The Syria Series//Creativity in the Face of Destruction//Br. Ken Homan, SJ//

Ken Homan is a Jesuit Brother. When he was a student at Creighton, he was a Cortina Student. This is where he stands with regard to the possibility of the United States’ intervention in Syria.

I have not been following the Syrian conflict as closely as I should.  I blame myself because I have recently focused on other issues (such as the 8.29 Fast Food Strike).  I (we) can no longer ignore the situation in Syria.  It demands our attention.  Why?  Because just like the prophets in the Old Testament, a cry goes up to heaven.  Apathy is the worst of sins, closely followed by inaction.

We can respond with more violence and more bloodshed, but it would not be our own.  From ships out to sea and unmanned drones, we would drop explosives on a country already full of explosions.  And yes, I mean we, as in you and I would be active material participants in this crime.  We cannot excuse it as “our government,” but we are those who fund and participate in this war.  By Catholic Social Teaching, just war and the use of force is a very final resort.  I believe our acknowledging it as any resort, however, moves it to the foreground of our conscience.  It leaves us with a sense of it possibly working.  With onslaught of chemical weapons, we might jump immediately to thoughts of the Holocaust.  Wasn’t that a just war scenario?  I would argue no—evil flourished thereafter and delved deeper into our hearts.  We must be creative.

As both Pope Francis and Fr. General Nicolás have noted, violence will beget more violence.  This violence is not necessarily the violence of men shooting each other, stabbing each other, burning each other’s lungs with chemical weapons.  But this violence includes the horrendous violence of poverty, homelessness, and unjust death.  These are the terrible things we will reap if we send shrapnel flying around another country already distraught by fear.  We will further entrench a Christ-people into death and despair.

We have only one option—love.  Evil leaves us with lackluster ideas and inability to generate new ideas.  Hopelessness.  But the creative power of love overcomes all evil and darkness.  Our only hope here is to act with a creative Christ-love for these Christ-people.  We can no longer kill people for their sins.  But we must engage the fullest mystery of Christ.  WE must die for their sins.  Rather than marching in with guns and cannons firing, I ask you to take this question as seriously as possible: What if I and millions of others simply marched into Syria with gifts of food, water, and shelter, accepting the bullets and blades that may kill us?  What if I die for someone else’s sins?

For more thoughts on the challenges the Syrian conflict gives us and our response, check out this great piece by Sam Sawyer, SJ.

The Eucharist and Solidarity

I know Cortina and the Creighton community are full of many different faiths and denominations.  I’m going to speak a lot about Eucharist in the Roman Catholic sense as the real body and blood of Christ.  However, it’s my hope that this reflection will be relevant to you wherever you are on your faith journey.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting with my provincial (the man who oversees all the Jesuits in my region) and talking about actions.  I have a great desire to “do.”  I’m in pretty constant motion.  The hardest part of this vocation to the Jesuits has been sitting still and prayer every day.  Not to mention the thirty-day silent retreat.  But as I’ve matured, I’ve realized that praying is doing.  “Pray” is a verb after all.  It is indeed an action.

In my prayer, I’ve realized that going to Mass is both an act of and deepening of my solidarity.  I want to focus on just the actual Eucharist, though.  It can be easier to find solidarity in the readings—Jesus proclaiming the Beatitudes is hard to miss.  But what about the Eucharist itself?  Three things stand out—Christ on the cross; participating in the Eucharist; and sharing an act of faith.

Sometimes Mass can feel stuffy, tightly bound by the ritual and rite of it.  But the real story in the Eucharist is astounding.  Here’s a dude who is God.  He participates in everything human.  He doesn’t have to, but he does.  He gets hungry, happy, joyful, sorrowful, thirsty, angry, tired, tempted, and killed.  He didn’t just participate in human life, though.  He participated in the oppressed life.  He shunned every expectation of fearless military leader and revolutionary.  More revolutionary, he gave himself up to die a slave’s death.  And it wasn’t a polite one.  We often see the Passion plays lightly, sanctified.  The Eucharist is about a man who was mob lynched.  They came out and found him in the night, dragging him away.  The justice system wasn’t going how some folks wanted, so they essentially made it happen themselves.  It’s painful, gruesome.  I can imagine no greater act of solidarity.  And we saw this same love and participation in the lives of the poor from all the great martyrs.  From Oscar Romero, to Jean Donovan, to Dietrich Bonheoffer.  I participate in solidarity remembering all these stories, these beautiful people who gave all they could to love and to serve.  Whenever I receive the Eucharist, I tell myself, “Lord, let me grow in love and solidarity.”

I actively participate in the Eucharist.  I engage it.  And I share it with those around me.  But I share it with billions of Catholics around the world.  And I honestly believe that I share it with those who are not Catholic.  I go to the Eucharist praying for greater solidarity, hope and love.  That love extends to everyone in the world, especially the oppressed and downtrodden.  I go to the Eucharist as an act of radical love to destroy oppression.  I do not have many ways of participating in the lives of the oppressed around the world, but this is one that I can positively do every day.  The greatest gift I have ever received is a meal with others.  This is a meal at a global table.

Finally, I believe it is an act of solidarity because it is participation in faith.  There are certainly many throughout the world who espouse no faith and many who have different faith.  But I act with you in praying with and for you.  I do not approach this prayer as a simple requirement of the week, but as a way of truly placing my heart near yours.  My body is far, but my spirit resides with the oppressed.  It is an act of presence.

This weekend, a good friend invited me to come to New Jersey to be present.  I would normally choose to work, to use what I would consider ample muscle to move stones, break up debris and clean up the wreckage.  But Jim has asked me to simply be present with people.  After the tragedy of Sandy, the people simply want some symbol of faith.  I’ve never knowingly been someone’s symbol of faith or a person to listen to strangers after tragedy.  But guided by the Eucharist, I will go to listen and to love.  I will go to Mass with people and participate in their salvation, and them in mine.

-Br. Ken Homan, SJ