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In Serra's defense
I write in defense of Blessed Junipero Serra, soon to be a saint of the Catholic Church (September 2015). He deserves it. He was born in Majorca, Spain in 1713 and he longed to be a missionary in the New World in order to save souls. To accomplish that goal, he joined the Franciscans and became a professor of theology with a doctoral degree. He then went to Mexico where he taught many native people while learning their languages. He was famous even in those days for walking long mountain roads between villages with an injured foot that plagued him all the way to his days on the El Camino Real in California.
He had such a zeal for the goodness of Native American people because he accepted completely their inherent human dignity. According to Archbishop José Gomez, "Padre Serra knew the writings and experience of the Dominican missionary Bartolone de Las Casas in Central America. Padre Serra was bold and articulate in fighting against the civil authorities to defend the humanity and rights of indigenous people."
California's missionary activity ended some 50 years after Serra's death. In looking back on his life now, many seek to criticize him through a theory of guilt by association wherein he is purportedly an accomplice in the Spanish Conquest of the New World.
But they have no evidence against Serra. With Serra, there is only love. Discipline, yes but much more love. After all, he wanted to spend eternity with the Native American people he was baptizing.
Thomas P. Greerty
What kids think
This Lenten season, along with our daily Lenten Journey Devotions, my seventh grade religion class at St. Michael's School in Livermore discussed when Jesus Christ realized that he was God. It was a question that led to much research and discussion in class.
Seven pupils believed He always knew, even as a baby. "He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed."
Three of them said Jesus realized it when He was teaching in the temple at age 12.
Another believes Jesus became aware when he was baptized by John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him.
And another pupil believes Jesus became aware He was God at the moment of his first public miracle, He performed at the wedding feast at Cana.
Repent and believe
It is very true that we should love all people, sinners included, with a genuine and Christ-like love, and that we should love them where they are. It seems to me however, that most are missing one critical point, and that is Jesus never advocates leaving them where they are, but rather calls to a transforming conversion, to "repent and believe the Gospel," as we hear on Ash Wednesday.
esus loved Matthew as a tax collector, but called him to an amazing transformation, where he immediately left the tax table. Matthew gave a banquet for his friends, and Jesus attended, as he does love sinners, but also to encourage Matthew to make public his profession of faith. Zacchaeus repented on his way down the tree after he encountered Jesus, and divested himself of his money and made confession and restitution as he slid down.
The woman caught in adultery was a recipient of the mercy and love of Jesus, but bluntly told "go and sin no more."
The woman at the well partially confessed her sins, and Jesus helped her to finish, yes you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. We do not know if she amended her lifestyle after this, but Jesus certainly laid her sins bare. We have forgotten the old axiom "love the sinner, but hate the sin."
To us, love is a soft thing that excuses any type of lifestyle, no matter if it is sinful or not. This is false compassion and false mercy. To allow someone to partake of communion when a sinful lifestyle is still in effect is impossible. St. Paul says to partake of communion unworthily is to drink condemnation to oneself. Yes, let's gently, tenderly, kindly love all peoples, but in so doing, lead them to repentance so their lives will be conformed to the Gospel.
Christ desires all men to be set free from sin; that is why He died. I do like Pope Francis' recommendation that annulments be free, but in saying that, I have to be willing by my contributions to help fund the bill.
I read a short paragraph (Voice, Feb. 23) entitled "Obama at prayer breakfast." There was no mention of him telling us Christians to get off our high horse, and to remember how we killed in the name of Christ during the Crusades. Yet, when referring to the horrible deeds of Islamic extremists throughout the Middle East, Europe and Africa, he went out of his way not to mention the words Islam, Muslim, Mohammed or Allah. Only, that they killed in the name of religion.
A short time later, 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by ISIS in Libya. When referring to this brutal act, President Obama mentioned only they were Egyptians, but left out they were Christians. As of this letter, another 220 Christians — women and children — were abducted by ISIS in Syria. There is a genocide of Christians taking place right before our eyes in the Middle East and Africa, and it seems many of our leaders seem unwilling to name its root cause.
Cast the first stone
For those who are critical of the LGBTQ community, the divorced and remarried, those who have had abortions and others who may not fit into Church dogma, Jesus said you may cast the first stone. You are apparently without sin.
Jesus when questioned by people about why he was associating with sinners said it was because of them he came. The well do not need a physician, the sick do. We are all one human community and Jesus came for all of us. We all sin, we all want to be understood and treated with justice and mercy in our failings.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven." Although we are individuals, we are family and a community and we are called to come together to support and help one another, to try and understand each other and walk with each other through life's difficult journeys.
We can and should work together to resolve the issues of the day in a way consistent with Christ's teachings. We should try to not be the person Jesus talked about when he said, "These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men."
When we become overly worried by dogma and personal sin, we focus inward and on legalism. This can lead to narcissism and being judgmental. Yes, avoid sin, but if it occurs, repent, ask for forgiveness and move on. If you must worry, worry about love. Love looks outward to others and caring about their well-being.
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