Month: February 2012

Second Sunday of Lent: A Loving Sacrifice?

Second Sunday of Lent March 4, 2012 Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19; Rom 8:31b-34; Mk 9:2-10 The binding of Isaac has been the source of centuries of moral consternation.  And as we continue our Lenten journey, this story of sacrifice can leave us wondering about the depths of surrender required to be true people of faith.  How can the willingness to kill one’s own child be a sign of commitment to God?  Can we commend Abraham’s obedience even when it seems to demand the shedding of innocent blood?  If we take this story from Genesis as a model for our response to God’s commands, then it seems we cannot avoid an unsettling explanation, one way or another.  However, the lectionary comes to our aid this Sunday.  With the story of Abraham and Isaac placed alongside Romans 8 and Mark 9, we are encouraged to see the First Reading in a different light.  Rather than an ideal of obedience to divine commands, the binding of Isaac emerges as a window into the nature of sacrificial love, especially as it is modeled by God toward God’s children. While the First Reading concludes with a reference to Abraham’s obedience, the story itself seems dominated by other language and descriptors.  First, we are told that Abraham loves Isaac (Gen 22:2).  Next we are told that Abraham is also...

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) dedicates the last week of February every year as Eating Disorder Awareness Week. During this week of awareness-raising, NEDA encourages everybody to do just one thing to fight against eating and body image disorders: “Distribute info pamphlets and put up posters, write one letter for Media Watchdogs, register as a Volunteer Speaker or host a Volunteer Speaker, post information on Facebook or arrange interactive and educational activities such as a meditation and yoga event, panel discussions, fashion shows, body fairs, movie screenings, art exhibits and more.” Part of NEDA’s awareness week involves challenging myths and misconceptions about EDs, namely that EDs affect only young, middle and upper-class white girls. Eating disorders are a growing concern among middle-aged women, for example: No one has precise statistics on who is affected by eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, often marked by severe weight loss, or binge eating, which can lead to obesity. But experts say that in the past 10 years they are treating an increasing number of women over 30 who are starving themselves, abusing laxatives, exercising to dangerous extremes and engaging in all of the self-destructive activities that had, for so long, been considered teenage behaviors. The recent surge in older women at eating disorder clinics is not a reflection of failed treatment, experts say, but rather a signal that these disorders...

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More Ethicists Come Out in Support of Infanticide (UPDATED)

During the past 24 hours or so, Mirror of Justice has been all over an article which recently appeared in the respected Journal of Medical Ethics titled ‘After-Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?’  The article has a fairly straightforward thesis–one which is not new, but is not currently supported by many people. Here it is in a nutshell: if we can kill prenatal children because they are only potential persons and do not have full moral status, then we should be able to kill postnatal children for the same reason.  The authors even use the self-consciously awkward term ‘after-birth abortion’ to drive home the kind of reasoning going on. They argue that women have abortions for all kinds of reasons that should also be accepted as reasons for infanticide, and also that it is not always in a future person’s best interest that they be raised by adoptive or foster parents. Now, let me be perfectly clear, it does not follow that just because one supports abortion rights that one must support the right to infanticide.  One could support abortion rights for many reasons which have nothing to do with the moral status of the child: one might reasonably believe that prenatal children deserve equal protection of the law, but also that this doesn’t require women to sustain them with their bodies; one might believe that there is...

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First Sunday of Lent: What’s the Point of Fasting and Penance?

Lent is my favorite time of the liturgical year!  Perhaps it is because of my attraction to contemplative monastic life, and St. Benedict ‘s claim that “the life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent” (RB 49:1).  But it also feels to me like a time where we are in tune with not only the liturgical calendar but also the rhythm of the earth.  For both Lent and this late season of winter are a time of anticipation – just a few more cold, gray days until the tulips start bursting forth; just a few more days of fasting and waiting until Christ is risen… Many of us instinctively think about something to give up during Lent, often without questioning why.  The readings for this week, offered right at the very beginning of Lent, suggest one reason for taking up a spiritual discipline during Lent.  In Deuteronomy we hear of God’s promise to Noah after the Flood that he will never again destroy the earth and its people, and he sends the rainbow as a reminder of this promise.  The author of the first letter to Peter connects the waters of the Flood with the waters of baptism.  Then, with Mark’s typical terseness he tells us that Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days, and then walks into Galilee proclaiming: “This is the time of...

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What penance are you doing this Lent?

Welcome to Lent.  If you are like me, you have probably been hearing the question, “So, what are you giving up for Lent?”  I hope to change that question with this post.  The question I want to ask you is this: “What penance are you doing this Lent?” Perhaps the difference isn’t all that great, or it resides too much in my memories of Lenten game-playing as a child.  My brothers and I would try to give up something that sounded really impressive, but didn’t cost us very much.  One of us might give up Coke, but we secretly preferred Dr. Pepper anyway.  Or we would give up dessert (which really wasn’t served in our house in Lent anyway).  Even as I got older, as I got more serious about giving something up, it was usually as much or more for other reasons than spiritual ones.  I would give up chocolate or sweets or soda or alcohol more with the hope of losing a little weight than any real sort of sacrifice. Lent is an opportunity to prepare for the paschal celebration by connecting ourselves as deeply as possible to the suffering and death of Christ, so that we may come to Easter ready to celebrate his resurrection, and the promise of our own.  And, of course, as the Ash Wednesday liturgy reminds us (“Remember that you are dust,...

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