jn 18:36). (footnote 2)
Similarly, before the start of his public ministry, he had rejected domination and coercion as his method for helping the Kingdom to come. In the desert he rejected political power over others, any kind of miraculous spectacle which could coerce people´s will, and the power which comes from distributing bread and other necessities (Mt 4:1-11). His sword would be the one that Paul later took up: “the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God” (Eph 6:17).

But throughout his ministry
he courageously denounced evil, corruption, and injustice
in this world
and sketched the outlines of the Kingdom
inaugurating it by his way of living and struggling
here on earth.
That is why he was jailed and executed as a trouble-maker, criminal, social critic,
but in his resurrection he conquered death
and the injustice which had condemned and crucified him;
he is proved, for those with faith, to be the innocent party in the trial,
while his executioners are shown to be guilty of judicial murder.
He is the first-born of the New Creation, of the Kingdom,
which is present in seedling
and, as he proclaimed, is coming here and now.

Yes, the Kingdom is “utopia”
in the literal sense
that in its fullness it is “nowhere” on earth, in history.
That is all too obvious
in our criminal-justice system
as well as in the increasingly unjust distribution of the world´s resources
and in the military domination and exploitation
of the world by the U.S. and other powers.
But there is some justice and peace,
and we keep struggling for more.
The seeds of the Kingdom are planted and are growing,
even if in a fragile and quiet way as the parables indicate.
The risen Christ is with us in the struggle,
keeping our hope alive,
nourishing our love and commitment,
accompanying us and strengthening us in our wavering moments,
and assuring us that his Abba’s project will not ultimately be defeated.

“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”

“The people united will never be defeated”
has been a popular slogan of struggle in Chile and other Latin American countries.
“Nicaragua won; El Salvador will win”
was chanted in El Salvador in the 1980s,
where revolutionaries found hope in the Sandinista victory in Nicaragua.
“We shall overcome,” proclaimed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
along with those who organized, marched, and went to jail with him.
“Yes, it can be done” (“sí, se puede”) chanted César Chavez and the United Farm Workers.
“Don’t mourn, organize” was the message of Mother Jones and other labor organizers.

These encouraging messages show us how to cooperate with God
in bringing about the coming of the Kingdom and the implementation of God’s will.
It couldn’t be clearer that God’s will for the Kingdom
is to be carried out on earth,
not just among the departed souls and angels.
How? By using our God-given intelligence and freedom to solve our problems,
working together with her for a better world.
We must let God’s will be done in our lives, families, and communities
and organize so that God’s will for justice and freedom
may become a reality for all
in social, political, and economic structures.
In these structures and systems, it is people’s power, united and smart,
which makes change,
for the entrenched power of the ruling class
does not yield without a struggle.
As Dr. King said, “We know through painful experience
that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor;
it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
Organized Truth-force, speaking truth to power,
non-cooperation, boycotts, marches, sit-ins,
draft resistance, tax resistance, and other forms of civil disobedience,
organizing unions, neighborhood groups, and political parties,
voting and getting out the vote, especially when the stakes are significant --
these are some of the methods of exerting power non-violently at our disposal.

God’s will
is not that women and children be beaten,
that more people be unemployed or exploited,
that millions suffer malnutrition or AIDS,
that the prisons and jails of the U.S. contain over 2 million inmates,
that the U.S. invade other countries at will.
These evils happen
because we misuse the freedom and potential God has given us.
Problems made by humans,
can be solved by humans.

In this seemingly impossible and overwhelming task, we may feel alone,
even if we organize millions to act in unison.
But we are not left to our own devices, limited energy, and propensity toward despair.
Moses and the prophets were always assured of Abba’s presence and strength
even in the face of fierce opposition.
Jesus often told his disciples: “Do not be afraid; I am with you.”
United to the Vine, we will produce much fruit.
It was not God’s will that Jesus suffer cruelly and perish ignominiously on the cross
“for our sins,”
to assuage some divine wrath,
to make a sacrifice of expiation,
to save us.
These are Old Testament images which were applied to Jesus after his death and resurrection. In retrospect, Christian theology sees that they were fulfilled in a magnificent way by Jesus.
It was God’s will that Jesus
announce the Kingdom of justice and love and inaugurate it by his work,
that he denounce hypocrisy and corruption in high places
that he be faithful to this dangerous mission
in face of the intense persecution it would unleash against him,
and that Jesus and his cause be vindicated in the resurrection.
“Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want”(Mk 14:36). Jesus’ will was one with Abba’s; he was the faithful prophet and courageous liberator to the very end.


“Give us this day our daily bread”

Today our jailers were 1 1/2 hours late bringing the sandwiches and cookies for lunch; since I am fasting, for me this meant only that I had to wait a while to enjoy my regular noon-time treat of milk flavored with Yoo-hoo chocolate drink.
The other inmates waited patiently, confident that their “bread for today” would come, just as breakfast had been delivered through the slot in the wall, and supper would be.
But most people in the Third World do not have this confidence that three meals, or even one, will come their way today. When they pray for their daily bread, they ask with a deadly seriousness and with a hope tempered by hunger.
Let us pray and struggle that the super-abundant resources of the world be distributed justly so that no one suffers a lack of daily bread, and that the rising numbers of obese and overly but unhealthily fed folks in the rich societies learn to take their just portion and right quality of daily nourishment.
Meeting the food needs of the world depends on forging economic systems of adequate production and just distribution. “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:33).

In Christian spirituality “our daily bread” began to refer to the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, where we recognize the risen Christ “in the breaking of the bread,” as did the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35). When the community comes together as brothers and sisters to share a meal, we feel Christ’s presence in our midst and especially in the miracle of sharing. “Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” Jesus is present in community: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Mt 18:20).
As this spirit of sharing feeds the hungry and houses the homeless in the U.S. and throughout the world, we will recognize Christ as the Love inspiring it, just as we sense his presence in every effort for justice and peace.

“You are the body of Christ,” wrote Paul (1 Cor 12:27). But is the community the real presence? I believe so. Not only that, but the real presence in the sacrament is meant to be the Bread of Life to nourish and strengthen Christ’s presence in the people. “I was hungry and you gave me food.... Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt 25:35,40).
Where is the risen Christ? In large part, in the community and in our work for the Kingdom. Imagine if we showed the same respect, reverence, and love to Christ’s Body in the Church, in the sick, in the imprisoned as we do to his Body on the altar and in the tabernacle! The HIV/AIDS patient or the addict or the unemployed would be the Most Blessed Sacrament, and we would really encounter Christ in our sharing with his members.
Perhaps this is why the tradition of benediction (adoring the Eucharistic bread and blessing the people with it) has waned in the post-Vatican II Church -- because we believe that Christ is present in the sacrament not so much to be adored there as to nourish and help his Body, the Church. And his presence on the altar is most meaningfully and salvifically celebrated when the altar is the table of our shared meal.
At Mass, when I say the words of Jesus -- “This is my body, which will be given (or broken) for you; this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new covenant, which shall be shed for you” -- I am thinking not so much of the epiphany of Christ in the bread and wine at that moment but in the wonder of his giving his body to be broken within hours on the cross and his blood to be shed out of faithfulness to his prophetic mission for his people.
He knew that his body would be torn apart, and his blood spilled out, as a consequence of his liberating work, and he accepted this death penalty rather than waver from his task. This is epitomized for me by the moment of martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador: one day after delivering, in his Sunday sermon broadcast nationally, one of his strongest denouncements of his own government’s repression (“Stop the repression.... No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to God’s will”), standing at the altar at the offertory, shortly before the consecration, his body was broken and his heart burst by one bullet from an assassin in the service of the oligarchy and the U.S.-supported military.
He enacted the words of consecration in his own sacrifice of his life, and he celebrated the resurrection with his Lord Jesus. “If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people,” he had said.
During the Eucharistic prayer I am also aware of and joyfully celebrating the change of the bread and wine, and I am conscious of the words Jesus used about the New Covenant. This is the interior, personal covenant: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer 31:33).
This is an extremely serious and important affirmation by Jesus: that the New Covenant is embodied in him. Let us pray that we, as members of his Body, may truly be people of this new covenant of love.


“And forgive us our trespasses”

Abba is love and mercy.
We simply have to accept the gift
and believe that we are forgiven.
No “works” are required on our part
except to recognize our sin, repent, and have a sincere intention to do better in the future.
The key element is to be struck by what is really sinful in my life,
not what I am “supposed” to feel sorry for according to the catechism.
Have I hurt someone by an unjust act or word?
Have I done harm to large numbers of people
by my involvement in unjust, anti-social policies
of my gender, government, corporation, church, or other group I am part of?
This latter dimension of sin is often overlooked by preachers and counselors
who focus only on the interpersonal dimension of our lives, e.g. --
Am I fulfilling my responsibilities to my family?
Do I avoid using violence at home or with my neighbors?
Do I refrain from stealing from them or from the corner grocery?
But we are also social and political beings,
members of collectives which act in our name and for us.
Is my government or corporation hurting or helping
the hungry children of the whole human family?
Is my government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,”
as Dr. King believed?
Are we stealing the oil of Iraq by assault and armed robbery?
While I may try to respect the dignity and rights of women,
does my Church violate their rights systematically
by denying equal rights to participate at all levels of ministry?
While I, with the assistance of the law, avoid blowing smoke in others’ faces,
is the corporation I work for or hold stock in
destroying bodies on a massive scale by polluting the air, water, and earth?
While I may have some friends among (or at least talk respectfully with)
unskilled laborers and members of minorities,
is my company, school, or church a vicious union-buster
and a violator of equal-opportunity laws?

The criterion for receiving communion and for considering someone a “good Catholic”
should be much more encompassing than simply whether the person
has been married in the Church or is in a second marriage.
Sexual relationships can be beautiful expressions of love and communication
or they can be hurtful and destructive.
But there are many other ways we can harm people as well,
and many of them are in the sphere of our political and economic relationships.

It is a truly liberating gift of God
when we allow our masks and lies and excuses to fall away
and our conscience is shaken by the recognition of some harm we are doing.
The next moment is also a divine gift:
when we feel sorrow, repent, and ask God and others for forgiveness,
accept that unearned mercy,
and get up and begin to live differently,
knowing that we are sinners called to be apostles.


“As we forgive those who trespass against us”

When I recognize my own sinfulness, feel sorrow, ask for forgiveness, and gratefully receive that forgiveness and begin a new life, I cannot but respond positively to someone who goes through the same process and asks my forgiveness.
But the process must be complete: the aggressor must stop abusing the victim before the victim can forgive. How, then, can women in the Catholic Church forgive the all-male clergy, unless we are struggling alongside them for their full rights? How can the people of Latin America forgive us, unless we are trying to abolish SOA/WHINSEC and other instruments of violent repression, which harm them, and striving to cancel their crushing foreign debt?


“And lead us not into temptation”

Perhaps the gravest temptation for people engaged in the struggle to build the Kingdom is to despair of this possibility and abandon the dream. As an antidote to this, we have the entire record of the bible, where Abba and Jesus constantly try to raise the hopes and spirits of their people, encouraging us to continue on the journey.
And throughout history a cloud of saints and martyrs, as well as “holy atheists” who often put professed Christians to shame, show that it is possible to live a life of integrity in the midst of corruption and of struggle against overwhelming odds.
We also have the support of one another in our communities where our dream is kept alive and our hope nourished. Active engagement itself, always searching for new strategies, sustains hope: those who remain faithful to the struggle find their hope being renewed, whereas those who drop out to live a strictly private life fall into a deeper and deeper cynicism and pessimism, perhaps partly to rationalize their inactivity.
Let us use our minds to develop effective strategies to produce victories, which we need along the way, even small ones: but let us see that the ultimate value of our work and struggle is intrinsic to them, not depending wholly on the outcome, so that we can say, if necessary: “We did our best; we lost this inning; but it was all worth it.”
Ultimately hope, like faith and true love, is the fruit of God’s life in us.

Another serious temptation in this line of work is self-righteousness: considering ourselves superior to the unenlightened and uncommitted masses, and some of us thinking of ourselves as a “vanguard” going further, taking more risks, bearing more crosses, and working harder than our comrades in the same movement.
The first kind of self-righteousness, based on a failure to remember our own process of conscientización (consciousness-raising), impedes our ability to communicate with the people and sometimes leads activists to label the people as their enemy. Antidote? To recognize that many people are insecure about their own future, are super-busy with their daily life and work, and are easily manipulable by the media and other opinion-formers -- but are nevertheless capable of gaining an adequate social analysis, recognizing their own and others’ true interests (as distinct from the interests of the elite), and entering into struggle. Their birth of consciousness can be assisted by us if we do our jobs sensitively, respectfully, and intelligently.
The second kind of self-righteousness, based on a spirit of egotistic competition within the ranks of our own movement, divides us and undermines our power. Antidote? To recognize our own and others’ gifts and limitations and to see ourselves as members of one body: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Cor 12:21).


“But deliver us from evil”

In Spanish we say: “libranos del mal” -- liberate us from evil. The many dimensions of this process are explored systematically in liberation theology.
From the evil of self-centeredness in our own heart,
often based on fear and self-doubt,
and from the evils of injustice
which are products of that selfishness --
Liberate us as you liberated your people from slavery in Egypt,
by calling us to struggle to free ourselves.
For freedom cannot be given or imposed,
against our flight from it,
against our desire to remain “happy slaves,”
against our conformism, passivity, laziness,
and poor self-image to which we may wish to cling.
Freedom is seized by those who respond to the call and the challenge.


“For thine is the kingdom”

It is the Kingdom of God, and it will come in God’s time and manner; we are its heralds and servants, called to be steadfast in our task.

“And the power”

The energy and force for good in the universe is God’s: the gentle force of truth and love which can touch hearts and transform them by the Holy Spirit and can “bring down the powerful from their thrones and lift up the lowly,” filling the hungry with good things and sending the rich away empty (Lk 1:52-53).

“And the glory”

Let us not build kingdoms to our own glory, but to God’s, lest we become the oppressor.

“Now and forever. Amen.”


1. Seeing the movie, “Monsieur Verdoux,” after my release, I found some additional interesting statements by Verdoux. He opens his pre-sentence speech by jabbing at the problem of unemployment: “The prosecutor at least admits that I have brains. I have, and for 35 years I used them honestly. After that, nobody wanted them. So I was forced to go into business for myself.”
Just before going to the guillotine, Verdoux was interviewed by a reporter. “Crime doesn’t pay, does it?”
Verdoux: “No, sir. Not in a small way.”
“What do you mean?”
“To be successful in anything, one must be well organized.”
“Give me a story with a moral to it. You, the tragic example of a life of crime.”
“I dont see how anyone can be an example in these criminal times.”
“You certainly are, robbing and murdering people.”
“That’s business.”
“Other people don’t do business that way.”
“That’s the history of many a big business. Wars, conflict, it’s all business. One murder makes a villain, millions a hero. Numbers sanctify, my good fellow.”
When a priest visited and said “I’ve come to ask you to make peace with God,” Verdoux replied: “I am at peace with God. My conflict is with Man.”

2. All biblical quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition (Catholic Bible Press, 1993).

Friday, 20 April 2007

Love for Enemies: Militant Nonviolence

Love for Enemies: Militant Nonviolence
Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J.

The following is a chapter of a journal I wrote while I was in two county jails from late January to late April, 2004, serving a 90-day sentence for “crossing the line” onto Ft. Benning, Ga., in a November 2003 protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas (SOA). The School, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), has trained thousands of Latin American soldiers, some of whom have returned to their countries to be notorious torturers, assassins, and other human-rights violators.
For more information about School of the Americas Watch:

The classic texts presenting Jesus’ teaching on non-retaliation and love for enemies are Mt 5:38-48 and Lk 6:27-36. (In these as in other important passages – e.g., the infancy narratives, the beatitudes, the Our Father, the passion – there are some interesting differences from one evangelist to another.)
Let us begin with Lk 6:27-29a: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also....”

Jesus as Nonviolent Resister

The best example of how to do this is Jesus’ own illustration in action as found in John 18:19-23. (How could anyone try to interpret this passage without seeing it in the context of Jesus’ own behavior?) When the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching, the prisoner answered: “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together.... Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.”
At this point a policeman hit Jesus in the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?”
Jesus did not strike back in violence, but neither did he hang his head, lower his eyes, or apologize for his statement. Rather than becoming mute, he challenged his aggressor, putting him on the spot by asking him to explain his action.
Later Jesus would keep silent in an eloquent response to Pilate’s question: “Where are you from?” (Jn 19:9). Pilate was driven to exasperation by this simple denial of his power: “Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?” To this Jesus did respond, but in a way that relativized Pilate’s power, situating it as being under God’s authority: “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above” (19:11).

This firm, almost defiant, attitude characterized the Suffering Servant in Isaiah: “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.... Who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up” (Is 50:6-9).

In the case of a conflict between the community and an offensive member, Jesus counseled the community to confront the person: “If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender” (Lk 17:3). Hopefully this will lead to repentance and change: “If there is repentance, you must forgive.”
Matthew describes the process in greater detail (18:15-17): “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone.” But if necessary witnesses are brought in, the community becomes involved, and ultimately disciplinary action may be required: “if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

Thus “turning the other cheek” is very different from lowering one’s head, eyes, and shoulder before the aggressor, not daring to look him in the eyes or speak. That subservient posture is typical of the slave, the poor, the oppressed, the outcast who has internalized the system’s characterization of him or her as an inferior being. But Christians know that they are loved by God and by the community and thus have a strong sense of their own dignity and a healthy self-respect and self-image; with this inner power they can stand up to the aggressor, who is only another child of God. And they can find human alternatives to violence rather than degrading themselves and betraying their nonviolent principles by “returning evil for evil,” which after all means doing evil.

Luke seems to have made a conscious choice to place the golden rule – “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (6:31) – in the midst of Jesus’ teaching on love for enemies. In Matthew this verse is found at a considerable distance (7:12) from Jesus’ teaching on love for enemies. By placing the golden rule here, Luke seems to be suggesting that love for enemies is meant to touch their hearts and change their behavior toward Christ’s disciple.

Nonviolence in Practice

Jesus exemplified the attitude of “turning the other cheek” in a challenging way not only during his passion but consistently throughout his public ministry. On those occasions when he was threatened with death, he courageously returned to the turf of his persecutors and continued his ministry of loving care and prophetic denunciation. The one who turns the cheek is saying: “I have done nothing wrong; you are wrong to hit me. Knowing that, if you insist on hitting me again, go ahead. I’m not afraid.” By returning to dangerous places and situations, Jesus was conveying a similar message to those who were trying to assassinate him.
In the same way the apostles proved to be recidivists in proclaiming the message of Jesus and of his resurrection in defiance of the authorities, knowing they would be arrested every time. They did not silence themselves (Acts 4:18-20, 29-31; 5:27-31).

Beatings, arrests, and incarceration did not stop Gandhi and King and their associates from always coming back to the confrontation, collectively offering “the other cheek” time after time. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who struggled for peace and reconciliation among his brethren, offered his breast, his body to his opponents who were his brothers:
“Dearest brother, I know it is you who will shoot me tonight,
piercing our mother’s heart with a wound
that can never heal....
Here is my breast! Aim your gun at it, brother, shoot!
I offer my body, the body our mother bore and nurtured.
Destroy it if you wish.
Destroy it in the name of your dream --
that dream in whose name you kill....
Come back, dear brother, and kneel at your mother’s knee” (Love in Action – Writings on Nonviolent Social Change, Berkeley, Cal., Parallax Press, 1993).

Archbishop Romero considered the conversion of the oppressor the “vengeance of the Christian”: “Let us be firm in defending our rights, but with great love in our hearts, because to defend our rights in this way we are also seeking the conversion of sinners. This is the vengeance of the Christian” (June 19, 1977 homily, Mons. Oscar A. Romero: Su pensamiento, San Salvador, Imprenta Criterio, 1980-89).

The conversion of the enemy is perhaps what Paul means when he speaks of “heaping burning coals on their heads”: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:19-21).
Gordon Bennett calls this “moral jujitsu.” Friends had sent me, through the mail, a few pages from The Other Side (March-April, 2004); the entire magazine would not have gotten past the mail room here, but the clipped pages along with a letter did. In his article, “The Jujitsu of Jesus,” Bennett cites an interpretation of the “burning coals” by Daniel Buttry: “The burning coals are not the fires of hell; rather, they indicate the burning of shame and remorse.” Buttry, Bennett notes, “points out that Middle Eastern people, including the Hebrews, often expressed remorse by putting ashes on their heads, symbolizing the breaking of the cycle of vengeance by means of repentance and reconciliation. Literally, the ‘burning coals’ might be ashes. And the suggestion to pour them over another is a bit of jujitsu wisdom: Draw out your adversaries’ weaknesses by calling attention to and shaming their practice of hate and malice – that which they think to be their greatest asset.”
Bennett also cites Michael Nagler (Is There No Other Way? The Search for a Nonviolent Future), who “recounts one story of a white civil-rights activist, David Hartsough, during his second day of a lunch-counter sit-in in Virginia.
“While peacefully reciting to himself the twenty-third psalm as he sat on the stool in the tension-filled cafeteria, David was yanked from his seat and threatened with a knife. ‘You got one minute to get out of here,’ said his persecutor, ‘or I’m running this through your heart.’ After a brief pause, David slowly shifted his gaze from the bowie knife at his chest to the face of the man who brandished it. In those eyes, he met ‘the worst look of hate I have ever seen in my life.’ David thought to himself, ‘Well, at least I’ve got a minute.’ Then he said to the man, ‘Well, brother, you do what you feel you have to, and I’m going to try to love you all the same.’
“‘For a few frozen seconds,’ Nagler writes, ‘there seemed to be no reaction; then the hand on the knife started shaking. After a few more long seconds it dropped. The man turned and walked out of the lunchroom, surreptitiously wiping a tear from his cheek.’”

In the nonviolent actions at Ft. Benning to close the School of the Americas, one member of the community (body) follows the other in crossing the line – presenting one’s body, cheek and all, to the armed opponent. And some members have turned the other cheek in this militant non-violence two or more times, with the penalty being increased each time.
This is not passive acceptance of humiliation. Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek, giving your shirt as well, and giving to beggars and thieves are ways that “the oppressed can recover the initiative and assert their human dignity in a situation that cannot for the time being be changed. The rules are Caesar’s, but how one responds to the rules is God’s, and Caesar has no power over that” (Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1992, p. 182). The oppressed “have suddenly ... taken back the power of choice.”

A striking example of the oppressed asserting their human dignity is found in the latter period of the Old Testament. When the pagan emperor arrested seven brothers and their mother and compelled them, “under torture with whips and thongs, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh” (2 Maccabees 7), they resisted valiantly. One of the sons, when it was demanded, “quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands, and said nobly, ‘I got these from heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again.’ As a result the king himself and those with him were astonished at the young man’s spirit, for he regarded his sufferings as nothing.”

Howard Zinn described the interior “power” of the nonviolent resister in these terms: “You ask how I manage to stay involved and remain seemingly happy and adjusted to this awful world where the efforts of caring people pale in comparison to those who have power. It’s easy. First, don’t let ‘those who have power’ intimidate you. No matter how much power they have, they cannot prevent you from living your life, speaking your mind, thinking independently, having relationships with people as you like....
“And note that throughout history people have felt powerless before authority, but that at certain times these powerless people, by organizing, acting, risking and persisting, have created enough power to change the world around them, even if a little.... Remember that those who have power, and who seem invulnerable, are in fact quite vulnerable, that their power depends on the obedience of others, and when those others begin withholding that obedience, begin defying authority, that power at the top turns out to be very fragile” (“On Getting Along,” Z Magazine, March 7, 1999).

Luke’s Composition: Love for Enemies between Beatitudes and “Do Not Judge”

In Matthew the Beatitudes are at the start of Ch. 5 (vv.1-11), and Love for Enemies begins much further along, at v. 38. But Luke puts the Beatitudes (6:20-26) immediately before Love for Enemies. Why?
“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets” (Lk 6:22-23). If the disciples are blessed, happy, when they are hated and reviled, and if they are to leap for joy on that day, then they should expect to receive the treatment – being hated, cursed, and abused -- which Jesus speaks about in vv. 27-28, even though it is undeserved and unjust. In the light of the Beatitudes, they should not feel any desire to hate or hurt their enemies – or, if they feel such desire, they are equipped to control it.
By controlling their anger and doing good to their persecutors, they will set an example to be emulated: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Lk 6:31).

Luke’s insertion here, just after Love for Enemies, of the passage against judging others (which, in Mt, does not occur until Ch. 7) also makes eminent sense: “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.... The measure you give will be the measure you get back” (6:37-38). Hating our enemies, hurting those who hurt us, cursing those who curse us, and doing violence to those who strike us are behaviors based on judgment and condemnation of the other person and on our failure to forgive.
And these hard attitudes are in turn made possible by the moral blindness about ourselves which Jesus describes in the verses immediately following: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? ... Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (6:39-42).

“Do not resist an evildoer”

Let us return now to the beginning of the passage on retaliation and love for enemies, according to Matthew: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.” (5:38-39a). (Luke does not include this verse.)
Walter Wink notes that the meaning of antistenai in Mt 5:39a is a difficult problem. “It is translated ‘resist’ in almost all versions...., but its use in this passage is insupportable. Purely on logical grounds, ‘resist not’ does not fit the aggressive nonviolent actions described in the three following examples. Since in these three instances Jesus provides strategies for resisting oppression, it is altogether inconsistent for him to counsel people in almost the same breath not to resist it.
“Matthew 5:39a also seems to suggest false alternatives: one either resists evil, or resists not. Fight or flight.” If Jesus urges us not to resist, then he is telling us to be passive and complicit in our own oppression. The will of God seems to be that we submit to evil. “And this is precisely the way most Christians have interpreted the passage. ... What the translators have not noted, however, is how frequently anthistemi is used as a military term. Resistance implies ‘counteractive aggression,’ a response to hostilities initiated by someone else.” Wink cites several examples of the use of the word in this sense.
“In short,” he concludes, “antistenai means more than simply to ‘stand against’ or ‘resist.’ It means to resist violently, to revolt or rebel, to engage in an insurrection.” Thus the text urges Christians not to be supine and complicit in their own oppression but on the other hand not to react violently to it either. “Rather, find a third way, a way that is neither submission nor assault, neither flight nor fight, a way that can secure your human dignity and begin to change the power equation, even now, before the revolution.”

Wink notes that there is good reason to suspect “that the original form of this saying about resistance is best preserved in the New Testament epistles,” especially in Romans 12 and particularly in 12:17 and 12:21: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” That is, try to “overcome” evil, but do not become its mirror image. “The examples that follow in Matthew 5:39b-41 in fact presuppose some such sense. Could this ancient catechetical tradition have originally stood, then, in Matthew’s translation? If ‘do not repay evil for evil’ and ‘do not forcibly resist evil’ have equivalent meanings, could they simply be different versions of the same tradition?
“We can now, for the first time, answer a cautious yes to that question.” Wink cites George Howard who has recently discovered “what he regards as an early Hebrew text of the Gospel of Matthew, which reads at 5:39a: ‘But I say to you, do not repay evil for evil.’ ...Even if this text is not as early as Howard thinks,” Wink observes, “its very existence, from any period, proves that at least one Hebrew version regarded ‘Do not repay evil for evil’ as the proper way to read Matt. 5:39a.... The logic of Jesus’ examples in Mt 5:39b-42 goes beyond both inaction and overreaction, capitulation and murderous counterviolence, to a new response, fired in the crucible of love, that promises to liberate the oppressed from evil and the oppressor from sin” (Wink, pp. 184-6).
We might also note that, if “do not resist an evildoer” is equivalent to “do not repay evil for evil,” this helps us to appreciate it in counterpoint to the observation which immediately precedes it (Mt 5:38): “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you....” An “eye for an eye....” is clearly an expression of retribution for an evil act already committed; Jesus’ message fits this context: do not retaliate with evil.

The “victory” of the nonviolent resister

By raising Jesus from the dead, God revealed, to the eyes of faith, that the victory goes to the condemned and executed Victim and that this good man had suffered unjustly.
But Jesus’ victory over his executioners and over the system of law and religion they represented began during his passion itself. First of all, that system was deprived of its myth of legitimacy: its priests and lawyers could not defeat Jesus in open argument about the truth, and so they abandoned that effort and used trumped-up charges and then crowd pressure to get the brute force and violence of the pagan empire to destroy him physically. The debate turned into a brawl, and in that the system lost an important rampart of its support – its legitimacy and authority in the minds of many. It was seen to have force but not authority.
A similar dynamic has been at work throughout history whenever a religious or political establishment eliminates a martyr (a witness against it) by sheer force – sometimes through subterfuge and false charges, sometimes openly. When Augusto Cesar Sandino, the Nicaraguan fighter for independence and for the peasants, was “disappeared” by Somoza’s National Guard in 1934, the Somoza dynasty was deprived at its inception of an important pillar of legitimacy; and when Anastasio Somoza García’s son presided over the assassination of the respected journalist and human-rights champion Pedro Joaquín Chamorro in 1978, the regime’s legitimacy was reduced to zero and fell to the Sandinista-led people’s movement the next year.
The assassination of deeply loved and highly respected religious figures in El Salvador had a similar effect on the people’s attitude toward the regime. Although it prevailed, it was seen to do so by naked and brute force.

Secondly, the weakness of the system was revealed by its inability to deter Jesus, through intimidation, from his chosen course in faithfulness to his cause. “The cross also exposes the Powers as unable to make Jesus become what they wanted him to be, or to stop being who he was.... Because they could not kill what was alive in him, the cross also revealed the impotence of death..., the Powers’ final sanction” (Wink, p. 141).
Jesus’ brutal persecutors could not force him to become violent or even to hate them and to pray for vengeance upon them.
Jesus controlled his fear of torture and death and thus was able to break the spiral of violence.
His nonviolent response mirrors the very nature of God: “Had God not manifested divine love toward us in an act of abject weakness, one which we experience as totally noncoercive and nonmanipulative, the truth of our own being would have been forced on us rather than being something we freely choose” (Wink, p. 142).


Similarities Between Jesus’ Non-violent Resistance and Our Own

1. The confrontation with injustice flows from a life of service to the needy and is considered a necessary response to the structural causes of their pain.
A. Jesus healed the sick and fed the hungry, but he also proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom of justice to the oppressed and engaged in “divine disobedience” to challenge the religious and political system which oppressed the people. His recognition of and esteem for the poor widow who deposited her “mite” in the temple treasury (Lk 21:1-4) is preceded immediately by his denunciation of the scribes “who devour widows’ houses” (20: 45-47) and is followed by his foretelling of the destruction of the beautifully adorned temple (21:5-6).
B. Many people in the movement to close SOA/WHINSEC and in other non-violent campaigns live lives of service to the poor in Catholic Worker and other communities or as volunteers in community service organizations.

2. Civil disobedience is the result of a careful, prayerful period of discernment.
A. Jesus spent forty days in the desert, fasting and praying, wrestling with the question of the proper means he would use to accomplish his mission, before launching his public campaign; and he frequently spent time in prayer apart from the apostles. Just before his passion he meditated and prayed at great length (Jn 13-17).
B. Gandhi, King, Cesar Chavez, Phil Berrigan, Dorothy Day, and the people I have known in the peace movement and in various campaigns of Third World solidarity are deeply reflective persons who carefully discern God’s will for them in relation to their analysis of the signs of the times. Some may take part in weekend retreats in preparation for action; afterwards, gatherings are held to process the experience, to celebrate, and to draw insights for the future.
Before the “Chicago 15" action (destruction of draft files as a protest against the war in Vietnam) in 1969, we had several weekend and all-day retreats in which Phil and Dan Berrigan and others would share their experience and help us to discern.
In the movement to close SOA/WHINSEC, I was first moved and attracted by the deep spiritual dimension I found in the November 2002 mobilization in Georgia, especially in the Mass with over 2,000 participants in the “Ignatian tent.” In 2003 I took part in an “affinity group,” as did all who would participate in civil disobedience, to discern spiritually, pray together, and plan the specifics of the action of “crossing the line.”

3. The action is done in a spirit of peace and non-violence – speaking truth to power forcefully but always with respect for our “opponents” in the hope that they may learn from our message and join in the process of change.
A. In this way Jesus practiced the “love for enemies” he preached, perhaps in the “cleansing of the temple” touching the limits of non-violence and giving us reason to believe that we could go that far in the draft-board “raids” and in other similar protests (e.g., the Plowshares actions involving minor, mainly symbolic damage to nuclear weapons). He never shut the door on the possibility of the conversion of his opponents and indeed did win the hearts of some.
B. In our actions we do not locate in the government workers facing us all the responsibility for the violence or injustice we are denouncing; we speak respectfully and clearly to them, inviting them to see their work in a broader light and to follow their conscience.
At the gates of Ft. Benning some of us directed a special appeal to the U.S. and Latin American troops, asking them to analyze the war and consider applying for conscientious objector recognition. Over the years some military officers have become critics of U.S. military policies and of the foreign policy the military serves.

4. Jesus and many practitioners of non-violence today also share a common frustration! Our day in court, like that of Jesus, does not usually prove to be an apt occasion for a serious discussion of the deep legal and moral issues involved in the case at hand.
A. If Jesus had been represented by an attorney in his trials, the defendant probably would have been sternly advised not to “take the stand.” But Jesus chose to testify to the truth, and his testimony was used against him.
The verdict was delivered very swiftly in the ecclesiastical trial, thus depriving Jesus of a chance to explain what he meant by “I am” or “you have said so” in his reply to the question whether he was the Son of God or the Messiah. And the larger, more important issues – his healings on the sabbath, his association with “sinners,” his denunciations of the religious leaders as corrupt hypocrites, etc. – were not even mentioned. These were the “offenses” which had infuriated his opponents throughout his public life and had driven them often to try to kill him, but these issues were kept out of the courtroom.
B. Similarly, in the trials of resisters during the Vietnam war, the Plowshares anti-nuclear protesters, and our trials for the actions at Ft. Benning, the fundamental legal and moral issues of international and constitutional law, the Nuremberg and just-war principles, corporate irresponsibility and other important concerns have been ruled irrelevant, preventing any testimony along these lines, especially if a jury is involved as the decision-making body.
Jesus was asked simply: Did you say you are the Son of God? Yes or no? To us the prosecutor’s only question is: Did you “cross the line”? Did you refuse induction, burn draft files, damage a nuclear bomber?

5. Jesus and others who publicly violate the letter of the law do not seek but do accept the penalty as a necessary consequence of their words and deeds. And they consider their experience of being punished an extension of the prophetic action which can also touch hearts and influence minds.
A. Jesus had said: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I am he” (Jn 8:28). See also Jn 3:14 and 12:32-33: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.”
The soldier who pierced the side of Jesus’ corpse was named Longinus by Christian tradition, which believed that he was converted by Jesus’ loving death. His statue is in a prominent place of honor in St. Peter’s basilica in the Vatican. In connection with the piercing, St. John quotes Zechariah: “They will look on the one whom they have pierced” (Jn 19:37). In Zechariah this look is accompanied by mourning and conversion.
In the synoptics a soldier at the cross says: “Certainly this man was innocent” (Lk 23:47) or “Truly this man was God’s son” (Mk 15:39 and Mt 27:54). (Perhaps in these accounts the strange natural phenomena at the moment gave an assist to their confession.)
Jesus’ death in love and courage also strengthened Joseph of Arimathea (a secret disciple of Jesus because of fear) and Nicodemus (the Pharisee who had come to Jesus at night – Jn 3:2) to “come out” and ask Pilate for the body and give it proper and respectful burial.
B. Before my incarceration, when some friends would comment “too bad you’re going to have to waste a number of months silenced in jail,” I ventured to say: “Well, maybe just being in jail for the cause is a constant protest.”
And I have found this to be true. Just being here, and fasting, is a strong message which has flown over the jail walls and reached many people – a general public as well as my friends and relatives. Some have been motivated to look more seriously at SOA/WHINSEC and related issues, while others have felt nudged into greater action on these or other matters.
Other practitioners of non-violent action have seen their time in jail, whether fasting or not, bear similar fruits.
And when love draws some to give up not only freedom but life itself for the people, then the energy is immeasurably more powerful. When Fr. Rutilio Grande, S.J., and two peasants with him were brutally gunned down in 1977, their martyrdom had a profound impact on the new archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero. In turn, the assassination of Romero three years later touched and moved the world. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of faith” – and hope.

6. Hope is another characteristic shared by Jesus and other non-violent resisters.
A. Jesus had constantly proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was “at hand” and invited all to be converted to this movement for a New Creation. Even when he knew that the authorities were closing in on him and that his days were numbered, he was confident that the advance of God’s Kingdom could not be stopped and that he had played and would continue to play an essential part in the process.
In the face of death, Jesus had said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.... The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father” (Jn 14:6, 12).
After promising them the Spirit of truth, he assures them of a share in his risen life: “because I live, you also will live” (14:19). United with him, they will be greatly empowered: “those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit” (15:5).
As members of his risen Body, they will experience the paradox of peace in the midst of persecution: “I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (16:32-33)
Jesus’ final words in Matthew point similarly to a hope based on his constant accompaniment: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20).

B. Like Jesus, we recognize that we cannot entertain an optimism which would assure us that all our most precious expectations will be realized in our lifetime, or solely by our effort. But hope is much more profound, and more mysterious: a fruit of God’s own life in us and in all of creation, a spark of energy propelling God’s historical project ahead, even with crooked lines, setbacks, deaths, and resurrections.
Hope is as basic as faith and love. If we believe in God as loving Creator, we cannot doubt the ultimate fruition of her good work; and if we love the universe and all humanity (starting with the present generation and our children and grandchildren), we cannot doubt the ultimate result of God’s love and our love – the fulfillment and happiness of all creation in Christ, whose resurrection is the first fruits of the cosmic harvest.
Meanwhile, hope is nourished along the way by our celebrations of small victories and by our joyful savoring of the values of the Kingdom experienced here and now.
And I believe that action itself strengthens and sustains hope. People who maintain their commitment to active struggle, especially with others in community, find that hope is not lacking (when they take time to think about it!).
By the same token, those who drop out, to devote themselves to purely materialistic private pursuits or to purely spiritualistic private pursuits, find that hope dries up – and then their hopelessness tends to justify their shutting down to the grand issues and struggles of world history.


The Challenge of Nonviolence in My Own Life:
An Ongoing Discussion with Myself and Others

The methods, purpose, and power of militant nonviolence as I have described them in this chapter are very clear, compelling, and meaningful to me; and I have tried to practice this kind of nonviolence in various social and political struggles. I remain committed to it as a Christian. My purpose in this chapter has been to show that the non-violence of the gospel is not a passive acceptance of injustice or a symptom of political apathy but rather a potentially powerful method for changing hearts and nations.
However, I must admit that I do not always and everywhere put every word of Jesus on this topic, especially the examples he gives, into practice in a literal way. Nor have I taken literally the injunction to tear out my right eye or cut off my right hand if they lead to sin (Mt 5:29-30), for they can also be instruments for doing good. My reading of Mk 16:18 has not inspired me to “pick up snakes” or to “drink deadly things.” And whereas Jesus said, “Give to everyone who begs from you” (Mt 5:42), I cannot in good conscience give money to people who are drinking or using drugs.
We do not abandon common sense and the use of our God-given reason in our interpretation and application of the bible; rather, we believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in individuals and in the community to help us to make the most loving response in a given, sometimes complex, situation.
I still grapple with this question: how to put Jesus’ teaching and example of non-violence into practice in the most loving, responsible way in complex situations? Some examples:

A. Use of State Violence in Protection of Property

The generosity recommended in Lk 6:29b-30 (“From anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again”) seems to have the same positive purpose as blessing and praying for the enemy: to bring about, through an unexpected expression of Christian generosity and through the working of the Spirit, a change of heart and behavior in them.
Upon release from federal prison in 1972 after serving two years for the destruction of draft files (“Chicago 15" action against the Vietnam war), I amazed my fellow community members by saying that I could not in good conscience call the police to report a nonviolent crime like burglary; the police might shoot the fleeing criminal, and if convicted he might receive years in prison – a sentence which I would consider a violent punishment. I was keenly aware of the force society uses to protect property.

While I am still conscious of this reality, my unwillingness to use the police and courts has become less absolute. Over the years, I have called the police to report thefts which I and others have suffered, and (in the very different case of violent state terrorists) I demand the prosecution of human-rights violators who have tortured, killed, and “disappeared” innocent persons. I do not deny the discrepancy between my “practical” behavior and the ideal presented by Jesus. But if it is an ideal (“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” – Mt. 5:48) , then we must constantly hold it before us while doing the most loving and responsible thing in pursuit of justice for all persons involved in a given situation.
Am I guilty here of a kind of pragmatic rationalization? Perhaps, but one needs to consider the complexities of each situation, especially when other people are involved as victims of a theft or robbery. For instance, a few years ago someone broke into my car and stole an envelope full of U.S. passports which belonged to a group of American students who were spending a semester in Managua. Some credit cards and a valuable ring were also among the loot.
I did not hesitate to report the crime to the police, and I think this was the right decision. Not only did we want to get the passports and credit cards back, if possible. (We entertained a slight hope that the thieves might have discarded the passports and that someone might find them and make a police report.) But, in addition, in order to replace their passports, the students had to present to the American embassy a document from the local police showing that the theft had been reported. It would have been unjust for me to make a unilateral decision concerning these important documents of the students. Should I have lied by saying that I had lost them?

About ten years ago I had my first experience of serious property theft when my small pick-up truck was stolen from a hospital parking lot. Four years earlier I had purchased the vehicle with funds from the Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus, but the title was in the name of the Jesuit university here in Nicaragua. Thus the truck was not “mine” but ours. In this case as in the theft of the passports, it was not entirely up to me to make my moral decision according to my personal (and minoritarian) interpretation of Jesus’ words.
Besides, what if the thieves had hurt someone in a serious accident or used the truck to commit some other crimes?

In a third case, the thieves must have had the “fear of God” put into them when they stole a leather bag from my car, which was parked in front of a church, and then found that the contents were my chalice, paten, hosts, stole, and bible! My decision not to report this to the police was based more on my skepticism about results than on nonviolent principles. Similarly, when my wallet was pickpocketed on a very crowded bus, I did not think seriously of filing a police report.

Robbing the handicapped is an especially repulsive crime. One day in a very poor barrio, a young acquaintance of mine, confined to a wheelchair due to a U.S.-supplied “contra” bullet, was sitting just outside a home I was visiting. As I started to leave the house, a man quickly approached Fabián and ripped his watch off his wrist. I took off in hot pursuit of this particularly shameful robber, who ran around the first corner and then disappeared in someone’s house or backyard. It was fortunate that he outran me, since one or both of us might have done something which we would have seriously regretted. I did take Fabián to the police station to make a report. (The police often lack vehicles or gasoline to make house calls!)

What about crimes of forceful robbery involving physical violence against me or others? When I was mugged by four big guys about three blocks from Union Station in Washington, D.C., I was relieved that all I had lost was my wallet. A few bruises and scrapes were the only marks on me; they were satisfied with my wallet and did not feel compelled to exercise gratuitous violence on me. Going along with the opinion of friends who felt that the police would be ineffective in this kind of situation, I did not report the crime. The next day I actually found nearby some of the items which had been in the wallet.
On the other hand, I reacted differently to the forceful robbery suffered by an American student who was studying and working here as a member of a program with which I am associated. One robber held her at knifepoint at a bus stop as his accomplice ripped her knapsack off her back. Fortunately, the only trauma she suffered was emotional, but this was understandably of a very severe sort.
Since this happened in the neighborhood where she and the other students were living, we felt that the robber might strike the group again – or that he might hit anyone in Managua, which would be equally traumatic and outrageous. Moreover, the young woman felt obliged to report the crime to the police, and the process of doing so seemed to help her emotionally and psychologically. I drove her and others to the police station and gave her moral support as she made her report.

While I have modified my position regarding the use of the police in relation to crime, there is still one “crime” which I would not report to the authorities, especially if I were the only victim: a non-violent taking of a small amount of money or things (food, medicine) to sustain one’s own life or the life of one’s family. Legally a crime, morally it is justified. Jesus recognized that basic human need takes priority over the letter of the law when he recalled that David and his hungry men “entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests” (Mt 12:4). Moreover, in his healings on the sabbath and in his table fellowship with “sinners” Jesus demonstrated that the human person in need is more sacred than any law.

It is interesting to note (even though the moral conclusion to be drawn is not evident!) that Matthew did not consider it essential to present the case of theft or robbery among the offenses calling for a non-violent response. The question of how to respond to thieves is presented in Luke – “From anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt, ...and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again” (Lk 6:30) – but not in Matthew. The latter speaks of someone wanting to sue the Christian for her coat (Mt 5:40) or to borrow from her, which is different from stealing, and does not include the reference to someone “taking away” the Christian’s goods.

B. Use of Force to Defend Oneself and Others

Fortunately I have never had to use force directly to defend myself or another person. I have done this indirectly, however, on one occasion when I took part in a legal process to have a young man in a Detroit parish committed to a psychiatric hospital against his will. He was physically threatening to himself and to his mother, who had asked me to help her to carry out her painful decision.
Could I justify using the minimal amount of force necessary to defend myself from an attacker? Could I do that to defend another person from an attacker? Indeed, would I be obliged to do so – either directly or by calling for police intervention? Would I be nit-picking if I were to justify my action on the grounds that I would not be returning evil for evil but trying to prevent an evil act from being done? If an aggressor hits me on the cheek, I could decline to respond in kind, for that might be simply retaliation which might serve no useful purpose; but could I not attempt to grab his arm to prevent him from hitting me?
What is, after all, the situation Jesus envisioned when he counseled his disciples to “turn the other cheek”? Perhaps the person who is slapped in the face is already tied up and subdued, and thus unable to ward off the blow. Regardless of that, there is no indication that the slap envisioned by Jesus is the first act of a serious physical assault which could result in grave injury or death.
In the latter category, imagine a mass murderer at the start of his rampage. If I had the necessary force at my command to subdue and stop him, or if I had the chance to call the police, would I not be obliged to take those measures in defense of myself and others?

With regard to perpetrators of state terror, such as assassins, torturers, and agents who have “disappeared” innocent people (like my friend Fr. Jim Carney), I do have experience in this area: I have worked for years now to get some of them charged, arrested, and put on trial.
This is not out of a desire for vengeance. Of course, I would not demand the death penalty for them; neither would I want them to rot behind bars for the rest of their lives. A modest sentence, after a clear verdict of guilty, would suffice to serve the purposes of justice and perhaps to defend others from being victimized by these or other perpetrators of gross violations of human rights.

C. Revolutionary Violence

While I recognize the danger, even likelihood, that a revolutionary response to oppression may simply ratchet up the level of violence, I cannot say with certainty that it would always and necessarily have that effect. First of all, revolutionaries do not initiate the violence; it pervades the society, both in the form of police and military repression and in the form of social injustice. Thus, revolutionary violence is understood by some as a form of self-defense against the systemic violence of the status quo. If the Latin American revolutions of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s had been victorious, who can say with assurance that they would not have produced societies less violent in many respects and at many levels?
I believe that was true of Nicaragua in the early years after the revolutionary overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship – until the Reagan administration increased its military support for the Nicaraguan “contras,” thus raising the level of violence and human suffering to the point where the Sandinistas were voted out in 1990.
True, those vanquished in a revolution can be expected to translate their resentment and their desire to return to their former privileged position into a militant and probably military reaction, and they will probably gain the support of the U.S. empire since they are its local managers and enforcers. But still, their counter-revolutionary success is not necessarily guaranteed in every instance.

Because I personally choose militant nonviolence as my way of struggling for change, am I to condemn all the Christians who have taken part in armed struggle and who were convinced that it was their way of working for liberation, justice, and true peace?
The experience of two priest friends of mine brought out the complexity of this question. As members of a peasant farm cooperative in the north of Nicaragua during the 1980s, they participated fully in the life and work of the community, wanting to be considered as equals and true brothers of all in a social organization which represented important progress toward justice. When the cooperative became the object of a military assault by the “contras,” my friends were confronted by a very difficult task of discernment: to take their turns on guard duty, or to decide that as religious that was an unacceptable task for them. It turned out that the “contra” attack happened on a day when the priests, who had not resolved the issue in their conscience, were working elsewhere.


In Lk 10:4, when Jesus, early in his ministry, sent out the seventy two disciples “like lambs in the midst of wolves,” he told them to “carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.” He had sent out the twelve with similar instructions (Lk 9:3; Mt 10:9-10; Mk 6:8). But toward the end of his ministry, he told his apostles (according to Luke alone): “Now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one” (Lk 22:36).
Commentators interpret “buying a sword” in a figurative way: be prepared for opposition. And yet opposition was envisioned also in the earlier sending of the seventy in Lk 10. Is the sword, if it is to be understood literally, to be used for protection against animals on the journey, or against bandits?
When the apostles responded, “Lord, look, here are two swords,” he replied, “It is enough” (Lk 22:38). And shortly thereafter, when Jesus was about to be arrested, one of the apostles “struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, ‘no more of this,’ and he touched his ear and healed him” (Lk 22:50-51). Do Jesus’ two responses now mean that the apostles should not carry swords?

(This journal entry ends here – with questions rather than firm conclusions.)

Monday, 9 April 2007

My 8-Day Retreat in Jail

My 8-Day Retreat in Jail:
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius During Holy Week

Joseph E. Mulligan, S.J.

The following is a chapter of a journal I wrote while I was in two county jails from late January to late April, 2004, serving a 90-day sentence for “crossing the line” onto Ft. Benning, Ga., in a November 2003 protest against the U.S. Army's School of the Americas (SOA). The School, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), has trained thousands of Latin American soldiers, some of whom have returned to their countries to be notorious torturers, assassins, and other human-rights violators.
For more information:

Sunday, April 4 – Palm Sunday

Today, the first day of Holy Week, is also the first day of my eight-day retreat.

Imagine this scenario. The newly elected pope, who will take the name John XXIV, is due to arrive at 11 a.m. in St. Peter's basilica for his first solemn Mass as pontiff. At 8 a.m. he and several friends are having breakfast with a family in a modest home in a Roman neighborhood. John XXIV then takes a walk through the neighborhood, shaking hands with the folks and exchanging blessings with them, taking the names of some beggars so he can arrange shelter for them later.
At 10 a.m. he walks over the bridge, through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds who are weeping for joy, and up to the basilica for the celebration.
Five years later he ordains María Gomez of Nicaragua to the priesthood and thanks her as he kneels before her for her priestly blessing.
When María celebrates her first Mass in her squatters' settlement in Managua, the former president of the country arrives by public transportation and, without her usual bodyguards, walks the remaining two blocks to the cinder-block church.
Imagine how these scenes of humble service on the part of leaders would thrill the people, especially the poor, the outcast, the unemployed, and all victims of discrimination.

Today we celebrate Jesus' grand entrance into Jerusalem: the people were acclaiming him joyfully and praising God, but he was riding on a mere donkey rather than a proud and strong stallion. To underline the significance, Matthew (21:5) quotes Zechariah (9:9): “Tell the daughter of Zion, look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Shortly before, Jesus had told his disciples: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mt 20:25-28).
This was in response to the mother of the sons of Zebedee, who had knelt before Jesus to make her request for positions of privilege and power for her sons; she, an oppressed woman, had interiorized the social patterns of domination.
Like her, some early Christians were slow to understand the radical equality which was to be a mark of Jesus' kind of community: “My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘Have a seat here, please,’ while to the one who is poor you say, ‘Stand there,’ or, ‘Sit at my feet,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?” (James 2:1-7)

Just after his message about the greatness of service, Jesus, “moved with compassion,” healed two blind men who were sitting by the roadside (20:29-34) and proceeded toward Jerusalem.
It was at the Mount of Olives that Jesus told two disciples to go to find the donkey and colt (Mt 21:1-2); and at the foot of the Mount of Olives, in Gethsemane, Jesus would soon experience his agony in the garden (Mt 26:36-46), exposing his complete humanness and humble servanthood.
After entering Jerusalem, Jesus cleansed the temple, showing that humble servanthood did not preclude but actually required prophetic acts of love. Luke records that Jesus wept over Jerusalem before proceeding to his prophetic deed, perhaps suggesting that Jesus wanted to give one more sign of truth to help the people recognize “the things that make for peace” (Lk 19:42). The true prophet, even while denouncing sin and injustice, is moved by love and compassion for the people and by a desire to help them to change in order to be saved from the coming calamity.

The second reading in today's liturgy (Philippians 2:6-11) puts Jesus'life and especially the events of this week in their grand theological perspective. By "emptying himself" to become fully human, even to the point of crucifixion, Jesus is the antithesis of the sinful person, understanding sin to be that self-glorification which expresses itself in pride, arrogance, and selfishness.
Paul describes the attitude required for living in community: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus...." (2:3-5). Then he presents Jesus' example of selflessness as the model of this kind of communitarian mindset: "though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And ... he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death -- even death on a cross."
Having this mind or attitude that was in Christ Jesus, his disciples can live together, sharing materially and spiritually in such a way that they “shine like stars in the world” (2:15) even “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.”

Sin, on the other hand, is an unfettered, selfish liberty which has no concept of connectedness and no recognition of filial or social responsibility. Paul cautioned against this distorted kind of freedom in Galatians 5:13-15: “For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”
Sin, at its origin in Genesis, is twofold: self-idolization (“you will not die.... You will be like God” – 3:4-5) leading immediately to the rending of the social fabric (“Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?’” -- 4:8-9).
A blind, irresponsible liberty will necessarily trample upon the human rights of others.

Examples abound of such insensitivity on both the personal and collective level. As for the latter, super-nationalism, racism, male chauvinism, and human arrogance toward the environment are forms of selfishness “writ large.” With typical American arrogance of power, the Carter administration did not heed Archbishop Romero's request for an end of military aid to the murderous Salvadoran army. Similarly, the Reagan administration brushed off the World Court's ruling to cease interfering by force and violence in the affairs of Sandinista Nicaragua.
And this very day, as the Marines “seal off” Fallujah and hostilities in Iraq increase in ferocity, the Bush administration manifests a more and more blatant (and seemingly self-defeating) arrogance in its occupation of a land whose recorded civilization goes back several millennia. Will top U.S. administrator Paul Bremer soon say: “We had to destroy Fallujah in order to save it?”
According to an AP article in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (April 3, 2004), Muslim clerics condemned the mutilation of the bodies of the four U.S. civilians – but not their slayings. “While the condemnation of the mutilation was helpful, that is only a partial answer,” declared Brig.Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of U.S. military operations in Iraq. “Murder of innocents should be condemned.”
Here it is evident that truth, as usual, has been a serious casualty of war. Innocents? These civilians were heavily armed, highly trained private bodyguards protecting other foreign occupiers of Iraq.
“Islam bans what was done to the bodies, but the Americans are as brutal as the youths who burned and mutilated the bodies,” said a retired school principal. “They have done so much to us and they have humiliated us so often,” he added, expressing particular outrage at U.S. soldiers barging into private homes.

Michelle Naar-Obed, after working in Iraq in January of this year as part of the Christian Peacemakers Team, reported: “People told us that whereas they once had one dictator, they now are dealing with 100,000 dictators who can't even get basic necessities up and running” (Loaves & Fishes Catholic Worker newsletter, Spring, 2004).
The repetitious proclamation of our goal – to create a democracy with free elections, etc. -- is sounding more hollow every day. To impose “democracy,” to force people whose political and religious culture is worlds apart from ours to accept our version of freedom – are glaring self-contradictions. And to continue to insist that the new Iraq must follow (democratically, of course) our economic model of free-market capitalism, with doors wide open to foreign ownership of the country's resources, is our prescription for neo-colonial plunder.
In another oil-rich country, under the banner of promoting democracy, the National Endowment for Democracy, funded by the U.S. Congress, is pumping in $1 million a year to support the opposition against Venezuela's democratically-elected president, Hugo Chavez, just as it contributed millions in the 1980s to help remove the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. (Footnote One)


The Venezuelan people reaffirmed their support for Pres. Chavez in a referendum on August 15, 2004 declared to be valid and legitimate by the Organization of American States, the Carter Center, and other international observers.


During this retreat I have started reading Thirty Days – On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius, by Paul Mariani (New York: Penguin Compass, 2003). In addition to providing a clear introduction to St. Ignatius and the Society of Jesus, Paul Mariani shares beautifully his experience of making a thirty-day retreat.
Reflecting on sin, he mentions many of its structural or institutional manifestations, including “the atrocities committed by soldiers trained by the U.S.'s School of the Americas” (p. 49). Among such atrocities he speaks of the killing of “the six Jesuits in 1989 in San Salvador, along with their housekeeper and her fifteen-year-old daughter. All awakened in the middle of the night by soldiers, several trained at our School of the Americas.”
The author, an award-winning poet, critic, essayist, and biographer who teaches English at Boston College, is brutally honest and very incisive in telling how personal sin has been part of his life. “Sitting here in Mary Chapel, I was meditating on my own sinfulness, as Ignatius instructs us to do, asking ‘for a growing and intense sorrow, and tears, for my sins’ and calling ‘to memory all the sins of my life’”(p. 68).
Mariani describes some incidents, beginning in childhood, where he hurt others physically and emotionally and was also on the receiving end of violence and rejection. He quotes Robert Lowell: “My eyes have seen what my hand did.” And the author reflects on his own life: “My own sentiments exactly. Regardless of how I was sinned against, I see now more clearly than ever just how deeply I have sinned against those I love” (p. 76).
He ponders Ignatius's question, “What am I, really, compared with all other human beings?” And he answers: “a man of modest achievements, a man who has hurt others.... How many have I hurt? Rejected? Snubbed? Used over a lifetime? Too many” (pp. 78-79).
Meditating on the prophet Nathan's challenge to David concerning his treatment of Uriah, Mariani asks: “How often, in our greed, have we snatched after what did not belong to us? By deliberately sinning, have I not set myself up as a two-bit god, snatching at what was not mine?” (p. 80) He sees his greed and selfishness as flowing from his petty self-idolization.
In my own life I consider it a gift of the Holy Spirit that at times I have been struck by a clear realization of my own participation in sin and that this has led to “a growing and intense sorrow for my sins.” I hope it has also produced some real fruits of amendment!


Monday of Holy Week

In his ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, receiving the joyful acclamation of the people, and in his attitude of self-emptying, not clinging to equality with God, Jesus radiates a strongly attractive power. Todaýs liturgy invites us to open our hearts to the presence of Jesus as our close friend and to seek a more personal, affective relationship with him.
The psalm speaks of living with God and seeing his beauty up close; the gospel passage is about a special, intimate friendship which two sisters and their brother enjoy with the Lord, and he with them.

“One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble....
And I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord” (Ps 27).
We remember that, when Jesus saw two of John's disciples following him, “he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see’” (Jn 1:38-39). They stayed with him in the same house, beholding the beauty of his personality and inquiring of him about many things. They offered the joyful sacrifice of their hearts and perhaps had a little sing-along and exchanged jokes with him!
Today's psalm continues:
“‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
Your face, Lord, do I seek. Do not hide your face from me.”
“Come and see,” Jesus said. Let us seek his face: his forehead, at times furrowed with care; his eyes, sometimes sparkling with hope and enthusiasm, sometimes tearful out of compassion; his smile, his speech, his heart; his hands which touched the sick, the outcasts, the “impure,” his friends, the scriptures, the tables of the money-changers, the bread and wine, the cross, the nails, the disciples nearly incredulous with joy to see and touch him again.

Today's gospel passsage presents Jesus arriving at Bethany, the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary -- some of his best friends. “Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus' feet, and wiped them with her hair” (Jn 12:3). There is no hint that Jesus shied away from this close physical contact with his good friend. Luke told how Mary had sat at the Lord's feet to listen (Lk 10:39) and how Jesus affirmed her as his disciple.

Jesus' love for this family (Jn 11:3,5,36) had led him to risk his life to help them. His disciples had warned him that his enemies in Judea “were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” (Jn 11:8) Deep friendship also moved Thomas to want to share Jesus' suffering: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16).
Deeply moved by Mary's grief, Jesus himself began to weep (vv 33-35). His compassion moved him to bring Lazarus back to life. But then, after his sister Mary anointed Jesus' feet, it was Lazarus's turn to be in life-threatening solidarity with his wanted friend. A great crowd came “to see Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus” (12:9-11).

In Spanish the word for “society,” as in Society of Jesus, is compañía, based on the image of sharing bread together. All Christians can be compañeros of Jesus as members of communities, sharing the bread and roses of daily life and recognizing him in the Eucharistic “breaking of the bread”: the two disciples told the apostles what had happened on the road to Emmaus, “and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35).
In the Spiritual Exercises St. Ignatius suggests that we ask for this special fruit of our meditations on the gospel: “an intimate knowledge of our Lord, who has become man for me, that I may love him more and follow him more closely.” To the extent that we grow in real friendship with Christ, to that extent will we be healed of the arrogant and destructive self-centeredness which is the root of sin. (To continue our exercises in etymology, we might also note, as Paul Tillich did, that the English word sin has to do with “putting asunder” or tearing the fabric of unity.)


Tuesday of Holy Week

1. Yesterday's Columbus Ledger-Enquirer arrived today, featuring extremely unusual front-page coverage of two Central Americans. An AP picture showed a child in the Palm Sunday procession at the cathedral of Managua.
Immediately to the right of the picture was an AP article reporting that a Salvadoran soldier was killed along with eight U.S. troops and 22 Iraqis in anti-American “rioting” in Iraq. The Salvadoran was killed near Najaf when supporters of anti-American Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr “opened fire on the Spanish garrison during a street protest that drew about 5,000 people” (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, April 5, 2004).
The statement about our protest last November against SOA/WHINSEC included a message concerning the Salvadorans and other Central American troops in Iraq: “One of our main reasons for demanding that the U.S. government close SOA/WHINSEC has to do with the recruitment of Latin American troops into the military strategies and operations of the U.S. government. SOA/WHINSEC is a symbol and instrument of this, as its very name indicates. Other countries of the hemisphere have been pressured into sending token forces (about two hundred from each of several nations) to cooperate in a military occupation which the Bush administration has defined as necessary for U.S. security. Do the people of Latin America need to participate in this kind of ‘security cooperation’?”
One of the soldiers now in training at SOA/WHINSEC may be the next Central American to be killed for supporting the U.S. imperial venture in Iraq. If he is another Salvadoran, he will have given his life for a nation which, for all practical purposes, had occupied his country in the 1980s.

2. Today's mail also brought a letter from Fr. Jerry Zawada, a Franciscan priest who is reporting today to federal prison to begin the six-month sentence he received for his participation with us in the action last November at Ft. Benning. Jerry, a “recidivist” at SOA/WHINSEC, has also been involved in solidarity visits in Iraq and actions of civil disobedience against nuclear weapons. For one of the latter protests, Jerry was sentenced on March 29 to one month in prison, to be served in addition to the six-month term he begins today.
In his court statement on March 29, Jerry spoke of both issues, Iraq and nuclear weapons: “Several of us here in this courtroom have personally witnessed the effects of what our weapons and warfare have done to the children and other innocent people in Iraq. At night in my sleep I can hear the screams of six-year-old Mahmoud as he begs to be relieved of the awful pain of cancer in his joints as a result of depleted uranium and the inability to receive relief medication.....
“Do we not want a future for our children? We want children to live in safety, free from the violence of the nuclear threat. Our nation should be the first to dismantle, since we were the first and only ones to use such weapons upon innocent civilians.”

3. A week ago, as April 4 approached, I remembered my visit in 2002 to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Center in Atlanta. There I was deeply moved by seeing the videos of Dr. King marching and by hearing his voice again. His 1967 speech on Vietnam had influenced my own understanding of the war, and his history of non-violent civil disobedience had inspired me to engage in the destruction of draft files in 1969. So, on this Palm Sunday, April 4, I celebrated this great contemporary prophet, assassinated 36 years ago.
The need to continue the civil-rights struggle is obvious in many places. In Columbus, Ga., the NAACP held a demonstration Sunday which focused on police violence against African-Americans. “Resting on the Government Centeŕs steps were pictures of Dr. King and Kenneth Walker, fatally shot by a Muscogee County sheriff́s deputy on December 10" (Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, April 5, 2004). The district attorney of another county is reportedly studying the possibility of prosecuting the deputy who killed Walker. No firearm or drugs were found on Walker's body or in his car. He had been shot twice in the head with the deputy's tactical submachine gun.
As a recording of Dr. King's 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech was played on loudspeakers, a petition was circulated to recall Sheriff Ralph Johnson. “We must remember we have come a long way since 1968, but we still have miles to go,” said John Vodika of the Georgia Prison Advocate for Inmates. “If Dr. King were alive today, he would think the criminal justice practices and penal systems in this country are genocidal. The criminal justice system is fueled by fear and racism.”
Reginald Pugh, Columbus Metro Urban League president, asked: “Have we really made any progress? A little, but we are still on shaky ground.” He said people need to stop waiting for the next leader and become empowered. “Everybody needs to be engaged to bring change about,” Pugh said. “We will get nothing done until we get with it and get real.”

4. To be able to speak out for peace and justice like Dr. King, let each of us ask that the Lord, who formed us in the womb, make “my mouth like a sharp sword and make me a polished arrow” (Isaiah 49:2), as the prophet prays in today's first reading.
And as Jesus tells us in today's gospel, let us love one another as he has loved us (Jn 13:34), lovingly proclaiming the prophetic swords and arrows of the Good News. Thus everyone will know that we are his disciples.


Wednesday of Holy Week

Examination of Conscience as Tax Day Approaches

By declaring war on Iraq in the absence of a workable plan for peace, the Bush administration sowed seeds of utter chaos whose death and destruction have engulfed hundreds of Americans and other "coalition" forces, thousands of Iraqi fighters and civilians, and 200 Madrid subway commuters. President Bush and his cabinet should be tried for their responsibility for these deaths and for recklessly imperiling the lives of hundreds of thousands of others in Iraq and in our own homeland.
Every death, every wound in Iraq, Palestine, Madrid and other theaters where the deadly results of U.S. arrogance can be viewed sharpens my personal sense of sinfulness and guilt as an American citizen.
As April 15 approaches, the deadline for filing income-tax returns presents a crisis of conscience for many Americans. What responsibility does a citizen have for our government́s use of tax money in relation to the war in Iraq, the development of nuclear weapons, and other issues of civic and moral concern? Paying for the bombs is only one step removed from dropping them.

Some of my friends have concluded that in conscience they cannot support many of the destructive acts and policies of our own government. Some choose to live below the taxable income level, thus avoiding the possession of wealth which police and military force protects. Others withhold a percentage of their taxes corresponding to the portion of the federal budget allocated to the Pentagon or specifically to the war in Iraq, perhaps donating this amount instead to charity or to efforts for peace. They recognize that their property or wages may be attached or that they may even be prosectued for following their conscience in this way. Some refuse to pay any taxes to Washington.
Some of these conscientious citizens make their refusal public, hoping to influence others and contribute to changing U.S. policy. For others, quietly maintaining their personal integrity is enough.

The testimony that Jesus had forbidden people to pay taxes to the emperor (Lk 23:2) was evidently false and inaccurate. He had not clearly forbidden it, but neither had he affirmed any obligation to pay. Rather, he left the matter as an open question of conscience for people to decide: “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Lk 20:25). Jesus knew the question had been posed to him as a trap, and so he avoided a complete, direct answer. But in doing so he provided grist for his accuserś later charge against him.
What Jesus clearly did affirm is the important distinction between the authority of the emperor and the authority of God – a difference which is blurred when governments seek to make false gods of themselves and thus to demand from their subjects unconditional obedience.
And so throughout the ages Jesus' distinction between the supreme and the lesser authorities has provoked healthy crises of conscience in his followers. Peter and the other apostles, confronted with the order to stop teaching about Jesus, came down firmly and boldly on the side of God́s authority: “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29).

In addition to the question of taxes, every new day of war brings a crisis of conscience to many American soldiers -- both those in Iraq and those who may be ordered to go there. One soldier who served in Iraq was morally repulsed by the killing of civilians and by the blood-for-oil purpose of the U.S. intervention; having refused to return and having applied for conscientious objector status, Camilo Mejía is now confined to a U.S. military base in Georgia and awaits court-martial.
Oscar Romero, the martyred archbishop of San Salvador, told the soldiers of his country that they had no obligation to follow unjust orders -- a principle recognized at least in theory by American and other military forces.
Soldiers and civilians today, especially in a democracy, have the moral duty to analyze government policies and to decide whether in conscience they can help to implement such policies. Members of the military may wish to consider the option (perfectly legitimate) of applying for conscientious objector status. Civilian taxpayers who are morally opposed to their government's militaristic priorities may choose to consider various forms of non-cooperation. At the very least the advent of April 15 should put the violence in Iraq, nuclear weapons, and other U. S. policies on the moral agenda for serious discernment by all conscientious citizens. Those who continue to pay taxes which finance policies they do not support could redouble their political efforts to change those policies.

The fact that obedience to conscience may have serious consequences should come as no surprise to those millions who have seen "The Passion of the Christ" and to those who may be considering the ethical dimension of taxpaying during the week before April 15 -- this year, Holy Week. Unfortunately, many Christians do not perceive in the suffering Jesus a courageous prophet whose agony is a consequence of his denunciation of injustice and of his anouncement of good news to the poor.

President Bush continues to repeat the most nonsensical “explanations” of U.S. purposes in Iraq. “There are terrorists there who would rather kill innocent people than allow for the advance of freedom,” he said yesterday. “That's what you're seeing going on: these people hate freedom, and we love freedom, and that's where the clash occurs” (AP article, Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, April 7, 2004).
Are the thousands of people who are demonstrating angrily against their U.S. conquerors and rising up in violent wrath all “terrorists”? Are they clashing with foreign troops out of a hatred of our freedom? The reality is that they reject the U.S. government's forceful imposition of its notion of freedom – license for U.S. corporations to freely dominate the globe in their passion for profits. As Noam Chomsky has said succinctly: “The U.S. occupying forces have imposed on Iraq an economic program that no sovereign country would ever accept: it virtually guarantees that the Iraqi economy will be taken over by Western (mostly U.S.) multinational corporations and banks” (interview by Hawzheen O. Kareem).
Chomsky further explained the severely limited kind of “freedom” to be granted to Iraq: “U.S. planners surely intend to establish a client state in Iraq, with democratic forms if that is possible, if only for propaganda purposes.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu suggests a connection between the high number of executions carried out in Texas under George W. Bush and his “belligerent militarist policies.” At the University of London in February 2004 the archbishop, in a lecture critical of the death penalty, said: “It does appear as if the death penalty makes very little difference to the crime statistics. What it seems to be doing is to brutalise society.
“President Bush was governor of Texas, a state which is notorious for the high number of executions it carries out. It may not be fanciful to see a connection between this and the belligerent militarist policies that have produced a novel and dangerous principle, that of pre-emption on the basis of intelligence reports which in one particular instance have been shown to be dangerously flawed and yet were the basis for the U.S. going to war.
“It dragged with it a Britain that declared that intelligence reports showed Iraq to have the capacity to launch its weapons of mass destruction in a matter of minutes. An immoral war was thus waged, and the world is a great deal less safe than before. There are many more who resent the powerful who can throw their weight about so callously and with so much impunity. We see here on a global scale the same illusion that force and brutality can produce security as we note at national and communal levels where harsh sentences and being tough on crime will necessarily make our neighbourhoods safer” (The Tablet, 21 February 2004).

What the archbishop considers the force and brutality of an immoral war is the “awesome power of almighty God” in the estimation of U.S. Marine chaplain Lieut. Carey H. Cash. The author of A Table in the Presence: The Dramatic Account of How a U.S. Marine Battalion Experienced God's Presence Amidst the Chaos of the War in Iraq (W. Publishing Group, 2004), interviewed today by Pat Robertson on the 700 Club TV show, told of his battalion's abundant experiences of God's favor and protection in Iraq. Rockets heading straight at them were “miraculously” diverted from their course. Perhaps their visual acuity was enhanced by the power of suggestion of Ps 91, v. 5: “You will not fear the terror of the night, or the arrow that flies by day.”
Robertson and the chaplain called this “the soldier's psalm,” which indeed affirms a remarkable divine favoritism: “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right side, but it will not come near you” (v. 7). And these thousands are all “bad guys,” as our top civilian and military leaders tirelessly dub our Iraqi opponents: “You will only look with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked” (v. 8).
Cash and his host also referred fervently to the book of Joshua. Soldiers would be fortified to hear, for instance: “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9).
Would they also be inspired by vv. 24-28 of Chapter 8? Here we learn that “when Israel had finished slaughtering all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and when all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai, and attacked it with the edge of the sword. The total of those who fell that day, both men and women, was twelve thousand – all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back his hand, with which he stretched out the sword, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. Only the livestock and the spoil of that city Israel took as their booty, according to the word of the Lord that he had issued to Joshua. So Joshua burned Ai, and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day.”

Mark Twain caught this fervor (deliberately exaggerated to make his point)in his War Prayer:
“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.
“O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
“We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”

At Robertson's invitation the Marine chaplain closed the interview with a prayer, asking that the “awesome power of almighty God” would continue to manifest itself in protecting our troops in Iraq and that America would be a nation of “prayer warriors” in support of our soldiers. The basic message was clear: God is with us, and against them. How unfortunate, and how symptomatic of the military's manipulation of the gospel, is the use of the name “Emmanuel,” which was applied to the non-violent Jesus (Mt 1:23).

Finally, tonight's NBC-TV news included a statement by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld which must have driven his public-relations handler to desperation, if they consdider most viewers to possess at least average ability in simple logic. After annoucing that Iranians are entering Iraq, Rumsfeld actually said: “It is unhelpful to have neighboring countries meddling in Iraq.”


P.S. I wish to thank all the wonderful people who have written to me in jail expressing their prayers and support.


Holy Thursday
9:15 a.m.

I am starting Holy Thursday by watching Dr. Condoleezza Rice's televised testimony before the 9/11 commission. I doubt that she will reveal anything new or significant, and I can't imagine the commission members catching her in any glaring inconsistencies – or, if they do, making her squirm.
Whether the Bush team took sufficient precautions to prevent the disasters of 9/11 seems very difficult to resolve one way or the other. The terrorist attacks conveniently served administration purposes, but whether officials had deliberately relaxed security measures in order to allow a major terrorist attack to be carried out, as some critics have suggested, remains to be seen.
But it is extremely important to highlight the revelations by Paul ÓConnor (Treasury) and Richard Clarke (former top anti-terrorism coordinator) to the effect that the Bush team immediately seized on the events of 9/11 to justify and gain popular support for an invasion of Iraq. And the idea of such an attack was not a sudden brainstorm. Officials of the Bush I administration longed to go all the way in 1991 to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime, and these same people and others kept their desire alive and advocated their plan during the Clinton years. The Project for the New American Century makes this very clear.
The Project and related geopolitical plans proposed an aggressive projection of U.S. power around the world. Purpose? To control crucial economic resources and to “open up” regions of the world to “free market” penetration by U.S. capital. Iraq was a major site of unhidden treasure.
Thus we do not have to wait for a smoking gun but rather for the public to realize, with all its implications, that officials of the incoming administration in early 2001 brought their gun to Washington and kept it aimed at Iraq as it had been for some years, ready to smoke as soon as a sufficiently horrific terrorist act (a “Pearl Harbor”) could be blamed, correctly or not, on Iraq.

It is in this world, now dominated by the American empire, that Jesus becomes incarnate today. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being” (Jn 1:1-3).
The Word (“logos”) is the Logic, Pattern, Blueprint of human society and of all creation, akin to Wisdom in the Old Testament. Through him/her all things came into being: gender, race, nationality, language, culture, and government as a way of ordering communal life. As Walter Wink emphasizes, all of these are good, though fallen (precisely when they raise themselves to become gods of domination), but always capable of being redeemed (Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, Minneapolis, Fortress Press, 1992).
When Jesus redeems, he restores persons and things to their true selves, since he is the Plan according to which everything was created. As Thomas Merton said, “To be a saint is to be yourself” – your true self, before you were programmed to be fearful, self-centered, dominating, and violent.
The Word is the light of all people because we exist in his/her likeness and pattern. In the light of the Word the true being of everything is illuminated..
St. Paul speaks of the risen Christ as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation ... in whom all things hold together” and have their true being (Col 1:15-17). Since Christ is the perfect image of God, and we are created in God́s image and likeness, we attain our true identity by being incorporated into Christ.
And yet the world, even his own, did not accept him: “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (Jn 1:11).
Creation had become twisted, distorted from its divine model, and so the creature did not know its true nature. John presents Jesus' explanation of this: “The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God” (3:19-21).
In a similar vein Paul explains that evil suppresses the truth: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18).
The battle between light and darkness is part of the war between good and evil. While some choose evil, others receive the Word and are transformed into what they truly are, children of God: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12).

St. Ignatius of Loyola imagined this vast cosmic drama from the viewpoint of God in his meditation on the incarnation, where he asks the retreatant to see the people on the earth in all their diversity: “some are white, some black; some at peace, and some at war; some weeping, some laughing; some well, some sick; some coming into the world, some dying; etc.” (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, by Louis J. Puhl, S.J. -- Westminster, Md., The Newman Press, 1957, p. 50.).
The Trinity, beholding “all nations in great blindness, going down to death and descending into hell,” decides to work the redemption of the human race.
After considering what the persons on the face of the earth do, “for example, wound, kill, and go down to hell,” the retreatant then contemplates the Incarnation and begs for the grace to join in this mission of the Lord. It is not a trivial task, but rather an attempt to change history and human persons.
In his retreat journal Paul Mariani gave some striking examples of the modern “structural sin” which characterizes our conflictual world and which cries out for the prophetic and transforming power of the incarnate Jesus today: “Swiss banks collaborating with the Nazis to steal the property of Jewish victims, their lives apparently not enough. American tobacco companies creating killer cigarettes, then lying about it year after year, as the death toll from cancer mounts, my own mother among the statistics. The injustice of it all and of how we cover over these injustices. I thought of the Jews' deep passion for justice – Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Psalmist – refusing to let these things be swept away by a kind of selective amnesia. I thought of Jesus, one more Jew from the provinces, beaten half to death, then led out to die.
“God Himself crying out against the sheer weight of the injustices against the poor, the defenseless, those who cannot afford adequate counsel. The lies, the false claims and counterclaims, legal systems opposing true justice…. Black slaves and Native Americans, long dead, whose basic human rights were abrogated time and time again” (pp. 97-98).

The Word made flesh is “Emmanuel,” which, Matthew explains, means “God with us” (Mt 1:23). Since Jesus is the True Person, some wise men from the East, searching for truth, come to him in Bethlehem: “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (2:11).
To whom did they kneel to give homage? Not to a domineering ecclesiastical chief who would have demanded that they reject their cultural and religious heritage as “pagan” or perhaps even diabolical, but to an infant in a modest dwelling. The baby Jesus did not require their total submission; the family gratefully accepted the visitorś gifts and wished them well on their journey.
If the religions of the world could receive each otheŕs gifts in mutual appreciation and gratitude, the kingdom of the one God would come closer. This prospect is not helped by Marines from a “Christian nation” attacking and calling in air strikes on a mosque, thus killing scores of Muslims, as happened yesterday in Iraq.

The holy family became refugees in Egypt to avoid the jealous wrath of King Herod, who took out his anger by killing “all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men” (2:16)
Later, other jealous religious authorities and the representative of the Roman emperor would succeed in executing Jesus. And down through the ages, kings, emperors, and presidents have beaten down with overwhelming violence most “uppity” types – whether prophets of God́s kingdom or would-be political rivals, or even simply independent leaders who refuse to genuflect at the imperial throne.

The narrative of Jesus' public ministry began outside the temple, indeed outside the city – in the wilderness with a bizarre-looking man who had no official status or credentials. John the Baptist appeared “in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’” (3:1-2).
He demanded true repentance which manifests itself in deeds as worthy fruit: “But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor;’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire’” (3:7-10).
In the Church let us not rest on our laurels as having been baptized as infants into the family of Jesus and the saints and martyrs. In the Society of Jesus, may he keep us from resting on the holiness and fame of our great missionaries and martyrs of the past.

In Luke's version of the Baptist's preaching we find something of the specific content of his message – a strong call to social justice: “And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and then asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages’” (Lk 3:10-14).
All are urged to share the resources of life; government officials and soldiers are told to avoid fraudulent and extortionate methods. What would the Baptist ask us U.S. Christians to do today in relation to, or in resistance to, the policies of our government and corporations? Rather than sharing resources, are we not monopolizing them for own own selfish consumption? Are our government officials and military officers not levying taxes on other countries – e.g., payment of their usurious foreign debt, while they must abandon their just demands on our corporations in compliance with the new rules of world trade? Are we not extorting other countries to conform to our designs for exploitation under the guise of “free-trade” agreements?
Christian corporate captains ignore all the Baptist’s injunctions except the last one, which they preach to their employees: “Be satisfied with your wages,” as if this meant that soldiers, police, and other workers did not have a right to struggle for a just wage.

Jesus will not only proclaim the need for repentance and for the appropriate fruits of conversion, but he will “baptize in the Holy Spirit” (Mt 3:11), i.e., he will share his own Spirit of Love to transform the hearts of those who receive his spoken word.
In the baptism of Jesus, a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (3:17).
Thus affirmed, Jesus begins to look toward his own mission and the means he should choose to implement it. Fasting forty days and nights in the desert, he is first confronted by the temptation to appeal to people by offering them bread: “But he answered, ‘It is written, ‘one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (4:4).
Next he is tempted to win them over by dazzling them with spectacular tricks and finally to coerce them with the political and military power of the kingdoms of the world. But to wield this kind of power, Jesus would have to worship the evil one, the principle of violence and domination: “Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him’” (4:10).
Jesus does not want his free followers to be bread or rice Christians, or circus fans, or coerced crowds.
“Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee…. From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’” (4:12,17). Jesus picked up the torch from the jailed Baptist and proclaimed the very same message, undoubtedly recognizing that he was risking the same fate as the one he had chosen as his baptizer.

The fishermen responded “immediately” to Jesus’ invitation to make them fishers of people (4:18-22). Such figures of speech are not to be analyzed literally: in this case, the fish who are brought into the bark of Peter, far from suffocating, find fullness and joy in community and in a meaningful mission. Nor are people to be tricked by bait or caught in a net (coerced) to follow Jesus.
Now with four disciples, Jesus “went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people” (4:23).
Later, after much teaching and healing, Jesus continues “teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness” (9:35). And he commissioned the Twelve to be heralds of his own message: “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near’” (10:7).
In Luke's version, Jesus began to proclaim the good news of the kingdom by reading from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Lk 4:18-19).
We can catch a glimmer of the excitement as well as the meaning of Jesus' announcement of the “good news of the kingdom of God” by hearing one of the key Old Testament references to “good news” or good tidings: “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings…. See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him…. He will feed his flock like a shepherd….” (Is 40:9-11)
That good news was that God was then showing his royal power to liberate his people from their captivity in Babylon. More generally, the kingdom of God is where God rules, where his will is done on earth by people who accept and live by God’s values. This is Jesus' news report.

The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12). In Luke's version (6:20-26), these are fewer and more stark, more material; and they are followed by their corresponding “woes.” There is no need to project these reversals of fortune entirely into a heavenly after-life as if they had no application within history.
All of the Beatitudes are, of course, admirably exemplified by Jesus himself. I also find it helpful and inspiring to reflect on saints (both canonized and not) and “blessed” who by their lives have shown us the meaning and challenge of each Beatitude.
How the disciples on that mountain must have thrilled, and wondered, when the Master called them “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” (Mt 5:13-14). Salt is infinitesimal when compared to the earth; light is often weak and regularly fades completely. But the little flock is called to remain faithful to its crucial mission for the sake of the earth and the world. Later, Jesus would liken the Kingdom of God to a small mustard seed (13:31-32) and to a little measure of yeast (13:33).
Jesus urges his followers to proclaim the Good News of God́s love through “good works”: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (5:16). The Lord remembered how the Baptist had stressed the need to “bear fruit” rather than just to recite formulas of faith.

Good Friday

The gross manipulation of the English language continues.

Item 1.
Even with tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis of various Muslim groups rising up, in demonstrations or in arms, against the foreign occupiers, American leaders (from sergeants on the battlefield to the commander-in-chief) are still labeling our opponents the “bad guys.” As the number of evil ones grows exponentially, will there be a commensurate increase in U.S. killings of civilians? Will we soon be told that all 25 million Iraqis are “extremists” because they have an extremely hostile attitude toward the invading armies?

Item 2.
As a Japanese hostage was shown on the morning news staring in horror at a sword two inches from his neck, the script running at the bottom of the screen identified the Japanese soldiers in Iraq, who must be removed from the country if the hostages are to be spared, as being on a “humanitarian mission.”
Last year the Nicaraguan government assured its people that its small contingent of troops in Iraq were on a “humanitarian” mission to help disarm land mines. The Iraqis, however, fail to appreciate the humanitarian nature of the collaboration of anyone with the foreigners occupying their country by force and violence.

Local Columbus TV today presented some bad news about Holy Thursday as celebrated in Atlanta. The archbishop had decreed that female feet could not be among those washed in the ceremony commemorating Jesus' washing of the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. Demonstrators at the cathedral protested the archbishop's order.
The exclusion of half the human race was a glaring and scandalous contradiction to the beautiful meaning of Jesus' dramatic example of unity and equality in a community of mutual service. Today, in a letter to a friend who works for the archdiocese, what could I do but offer her a simple but heartfelt apology? (In our Christian Base Communities in Nicaragua, not only do women as well as men have their feet washed in this ceremony, but, as the basin and towel are passed around the twelve volunteers, people wash one another’s feet in obedience to the command of Jesus.)

Jesus in Jail

The hectic pace of the last few days has slowed down, and the tension has subsided at least for the night. It was quiet in the jail where Jesus was held.
All his disciples had deserted him and fled at the moment of his arrest. Peter, at least, had been hanging around the high priest's courtyard; but, upon being questioned, he denied knowing Jesus.
Although Jesus' body was sore from the beating he had received from the temple guards, he was filled with a deep inner peace, knowing he had been faithful to his mission and that Abba was with him. At dawn he would be taken before Pilate.

In 1944 a compañero of Jesus, Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J., would also find himself on a death row, accused by the Nazis of criticizing and conspiring against the Third Reich. He too experienced a profound interior peace and joy which came from his awareness that he had been steadfast in the life’s mission his Lord had given him. During Advent, even in prison, he felt "true happiness" as a companion to hope "that all the promises hold good": "It does happen, even under these circumstances, that every now and then my whole being is flooded with pulsating life and my heart can scarcely contain the delirious joy there is in it. Suddenly, without any cause that I can perceive, without knowing why or by what right, my spirits soar again and there is not a doubt in my mind that all the promises hold good" (Alfred Delp, S.J. -- Prison Writings, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2004), p. 27).
Alfred had also made his own Ignatius's “Suscipe” – “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding , and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.”
As a religious Alfred had offered God his liberty when he first pronounced his vow of obedience and, very shortly before his execution by the Nazis, when he made his final vows. In prison he probably felt that he was giving the Lord his liberty, and his life, in a very specific, concrete way.



For more on Fr. Delp, please see my chapter in this Jail Journal –
The Prison Writings of Fr. Alfred Delp, S.J. --
A Meditation By a Fellow Jesuit in Jail


For many years now I have tried to be open to Christ's call to join him in working for his Kingdom of justice and peace. In the Jesuit community and in the larger peace community, I have sought to discern God's will for me along this particular road of ministry. Following on this path, I am immensely grateful for the meaningful work I have found and the wonderful pilgrims who have accompanied me in many struggles.
This journey has included four experiences of incarceration for which I have absolutely no regrets: two years in federal prison for participating in the destruction of draft files as an act of resistance against the war in Vietnam; one night in the Washington, D.C., jail after Phil Berrigan and I poured blood on the gateposts of the White House as a protest against the 1989 assassination of the six Jesuits and the two women at the Central American University in San Salvador; a few hours in a Pentagon detention facility for taking part in a “die-in” as a protest against the SOA/WHINSEC; and my current ninety days of incarceration.
In my vow of obedience I too had offered my liberty to Christ, promising to seek and follow his will in the Society of Jesus. Incarceration as a consequence of my ministry has been a small but significant concretization of that oblation of my freedom and a way to accompany Jesus even in his experience of arrest and detention.

In spite of his bruises, Jesus fell asleep on the hard floor, only to awaken shortly when two bandits were thrown in with him. They too had been picked up by the chief priest́s police, who were especially vigilant because of the large crowds who had come to Jerusalem for Passover.
Awakened by their entry, Jesus asked them why they had been arrested.. When he heard that they had been robbing travelers on the outskirts of the city, he remarked that their penalty for such a crime could be severe but would probably not be capital punishment. “You don't understand,” one said, “we are Zealots and we were getting funds for the rebellion.
“The guards told us about you – that the chief priest will accuse you before Pilate of stirring up the people, claiming to be a king, and going against the emperor. But we know you are not one of us Zealots. You must really hate these corrupt and lying priests. You must be praying that fire come down from heaven to consume them and the Romans who will carry out your execution.”
“It would be natural to feel that way,” Jesus smiled, “but I am asking God to forgive them, for they do not really know what they are doing.”
“Sure, sure,” the bandit snorted. “We'll see how you feel tomorrow. Let's make a bet: if you still feel that way when we're hanging on those crosses, I'll ask you to forgive me too and take me with you to your paradise.”

“Anima Christi”

During my Holy Week retreat I have tried to enter into the well-known prayer, “Anima Christi,” which Ignatius included in the book of the Exercises.

“Soul of Christ, sanctify me.”
May the Holy Spirit, Spirit of Love, soften my heart,
helping me to be more sensitive and kinder to others
and to “speak boldly” in defense of the gospel of love and justice
as the early Christians did after Pentecost.
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill my heart and kindle in me the fire of thy divine love.”

“Body of Christ, save me.”
– Save me by preventing me from being amputated from your Body, the people.
If I fall alone into the raging waters, may your lifeline bring me back to the Bark.
– May your Eucharistic Body nourish me so that I can be a more vital community member
and enable me to assimilate you as the Word of Life,
as Ezekiel “ate the scroll” of your truth (Ezekiel 3:1-3).
– And as I break the Eucharistic bread and pass the cup of your blood to the community,
by your mercy speaking your words of self-giving,
help me to be willing to give my body to be broken and my blood to be shed
not just in one special, final moment,
but every day in friendship and service.

“Blood of Christ, inebriate me.”
Gladden my heart.
Cheer me up when I’m down;
and when I'm happy,
prompt me to show it with a smile and sense of humor.

“Water from the side of Christ, wash me.”
Baptize me anew every day to wash away the dust, grime, and air pollution of our culture:
gender and nationalistic chauvinism,
anthropocentric ecological irresponsibility,
individualistic competitiveness of all kinds,
fearful egocentrism,
and clericalistic arrogance.

“Passion of Christ, strengthen me.”
May the passion of the Christ –
both the real event and the movie –
fortify me and millions of others
to carry on the struggle for the Kingdom
no matter what may lie ahead.
And may we come to a more complete and more personal understanding
of Jesus and his work in the gospels
as the prelude and provocation of his passion,
that we may love him and his people more deeply
and follow him more perfectly.

“O Good Jesus, hear me.”
Mom used to say, in times of difficulty:
“God is good.”
And Jesus is our good friend who always listens.
May the Spirit help us to listen, too, to him and to one another.

“Within your wounds, hide me.”
It is not for protection from any vengeful anger of a cruel tyrant god
that we need to be hidden within Jesus' wounds,
for such a seedy image is a blasphemous insult to Jesus' and our loving “Abba,”
as Bishop Tom Gumbleton noted in his Palm Sunday sermon (April 4, 2004)
after the reading of the Lord’s passion:
“Over the past few weeks, even months, we have been inundated with talk of the film ‘The Passion of the Christ.’ The emphasis has been on Jesus being brutalized, victimized, and becoming a helpless victim who seems almost totally passive, being crushed with a kind of violence that is almost too much for most people to even watch and absorb.
“Supposedly, according to that kind of theology, this was what God demanded. God demanded that Jesus be so totally destroyed and suffer so terribly to pay for our sin.
“But if we listen really carefully to the scriptures, that's not the message. Jesus was not a helpless victim. What kind of a God would demand that God's only Son be treated that way and demand that kind of payment? We can almost not imagine a crueler image of God. It certainly does not fit into our understanding of who God is. God is love and only love” (“The Peace Pulpit,” National Catholic Reporter).
As the mountains of El Salvador hid the poor in resistance and in flight, may Jesus hide us from repressive governments in the service of the world's oligarchies – so that we may, as he often did, get away to struggle another day, until the hour of death is inevitably upon us.

“Permit me not to be separated from you.”
You always say: “Do not be afraid, I am with you.”
Help me to stay by your side,
never separated from you or from your Body, the community,
for that would be the only real defeat.

“From the wicked foe defend me.”
Defend me from the enemy within –
pride, which would make me into an idol,
and fear, which would reduce me to a slave.
In relation to opponents outside,
help me to hate the injustice but not the perpetrator,
and to confront opponents resolutely but respectfully,
with the relative truth I have glimpsed.

“At the hour of my death, call me.”
Grateful for my sixty years,
I pray that you continue to pour out your Spirit,
so that younger generations shall still see visions
and that we older men and women shall still dream dreams (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28)
until the hour comes when you call us once again:
“Come and see, come follow me.”

“And bid me come to you”
in poverty of spirit
and, finally, in total material poverty as well.

“That with your saints I may praise you, for ever and ever. Amen.”
May our friendship grow in this life,
so that I may look toward an eternal conversation of love and praise
as my perfect joy.

Thomas Merton had a profound sense of the crucifixion of Jesus as an ongoing reality in history and of his personal duty to bring the victims and potential victims down from the cross. In 1961 he wrote to a friend: “I am now perfectly convinced that there is one task for me that takes precedence over everything else: working with such means as I have at my disposal for the abolition of war....
“This is purely and simply the crucifixion over again. Those who think there can be a just cause for measures that risk leading to the destruction of the entire human race are in the most dangerous illusion, and if they are Christian they are purely and simply arming themselves with hammer and nails, without realizing it, to crucify and deny Christ. The extent of our spiritual obtuseness is reaching a frightful scale” (Essential Writings, Orbis Books, 2000).


Holy Saturday

Jesus is dead, buried, gone.
Some believe he will rise.
Today they wait.

Today around 9 a.m. Mike Walli, my fellow anti-SOA protester and cellmate, came into our cell with the TV remote control in hand to announce with joy that all the other inmates were asleep and so we could watch whatever we wanted in the dayroom. This turned out to be the “Washington Journal” on C-Span, which was focusing on the controversy over the wording of the pledge of allegiance.
According to one caller, the main issue today regarding the pledge is not whether it should include the phrase, “under God,” which was inserted in 1954. Rather, the problem is that the Bush administration and its supporters have, in effect, their own pledge: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the corporations of America, and to the Republicans for whom it stands, one nation, under their God, with liberty and justice for them.”


Easter Sunday

Little by little the disciples began to share with one another
their growing sense of his living presence and power among them.
And when he sent them his Spirit,
they went out with joy and courage to proclaim his message of truth, justice, and peace,
and to affirm that God had raised up the executed victim.

In a similar way the Salvadoran people sing a popular ballad about their beloved San Romero:
“The blood that you shed was for the cause of a people
who suffer great repression,
on account of the rich and the government....
It is clear to the people that your death was not isolated,
but was the action of imperialism and the armed forces....
Oscar Arnulfo has not died;
he lives in the struggles of his people.
For that reason we will never forget your heroic example”
(cited in Oscar Romero: Reflections on His Life and Writings, by Marie Dennis, Renny Golden, Scott Wright; Orbis Books, 2000).

The martyrdom of Romero brought a new Pentecost to his people, as a refugee from governmental repression testified: “When they killed Monseñor Romero, we were very sad because we thought everything had ended.. But later we saw that his spirit gave us strength to resist oppression. For that reason we also believe more now in Jesus Christ” (Carta a las Iglesias, San Salvador, UCA Editores, 1981- , No. 89).