WHAT CAN EQUAL THE VALUE OF A HUMAN SOUL?

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I’m pretty sure that we have all heard “Everything has a price” – as in: for the right price, anything can be bought or sold.

As I pondered that idea, I was reminded of a dialogue between a professor and fellow student in one of my history courses in college (a few years ago, wink wink). It went something like this:

Professor: Anything can be bought.

Student: Well, you can’t buy love.

Professor: Maybe. But for the right price, you can buy a pretty good imitation of it.

The class erupted in laughter, as the student conceded that the professor had a good point.

I think that memory moved to the forefront of my mind because I needed a light moment before tackling the really serious question that started my deliberation: How much is a human life worth? – $10 million, the EPA’s value of statistical life for 2016? a billion? $18 billion, the amount that the U.S. reportedly cleared in new arms deals with Saudi Arabia in 2017? a trillion? Or is it invaluable?

I choose the latter. I believe that life is a sacred gift from God; therefore, it is not to be treated like a cheap commodity. I believe that it is a mistake to disregard the value of human life, no matter what the circumstances.

I choose to respect and value my life and the lives of others. I believe the dignity of a human soul is worth more than any economic gain.

I was horrified when I heard an Evangelical leader say “you don’t blow up an international alliance over one person” in response to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

I am not willing to give up my commitment to championing human rights for economic benefit. I am not okay with jeopardizing America’s global reputation as a moral authority that advocates respect for human rights in exchange for money from arms sales.

Are you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Why I Love Jesus’ Parables

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

A year ago in June, Cathy Hilkert OP and Jude Siciliano OP led the Dominican Sisters of Peace at the Akron, Ohio Motherhouse in a retreat “The Reign of God Is Like.” It centered on the parables. And I was their liturgist/musician—a blessing for me, since I could soak in the insights and wisdom shared.

Throughout the retreat, a surprise element hidden in Jesus’ Parables sometimes elicited from me: “I’ve never noticed that before, and I’ve read it hundreds of times!”  An example: one morning as a lead into our 20-minute centering prayer, this quote was read: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls…” Accustomed to hearing the kingdom of heaven compared to a treasure hidden in a field, or a pearl of great price—for which we want to be ready to sacrifice all to attain it—I was surprised to notice the kingdom of heaven being equated with the ‘merchant’ who was seeking fine pearls. The Kingdom of God (the merchant) is ever searching for pearls of great price—persons of faith being transformed by God’s love—whom God considers to be worth Jesus sacrificing all to attain them. How awesome!—to realize once again that we are so precious to God.

It’s a slight twist or an unexpected word or phrase in the parable that often leads me to an “AHA” moment of grace. That’s why I love Jesus’ Parables.

A week ago the Gospel for the day was Lk 10:25-37It was about a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus asked him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Then Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan, concluding with a question.

Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

I’ve always read this passage expecting and thinking the message of Jesus to be your neighbor is the down and out, mistreated, robbed person left for dead in this passage—love them as ourselves, and treat them as the Good Samaritan did. That’s what I expected.

But here was the twist: Jesus’ answer to the question who is my neighbor was: the one who treated the victim with mercy. We become what we love. So was Jesus telling the scholar (and all of us) love the true neighbor, the merciful one, as you love yourself?  To love the merciful as much as we love ourselves, opens us to being transformed into the true neighbor—fashioned after God’s own heart. That seems to me not only wholly desirable, but also possible.

Another reason why I love Jesus’ Parables. How about you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

God’s Reflection is in Everything and Everyone: Remembering Rabbi Mendy Sasonkin

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I remember the first time that I met Rabbi Mendy Sasonkin.

I didn’t know what to expect, except that he would not shake my hand (I had received that wisdom from a Conservative Rabbinic friend who said: “When you meet him, don’t take it personally, but he will not shake your hand.” He went on to explain that in keeping with the foundational Jewish value of modesty, an Orthodox Rabbi refrains from touching a woman other than his wife and immediate family).

I was thankful for that valuable information because it helped me avoid what could have been an awkward beginning to an introductory meeting with one of the spiritual leaders of a faith community that I was charged to cover as the religion writer for the local newspaper.

Over the years, I enjoyed building rapport with both Rabbi Sasonkin and his lovely and loving wife, Kaila.

Last week, Rabbi Sasonkin passed away (at the age of 54). When I got the news, I began to reflect on the intersection of our lives.

I recalled how there was something within him – an inner-contentment from knowing God and from his commitment to doing the will of God. That something within him, which I call God’s spirit, touched my inner spirit.

That remembrance led to my beautiful epiphany: Without using physical contact, Rabbi Sasonkin touched me in a most profound way. He embraced me with his spirit.

It didn’t matter that we were from two different faith traditions. I saw God’s reflection in him and he saw God’s reflection in me. We saw value, dignity, and worth in each other.

We had a kindred spirit connection. The light in his life made mine shine a little brighter.

I will remember what he said: “Thank God!” for everything.

I will remember what he did: Welcomed others with a warm smile, kindness, respect, and an open heart.

I will remember how he made me feel: Accepted, appreciated, and loved.

May he rest in peace.

May the Almighty comfort his family.

(Rabbi Menachem Mendel “Mendy” Sasonkin served Anshe Sfard Congregation-Revere Road Congregation in the greater Akron, Ohio area from 1995 until his death on October 2).

Posted in Associate Blog

Autumn and the Courage to Let Go, Let God

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

I don’t remember a September/October when I didn’t feel a resistance to the coming of Autumn, though the fall colors never cease to surprise and delight me. Though a recurring part of the changing seasons—the prospect of trees inevitably letting go of their glorious foliage, soon to be stripped down to their bare branches for winter–gives a poignancy to the fleeting beauty. Autumn Trees demonstrate to me much courage and faith: to let go, let God when Spring is nowhere in sight.

Recently in a phone visit with Associate Pat Krause, as she shared about her ongoing ministry to/with her brother who suffers from dementia. For both of them it is a daily letting go.  She recalled a reflection that she had shared as an Associates’ Prayer Page in April, 2014 and how it still holds much meaning, and continues to be a source of inspiration and strength for her today.

Since so many people in our lives today have a family member, friend or acquaintance with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia—and suffer with them—Pat’s reflection is relevant for all of our readers.

TRANSFORMATION
by Patricia Krause, OPA

“Will you come and follow Me if I but call your name?  Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same? Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known, will you let my life be grown in you and you in Me?“ –“The Summons” by John L. Bell

As I knelt there in St. Anne’s Church after Communion, these words from the song “The Summons” were being sung. Tears began to roll down my cheeks and I could hardly restrain my sobs. You see, just that week my brother who has dementia had to be placed in an Alzheimer’s Unit. As I pondered these words they appeared to be spoken to him, and I could only imagine how frightening these words could be for my brother and any person suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s,  if they did not have faith and trust in God.

In Alzheimer’s and dementia, one is called to a place where one does not know and never will be the same. Accepting God’s call to the unknown allows God’s love to be shown to those who care for them and love them. That person is asked to leave themselves—who they were—behind, and in doing so risk the hostile stare of others who cannot, or will not, see who they are. We must enter into their world in order to meet the person they are. The person themselves and we who love them are asked to love the person they have become. They must wrestle with the fear of who they are, and through this, reshape  the world by admitting others into this sacred space. God has called my brother and so many others on this journey and though this summons is not to anyone’s liking nor what the world would recognize as anything but folly, God has selected these precious people to be His gift to others. God and God’s love is revealed in these chosen—through our sight, sound and touch—if we are willing to see beyond what was and what now is.

Now is the moment of our metanoia –
A season of change; a time of forward movement.
Together we rejoice in the abundance and fullness of life
Which we are called to embrace and to share.
Our Transformation.  Our Spring.
(Ministry of the Arts)

I will not die but live and declare the deeds of our God.  Ps 118:17

 

Posted in Associate Blog, News

CHOOSE TO CONQUER YOUR OBSTACLES

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Does the name Andrew Peterson mean anything to you? (No, not the musician or the author).

I’m talking about the Andrew Peterson who overcame Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to become a three-time Special Olympics Gold Medalist and the second Special Olympics athlete to qualify for the Boston Marathon (which he is scheduled to run next year, a month after he represents the United States in the upcoming 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi).

The predominant factor in Andrew’s ability to overcome was (and is) his father, Craig – who adopted Andrew and his three siblings about 20 years ago, when Andrew was five years old. At that time, Andrew couldn’t speak and had limited motor skills. When he was eight years old, Andrew ran his first race, a 3K, with his dad.

Andrew’s story inspires confidence that it is not impossible to overcome adversity.

(Sidebar: and speaking of difficulties, I’m sure the fact that Andrew is black and his father is an openly gay white man didn’t make life easy either. I encourage you to read more about this remarkable athlete and his father, who dared to adopt a total of six special needs children, proving that love doesn’t discriminate!).

Not only has Andrew established himself as an elite athlete. He also shares his experience as a public speaker and serves as an ambassador for the Special Olympics.

When we experience obstacles, frustration, or failure, perhaps we can learn something from Andrew, like the importance of developing the endurance needed to attain a good outcome; building enough stamina to be able to stand through any storm that life brings our way; and surrounding ourselves with good, positive, and supportive people.

We must think positively, live in faith, refuse to take “no” for an answer, be empowered by each accomplishment (no matter how small), and believe anything is possible if we persevere.

A little more than a week ago, Andrew shared his story with a group of elementary students in Billings, Montana. He recalled how in elementary school most kids couldn’t understand his speech and laughed at him and called him names. He told them how he struggled to walk and hold a fork.

“Since I have brain damage from fetal alcohol syndrome, nothing in life has been easy … So many people focused on what I couldn’t do … I showed them,” Andrew told the students before delivering his takeaway: “I don’t ever want your pity. Rather, I need your respect.”

My conclusion: Don’t allow obstacles to dominate your life. Find the strength to work through the difficulties and setbacks. Don’t dwell on the past. Surround yourself with people who are good for you. Keep moving forward.

Posted in Associate Blog, News