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Friday, April 22, 2016

17 April 2016 – Fourth Sunday of Easter

First Reading:
Acts 13:14, 43-52
Second Reading:
Revelation 7:9-17
John 10:27-30
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter, which means for us, it's still the Easter season. But today's readings are a reminder that we are all destined for resurrection. Today's readings also remind us that suffering may be part of following Jesus. Working for the Kindom can be costly.
In the first reading we are told Paul and Barnabas were met with jealousy and their words contradicted by the Jews. These same people incited others to persecute the disciples. But they did not lose heart, they shook the dust off their feet in protest and went on. Then we hear the are comforted by being “filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit”.
In the second reading, John tells us that in his vision he saw a great multitude of those who had come out of the great ordeal. They were from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They will be sheltered by the one who is seated on the throne. They will hunger.... and thirst no more because the Lamb “will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Working for the Kindom can be costly. Working for the kindom involves struggle. For example, Honduras is the country with the most killings of environmental and land defenders per capita in the world1. The Garifuna people are the mixed-race descendants of West African, Central African, Island Carib and Arawak people2 . In the early 1800s, the Honduran government gave the Garifuna communities along the Atlantic coast of Hunduras, the legal titles to 2,500 acres of land. Since then, they have held this land collectively, sustaining themselves with fishing and farming. Now these communities are being forced from their land, as proposals from multinational corporate interests to create mega-tourism projects and corporate-run cities gain momentum3. These corporations are mostly from the USA, Canada and European nations. In 1979, a grassroots organization, The Black Fraternal Organization of Honduras (OFRANEH) was created to defend the rights of Garifuna peoples in Honduras.
There is also an Indigenous rights group in Honduras called COPINH4 founded in 1993. It struggles to defend Mother Earth and Indigenous rights and autonomy, and for a world where the rights of all people are respected. Since, the military coup in 2009, a new Military Police has been created. In addition to the police, military and private hit-men already active in Honduras, these new security forces are used to terrorize and murder those who defend natural resources and Indigenous communities from being plundered and destroyed.5 This March 3rd, Berta Cáceres, COPINH's founder was murdered. Two weeks after her murder, Nelson García, a 38 year old father of five and active COPINH member, was also killed.6 Since the murders, COPINH and OFRANEH have mobilized throughout Honduras “to demand the demilitarization of all Indigenous territories and the removal of all multinational corporations from their ancestral lands and seas.”7
Closer to home, most of the time we think of the so-called “haves” as lacking in concern for the so-called “have nots.” The reactions to North Carolina’s new anti-trangender law might give us pause in our generalized opinions.
  • PayPal dropped its plan to build $3.6M facility and Deutsche Bank is freezing its plans to expand into North Carolina in light of the law.
  • Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr cancelled their concerts in protest of the law.8
  • Cyndi Lauper and like Mumford & Sons will not cancel their shows but will donate all profits made from their shows to Equality NC’s9 efforts to get the law overturned.10
Now it is true that the cost of these actions will not be a real hardship for PayPal, Deutche Bank or the performers. However, the actions are a stimulus for justice for an oppressed segment of the population in North Carolina as well as a warning to other states considering similar unjust laws. Whether they know it or not or whether they intended it or not, these actions work for the kindom of God.
Why am I telling you these “downer” stories in the joyful season of Easter? The first reason is because today's gospel says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” To hear and follow our Good Shepherd entails love for God and love for God's creation, people, flora, fauna, and all that is animate and inanimate. Pope Francis models this with his writings and in practice. For example, this week he brought three Syrian refugee families from Lesbos to the Vatican. They will be settled as residents of Vatican City. Pope Francis acknowledged that it is a small gesture and said, “It is these small gestures that all men and women must do to take into hand whoever has need.”11 Slain Indigenous rights leader, Berta Cáceres understood this when she said, “We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action.”
The second reason is, in order to work for justice, we have to be aware of the injustices that exist. The final—and as Christians—most important reason is our belief in resurrection should be evident in the way we live our lives. I'll close with the penultimate verse of Julia Esquivel's poem, “They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection”
Join us in this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvelous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!

Please share your thoughts
1Global Witness (April 2015) How Many More?,
4Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous organizations of Honduras
9Equality NC is dedicated to securing equal rights and justice for LGBT North Carolinians.
12Esquivel, Julia, and Anne Woehrle. 2003. "They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection". Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality. 3, no. 1: 96-101