Author: Jana Bennett

Third Sunday of Lent: Desert Transformations

EX 17:3-7 PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 ROM 5:1-2, 5-8 JN 4:5-42   Long-time readers know of my love of the desert and how much impact it’s had on my spiritual life. Yet deserts can also be places of intense illusions and lies – something worth thinking about as we walk through our own deserts this Lent. See my reflection this week at the Ekklesia Project...

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Giving up giving up? Lent, Our Contemporary Wastelands, and Truth

“I don’t think I’ll be doing anything for Lent this year,” a close friend of mine says. I know, all too well, the temptation. I am thinking this too –  that I will maybe not do anything this year. Lent, with its fasts and abstinence, its giving up good things (like chocolate and wine) and taking on more good things to do (like prayer and community service), seems too difficult this year. There are the personal reasons – the long-term illness that a family member has, which already requires a strict diet, the extra tasks that are taken on...

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What does “religious freedom” mean without also having freedom of speech, and freedom of the press?

Yesterday, bishops released a letter urging President Trump to “implement strong protections” for religious liberty. I share some of their concerns. I worry that in a country that has a tradition of valuing freedom of religion, that protection has been diminished by governmental definitions of “religion” that over-associate religion with houses of worship, and one-hour-on-Sunday kinds of moments. I don’t think religion can or should be constrained by what a secular government reflexively assumes religion is. (In a similar vein, I think that the practice of scientific research should not be overly constrained by what government officials reflexively but with...

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Carrying the Light

IS 58:7-10 PS 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 1 COR 2:1-5 MT 5:13-16 We know from John’s first letter that Jesus is light, and “in him there is no darkness at all.” God is light: this has always been hope for people living in darkness. Today’s readings remind us, though, that Jesus did not just come to be the light for us who walked in darkness – he comes to share the light. Every baptism is a reminder to us that Jesus shares light with us, as we light a candle from the Paschal candle and hand it over to the person being baptized. “Receive the light of Christ,” we proclaim. People sometimes complain that church teaching seems too academic, too concerned with dry philosophy – a complaint moral theologians hear often! Yet the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church notes this: In the light and under the impulse of the Gospel 104. The documents referred to here constitute the milestones of the path travelled by the Church’s social doctrine from the time of Pope Leo XIII to our own day. This brief summary would become much longer if we considered all the interventions motivated, other than by a specific theme, by “the pastoral concern to present to the entire Christian community.” [Emphasis mine.] That is, the aim of Catholic social teaching is “the pastoral concern” to live in...

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Moral Theology is all about the Name: January 1st, the Octave of Christmas and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

NM 6:22-27 PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8 GAL 4:4-7 LK 2:16-21 One of the themes emerging from this week’s readings is names, and the task of naming. In the gospel, Jesus is officially given his name at his circumcision. The first reading commands us to invoke God’s own name and receive God’s many blessings. The epistle reading names us as children and heirs of God rather than “slaves.” And we celebrate a particular name that Christians give to Mary – Mother of God. Of course, we know names matter a great deal. Parents agonize over what to name their...

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