Church is tough. We are like a big dysfunctional family regularly squabbling and bickering about bizarre things. Sometimes we try to divorce each other or run away from home. But, we can’t, really. The Christian church family is the only family that. . . (continued at Messy Jesus Business)
In those days, in their thirst for water,
the people grumbled against Moses,
saying, “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt?
Was it just to have us die here of thirst
with our children and our livestock?”
So Moses cried out to the LORD,
“What shall I do with this people?
a little more and they will stone me!”
The LORD answered Moses,
“Go over there in front of the people,
along with some of the elders of Israel,
holding in your hand, as you go,
the staff with which you struck the river.
I will be standing there in front of you on the rock in Horeb.
Strike the rock, and the water will flow from it
for the people to drink.”
This Moses did, in the presence of the elders of Israel.
The place was called Massah and Meribah,
because the Israelites quarreled there
and tested the LORD, saying,
“Is the LORD in our midst or not?” –Ex 17:3-7
They’re full of doubt, confusion and despair. Many are thirsty for the meeting of basic needs and justice: the Israelites in the desert, Christians in our modern world, and all of humanity who has been impacted by oppression, natural disasters, war, violence, greed and all sin.
I wonder who is thirsty today. Who may feel abandoned and doubt if God is in their midst? I remember the union workers in Wisconsin. Their story and struggle has been swept behind Japan and Libya in the news headlines, but still has great meaning. If you hadn’t heard, the law that prevent the Wisconsin civil workers from maintaining their bargaining rights, was due to go into effect this weekend. Instead, the law is stalled in the courts, creating confusion about whether it has been enacted or not.
Like the Israelites, the unions of history were able to escape from slavery. We’ve all been liberated by God and unions for fair pay and hours, safe working conditions and proper benefits. I am so thankful for the justice that we have inherited from our union grandparents. The heroes and saints who freed us are not individuals, but entire communities.
Now, our generation is wandering in the desert, not really sure what God is up to. The union story is not unlike our faith story. Although it sometimes takes a long time for things to be as they should, it doesn’t take long for us to take things for granted. It doesn’t take long for us to grumble against our leaders.
It’s easy to do this in political life and it’s very tempting to do this in faith life. When we’re faithful citizens, the messes mix together. The history of the union struggle reminds me I am proud to be Catholic. Sure, our Church is a community diseased by our human sinfulness. But, we are also a community of saints. I feel very grateful for the service and leadership of our bishops, especially in the labor struggle. I am delighted about the statements that have been made against oppression. And, in regards to the ongoing struggle in Wisconsin, my favorite part of the story is that our bishops made a public statement in support of the unions.
The Lenten season challenges all of us. We realize our need for redemption, for Jesus and justice. We look in the mirror and read the news then thirst for clarity, strong faith, and strength. Our social sins are just as ugly as our personal ones.
In community we approach our dark struggles with actions of prayer, fasting and alms-giving. In our politics and faith, we wake up and notice that we have much to be grateful for, and this feeds us with hope. We thirst for justice then we remember we’ve been redeemed before, so we trust. The ugly shall turn into Alleluias, and we’ll have joy all around.
Originally from Northeast Iowa, Sister Julia is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Her love for God and God’s good world is manifested in her attempts to be an educator, a youth empower-er, an earth lover, and a peacemaker. She ministers at an inner-city Catholic high school in Chicago.
Sister Julia blogs at http://messyjesusbusiness.wordpress.com/ and https://youngadultcatholics-blog.com/.
I believe I wrote awhile back about being a big sports fan. This upcoming weekend marks my annual tradition (since 1991, over half my life) of traveling to St. Louis with my dad to cheer on our beloved St. Louis Cardinals. Being a fan of them marks the old-time Major League Baseball geography, when his grandfather could only get KMOX on his radio, which led him to be a Cardinals fan in southern Indiana. There was a time when the Cards were the only team west of the Mississippi, and were about as far south as anyone. Plus, having the most world championships outside of the Yankees, it made it easier to draw fans to an exciting and successful team.
However, there is a real disconnect for me when I go to games. I’m among 40,000 other mostly-white people in a city that has a fair share of African-Americans. Oh wait, they are there – but they’re the ones selling $7 Busch beers and probably making minimum wage. It’s basically this dynamic in every city, from what I can tell. U.S. Cellular Field sits near where large housing projects used to sit in Chicago. And the 2006 World Series between the Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers helped to highlight the numbers of African-Americans who reside in the city limits of Detroit, yet how many white people traveled into town for the games. For a brief moment, the biggest fears that us white people probably had those nights were probably how far Albert Pujols or Magglio Ordonez would hit the ball.
In any case, I am finding there is hope for a conscientious sports fan who wishes Catholic Social Teaching values were more part of the picture.
Recently I’ve discovered the writings of Dave Zirin. I would describe him as a sportswriter with a radical political outlook. I don’t always agree with his analysis, but at least he provides an alternative view in the sportswriting industry. And at the very least, he has a vocabulary above seventh grade, a seeming rarity in sportswriting.
Here is a book list that I obtained when I was part of a panel discussion on sports and religion at the GTU last spring. Most of the credit for this list goes to James Parker, who will hopefully be teaching a class on the subject this academic year at the GTU.
- $40 Million Slaves by William C. Rhoden
- Souled Out? How Blacks Are Winning and Losing in Sports by Shaun Powell
- The Blind Side by Michael Lewis
- Moneyball by Michael Lewis
- A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports Slave by Brad Snyder
- From Season to Season: Sports as American Religion edited by Joseph L. Price
- The Holy Trinity of American Sports: Civil Religion in Football, Baseball, and Basketball by Craig A. Forney
- An Unholy Alliance: The Sacred and Modern Sports by Robert J. Higgs and Michael C. Braswell
- The Great God Baseball: Religion in Modern Baseball Fiction by Allen E. Hye
- Safe at Home: A Memoir of God, Baseball, and Family by Marc A. Jolley
- Rounding the Bases: Baseball and Religion in America by Joseph L. Price
- The Game of Life: College Sports and Educational Values by James L. Shulman and William G. Bowen
- Reclaiming the Game: College Sports and Educational Values by William G. Bowen
- The Shape of the River: Long Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions by William G. Bowen and Derek Bok
I also stumbled upon the book Shut Out by Howard Bryant. The book details how it wasn’t the Curse of the Bambino that caused the Red Sox to go 86 years without a championship, but rather the racism of the team’s owners (and perhaps fans?) that made them the last team to tap into African American talent, a full 12 years after Jackie Robinson played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. I mean, I’m still a fan at heart and I needed some reasoning on why they were able to beat the Cardinals so easily in the 2004 World Series.