DO NOT BE SILENT

Blog by Associate Carol Lemelin, OPA

St. Paul was a man who threw himself into his work, passionately sure of the rightness of his causes.  He was a diligent persecutor of Christians and was heading to Damascus at full speed to round up the followers of Christ and bring them to justice when God intervened.

Knowing Paul very well, God stopped him in his tracks with a dramatic flash of light, which threw him off his horse and blinded him.  God knew when to fight fire with fire.

Thus began the transformation of Paul of Tarsus from enemy to friend. As the transformation progressed Paul did not change personalities because God needed him just the way he was to spread the Good News, he just changed his perspective and understanding of Jesus of Nazareth and what He would mean to the world.

Armed with his usual single-minded drive, Paul set out on the greatest evangelical journey in history.  He went from place to place proclaiming Christ as the Messiah, but like all forceful people he sometimes worried that he was too forceful, that he might be turning people off with his approach.

The Jews were not responding and he had gotten angry and stormed off.  One night as he slept, God spoke to him: “Do not be afraid. Go on speaking; do not be silent, for I am with you.” (Acts 18:9-18)

Most people shy away from the idea of evangelizing; it sounds as though they are expected to be like St. Paul, which does not come naturally to them, but the important part of God’s command is ”Do not be silent, for I am with you.”

Those are words we should keep in the forefront of our thoughts when the occasion arises.  No one expects you to preach like Paul but to be yourself and say simple things like: “I believe in Jesus and I think you would too if you knew Him. He can change your life and give you hope.”

There was once a Jewish man named Apollos who came to Ephesus.  He was a believer and it was said of him: “He gave great assistance to those who had come to believe through grace”. (Acts:18:23-28)   It’s as simple as that.  We shy away from speaking, afraid of the reaction.  We forget we are not alone!

Look about you. The power of Christ to change lives is from God, you are simply the instrument he uses to enrich the lives of his creation. If God were not the driving force behind Paul’s ministry and that of the the other early believers, Christianity would have died in infancy.

As it is, Christianity has survived every test and will continue to do so until God decides it is enough. You must believe that God is at the center of it all, that we are not alone, and never will be. See in his words to Paul the promise of everlasting companionship and be brave.

There are people who need to know Jesus and when you encounter them hear the words of God: “Do not be silent.  I am with you.” 

 

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Bridges in Cleveland

Blog by Sr. Amy McFrederick, OP

Last Saturday, our Vocation/Formation Teams, women in formation, a couple of other Dominican Sisters of Peace (including me), enjoyed a short cruise on the Good Times III Ship on Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. It featured the Bridges of Cleveland.

As we slowly made our way through the harbor, and down the river around “Collision Corner” and back, the Captain of the ship pointed out important buildings and landmarks, named sights and bridges spanning the river, and narrated historic events pertinent to the area.

Probably most interesting to me was seeing and experiencing the different kinds of draw bridges that both allowed trains, cars, and pedestrians to pass over the river, but also could either raise, lift, or swing to the side to allow approaching larger boats and ships to pass, then return to their usual function as a bridge for land travelers.

Being a native Kansan, I had never seen draw bridges until I traveled to Louisiana, New York, Ohio and elsewhere. I was fascinated by the overall design of these amazing feats of engineering and cooperative work of humans.

I got to thinking about the importance of bridges in our lives, and not only bridges spanning rivers, swamps, lakes, and other wetlands, but turnpike, interstate, city and rural highway overpasses that avoid busy railroad tracks and congested areas and facilitate traffic flow. Praise God for bridges!

With bridges still on my mind as I read and prayed with the Gospel Reading for Sunday July 8, (Mark 6:1-6), the line that caught my attention was: (Jesus) “was not able to perform any mighty deed there (in his home town), apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.

He was amazed at their lack of faith.” Faith was the missing “bridge” that could have connected Jesus’ hometown folks to his mighty deeds.

I thought of the Luke 8:43-48 story about the woman who “touched the hem of Jesus’ garment”, believing she would be healed of her affliction and WAS healed. Jesus told her “your faith has made you well.”

Her faith in Jesus connected her to the healing power emanating from Him.  Though crowds were surrounding and pressing in on Him, she was the only one healed, and Jesus wanted it to make it known that her faith opened a way for divine healing power to flow to her.

Our FAITH in Christ is the bridge opening us to God’s loving power flowing to us!

When has your faith been a bridge to grace, healing, light, and gift flowing in/to/through you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

I Love a Story with a Happy Ending

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

So, let me get this straight: a 12-year-old boy was mowing a lawn and inadvertently crossed the property line, cutting a section of grass in the neighbor’s yard.

The neighbor called 911, asking the police to make him (and his crew – his siblings and cousins, ages nine to 13) stop.

Wow! Is that an emergency call that a 911 operator should be answering?

Anyway, a police officer showed up and — to the officer’s credit – he did not confront the children, but addressed the adult customer who hired the crew and the adult neighbor who called police.

But the 12-year-old (Reginald Fields), who owns a lawn care business called Mr. Reggie’s Lawn Cutting Service in Maple Heights, Ohio, was dismayed because the police were called on him and his crew (who in his eyes were doing nothing wrong).

The woman who hired the crew to mow her lawn was troubled by the situation and created a Facebook Live post about what happened.

The post has apparently gotten thousands of views and shares that have resulted in more business for Mr. Reggie and his crew.

Reggie’s mother told a reporter that it is heartwarming to see her children get so much support for doing something productive.

Since the incident, Reggie’s business has received a number of new job offers and a donation of a new push lawn mower and two leaf and grass blowers. My hat’s off to those who are encouraging Reggie and his crew to continue doing something constructive.

Don’t you just love it?

Doesn’t it inspire you to speak up — like Mr. Reggie’s customer — when you know something isn’t right?

Doesn’t it motivate you to want to encourage someone — like those new customers of Mr. Reggie and the person who donated the lawn equipment — who you see doing something constructive?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

“White Civil Rights”? … I Just Can’t!

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Several years ago, an acquaintance shared with me that a group of middle-aged white men that he gathers with for Bible study at his church believe “white is the new black.”

I asked what that meant. He shared that they believe they are being discriminated against. I asked him why they thought that way. He said “well it’s no longer popular to be a white man.”

I asked “do you believe that white men are actually discriminated against”? He never answered the direct question, but said “well, they might have a point.”

We were interrupted and never finished the conversation.

I was reminded of his statement several days ago, when I heard that the National Park Service had given initial approval to the request of Jason Kessler to hold a “white civil rights rally” across the street from the White House in August – on the one-year anniversary of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., which drew hundreds of white nationalists and supporters.

Kessler was one of the organizers of the Virginia rally, during which 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when run over by a car driven by a self-described neo-Nazi; 20-year-old DeAndre Harris was brutally beaten with a metal pipe and wooden boards by white supremacists; and a self-described KKK leader fired a shot toward a counter-protester.

The Virginia rally was organized to protest cities taking down Confederate statues. Kessler reportedly told a CBS affiliate in Washington that the purpose of this year’s rally is “to talk about the civil rights abuse that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.” (Note: a permit has not been issued by the National Park Service for the rally being planned for August 11 and 12 in the nation’s capital).

I’m confused. Is “white civil rights” a thing? Are white people, in general – or white men, specifically – oppressed?

The last time I checked, white people (particularly white men) were not on the losing end when it comes to the persistent racial disparities in education, health, employment, and wealth in this country. Where is the system that puts white people at a disadvantage when it comes to race?

I’m not saying white people don’t experience prejudice – they do. But they do not experience unfair treatment as a social group based on that prejudice (discrimination); and they don’t experience discrimination backed by institutional power (oppression); and they certainly don’t experience oppression in which another racial group dominates them (racism).

There are so many statistics/facts that speak to this: the May 2018 black unemployment rate is nearly double that of the white unemployment rate; whites have significantly higher rates of wealth than blacks and the wealth gap continues to widen; black students are more underrepresented at top colleges and universities than they were 35 years ago; blacks receive sentences that are 20 percent longer than those for whites who commit the same crime; whites make up 80 percent of Congress and nearly 90 percent of federal judgeships; mortality rates for white infants are at least 50 percent lower than for black infants.

I could go on. Instead, I yield to ask someone to help me understand the preposterous notion of the oppression of white America.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

What Manner of Love Does your God Prescribe?

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I wonder how many people were as incensed as I was when hearing U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III use the Bible to defend ripping apart families — arresting parents and placing children in internment camps (oops, I mean “detention centers”).

I wonder if my exasperation is similar to that of my Muslim friends who are often frustrated by the misrepresentation of their sacred book.

I am sick and tired of, dare I say, Christian extremists, trying to justify their oppressive views with biblical scripture (taken out of context). I’m no theologian (and apparently neither is Jeff Sessions), but the last time I checked, Christians were commanded to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

What manner of love abuses asylum seekers (who, by the way, have a right to come here), traumatizes children, and degrades human beings?

Everything within me rejects the attorney general’s spiritual arrogance and dangerously misguided and perverted interpretation of biblical scripture as justification for the inhuman treatment of immigrants.

I would like to draw attention to an alternative interpretation of Paul’s message via “Paul’s Letter to American Christians,” delivered by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1956 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. Rev. King described the basis of his sermon as what he imagined the Apostle Paul would write to Christians in America at that time:

“… American Christians, I must say to you as I said to the Roman Christians years ago, ‘Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ Or, as I said to the Philippian Christians, ‘Ye are a colony of heaven.’ This means that although you live in the colony of time, your ultimate allegiance is to the empire of eternity. You have a dual citizenry. You live both in time and eternity; both in heaven and earth. Therefore, your ultimate allegiance is not to the government, not to the state, not to nation, not to any man-made institution. The Christian owes his ultimate allegiance to God, and if any earthly institution conflicts with God’s will it is your Christian duty to take a stand against it. You must never allow the transitory evanescent demands of man-made institutions to take precedence over the eternal demands of the Almighty God.”

https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/publications/knock-midnight-inspiration-great-sermons-reverend-martin-luther-king-jr-1

As a Christian, I adhere to a just and loving God. I stand against the inhuman and unjust treatment of any human being.

Posted in Associate Blog