Sunday, January 24, 2016

Poems of Dom Helder Camara

Bishop of Rio de Janiro, he believed that the power of the church should be used for the poor, and worked toward this end in Vatican II.  He led the Pact of the Catacombs, a group of priests devoted to the poor.  He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but the government of Brazil stood in his way.

His greatest work, however, were his poems in which he expressed his deeper life before God.  He wrote seven thousand poems in his life, and the far majority of them have not been published.  Here is a handful. 

Become an expert
in the art
of discovering the good
in every person.
No one
is entirely bad.
Become an expert
in the art
of finding the truthful core
in views of every kind.
The human mind
abhors total error.

There are those
whose being 
is possession.
There are those
whose essence
is giving.

If you disagree with me,
if you have something to give me,
if you are sincere
and seek the truth
as best you may,
honestly, with modest care,
your thought is growth
to mine, correction,
you deepen my vision.

Hope without risk
is not hope
which is believing
in risky loving,
trusting others
in the dark
the blind leap
letting God take over.

When on judgement day
the angels call the artists in
they will be so proud
of their share
in God the Father's power
of creation,
that the Son
will find it hard
to judge them strictly
because poets especially
remind him of his Father.

isn't your creation wasteful?
Fruits never equal
the seedlings abundance.
Springs scatter water.
The sun gives out
enormous light.
May your bounty teach me
greatness of heart.
May your magnificence 
stop me being mean. 
Seeing you a prodigal
and open-handed giver,
let me unstintingly,
like a king's son,
like God's own.

Hear, O Lord
my special prayer
for my people,
the voiceless ones.
There are thousands
and thousands
of human creatures
in the poor countries
and in the slums
of the rich countries
with no right
to raise their voices
no possibility
of claiming
of protesting
however just
are the rights
they have to uphold.

-All poems taken from the volume Dom Helder Camara: Essential Writings, most are from the original volume The Desert is Fertile.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Beatitude Living

Jesus was poor.
He gave up his profession, his home, his family to accept a life of wandering, of not knowing where his next meal was coming from, of depending on the Father for all his needs.

Jesus was poor in spirit.
He sought out those of greatest need in his society and met those needs.  He reveled in relationships with the outcast, and gave up his comfortable lifestyle to find them.

Jesus mourned.
He wept at suffering, his own as well as others.  He wept at the limitations that kept people from thriving.  He wept at the systems that kept people oppressed. 

Jesus was meek.
He spoke boldly, which led to his incarceration.  He acted out truth, which led to his condemnation.  He was silent about his own innocence, which led to his death.

Jesus hungered and thirsted for justice.
Jesus taught his disciples to cry out for justice in the Lord’s Prayer.  Jesus acted for justice in small towns, in the wilderness, in the midst of a busy temple, before the governor.  Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus hungered.
He fed the thousands before eating.  He spoke to the outcast woman and was satisfied.

Jesus was merciful.
He saw, really saw, the poor.  And then he acted, meeting their needs although he had nothing to give.

Jesus was pure of heart.
Jesus wasn’t a teacher who spoke of love but hated.  He never took advantage of another, but always gave. He didn’t just speak the truth, he acted it. 

Jesus was a peacemaker.
He met needs.  He comforted.  He showed that the “enemies” of the people were often friends of God. He created a community of love.

Jesus was persecuted.
Jesus was rejected.  Jesus was threatened.  Jesus was hated.  Jesus was beaten.  Jesus was tortured.  Jesus was killed.

For all this, Jesus obtained new life.
He received the kingdom.
He laughs with joy.
He inherited the earth.
He obtained justice.
He is well fed.
He receives the mercy of the Father.
He sees God.
He is called the Son of God.
He obtained the reward of the prophets.  And more.

A second chance of life is only obtained through the path of Jesus.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Why the Church Is Destined to Die

Jesus will never fail.  Because Jesus is love, and love never fails, never ends.  

The church-- the structure that is organized and built and established in every community in the Western world-- will fail and must, if Jesus is true. 

The gaze of the church is not the focus of Jesus.

The church gazes at the sanctuary.
   The sanctuary is the center of worship, It is the place where God can be honored in holiness, in order, in serenity, in respect.  The church quiets the chaos, keeps out unholiness, establishes an orderly worship to honor God with.

Jesus creates chaos in the sanctuary.
   He comes to the sanctuary and sees that the church, in their zeal for honor, have excluded the very people God desires in His presence. Love is messy, crazy, unpredictable.  In demanding the predictable, the church has excluded love.  And so Jesus comes to the sanctuary and turns tables, throws out those who oppose love, rejects the policies that exclude the marginalized.

The church gazes at proper doctrine.
   Belief is the glue of the church, the formation of communities, the agreement through which bonds are formed.  Doctrine is the foundation of the church, the truth from which all else flows, the basis of ethics, praxis and organization.

Jesus insists upon mystery

Jesus spoke in riddles,  wrapped himself in enigmas and taught in paradoxes.  Jesus’ mystified metaphysics, and confused clarity.  Jesus clarified one thing only: mercy, compassion, humility, sacrifice and love.  He didn’t insist on clarity about God, but he demanded a lifestyle of caring.

Because the church focuses on worship, order and doctrine, they marginalize love.  This doesn't mean that love can't be found in the church, it often can.  In every church building we can find those who focus on love, who sacrifice themselves for the needy and pour themselves out for compassion, just like Jesus.  But this isn't the fault of the church.  Jesus is able to train those who use the places of worship to lives of love, but the church wants to train those of Jesus’ love to worship and believe the correct way. 

  • True worship is an outgrowth of truly loving the marginalized, not the other way around.
  • True doctrine is a result of creating communities of justice, not the other way around.
  • We need to stop building worship centers and start building community centers that have places of worship.
  • We need to stop building seminaries, expecting theologians to become compassionate, rather we need to build schools of peacemaking and expect them to become God-oriented.

Why will the church die?
Because the world has grown to realize what the church has not: that it is deeply hypocritical.  That Jesus founded the church to focus on love, but the church neglects love.  Even when a church is “welcoming”, the world recognizes that it is a concession to love in order to draw more worshipers.

Until “seeker services” look for lovers instead of worshipers, the church will fade.

And the church of worship and doctrine must die so that Jesus might live in the world.