Today, we invite you to explore the Acts of the Apostles, and Peter’s reflection on the separation between God’s creation and humanity, with the help of liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez; engage the centrality of dignity in Catholic Social Teaching; and embody these ideas through the work of East Timorese José Ramos-Horta and the Trans Housing Coalition.
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven and addressed the crowd:
“Women and men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem!
Listen to what I have to say.
Let the whole House of Israel know beyond any doubt
that God made Jesus both Messiah and Sovereign.”
When they heard this, they were deeply shaken.
They asked Peter and the other disciples,
“What are we to do?”
“You must repent and be baptized, each one of you,
in the name of Jesus the Messiah, that your sins may be forgiven;
then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It was to you and your children that the promise was made,
and to all those still far off whom our God calls.”
In support of his testimony, Peter used many other arguments
and kept saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!”
They were convinced of his arguments,
and they accepted what he said and were baptized.
That very day about three thousand were added to their number.
Response: Adonai, You are my shepherd, I have no wants.
Adonai, You are my shepherd, I have no wants.
In verdant pastures You give me repose;
Beside restful waters You lead me; / You refresh my soul.
R: Adonai, You are my shepherd, I have no wants.
Even though I walk in the dark valley,
I fear no evil; for You are at my side
With Your rod and Your staff / that give me courage.
R: Adonai, You are my shepherd, I have no wants.
You spread the table before me / in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil; / my cup overflows.
R: Adonai, You are my shepherd, / I have no wants.
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in Your house / for years to come.
R: Adonai, You are my shepherd, / I have no wants.
What credit is there if you patiently endure harsh punishment
as a result of your sin?
But if you put up with suffering for doing what is right,
this is acceptable in God’s eyes.
It was for this that you were called,
since Christ suffered for you in just this way and left you an example.
You must follow in the footsteps of Christ,
who did no wrong, who spoke no deceit,
who did not return insults when insulted,
who, when made to suffer, did not counter with threats.
Instead, Christ trusted the One who judges justly.
It was Christ’s own body that brought our sins to the cross,
so that all of us, dead to sin, could live in accord with God’s will.
By Christ’s wounds you are healed.
At one time, you were straying like sheep,
but now you have returned to the Shepherd,
the Guardian of your souls.
“The truth of the matter is,
whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the gate
but climbs in some other way is a thief and a robber.
The one who enters through the gate is shepherd of the sheep,
the one for whom the keeper opens the gate.
The sheep know the shepherd’s voice;
the shepherd calls them by name and leads them out.
Having led them out of the fold,
the shepherd walks in front of them and they follow
because they recognize the shepherd’s voice.
They simply will not follow strangers — they will flee from them
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
Even though Jesus used this metaphor with them,
they did not grasp what he was trying to tell them.
He therefore said to them again:
“The truth of the matter is, I am the sheep gate.
All who came before me were thieves and marauders
whom the sheep did not heed.
I am the gate.
Whoever enters through me will be safe.
You will go in and out and find pasture.
The thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy.
I came that you might have life, and have it to the full.”
The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved.
The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.
In the first reading in the Book of Acts, a narrative of separation and injustice is laid out for us. When Peter addresses the crowd, they realize, and are ashamed of, their distance from God. Peter provides an opportunity for reflection and recognition of injustice, of separation between humanity and God’s loving Creation that is often a result of our own complacency. When they heard this, they were cut to the heart. Peruvian liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez writes in his book A Theology of Liberation that one is called to break down the structures that support selfishness, that freedom is openness to others, and to receive the fullness of liberation, a gift from Christ, is to be in communion with God and other human beings .
Distancing oneself from Creation, like Peter speaks of, is an unconscious practice of distancing oneself from justice. By underappreciating, it becomes easy to forget the reality of injustice inflicted on God’s Creation. Yet, there is good news in personally recognizing distance from God and Creation. The hardest part is over. After recognizing the distance between oneself and Creation, and therefore the creation of injustice, the entities that separate us start to collapse.
In the second reading, we hear about suffering in silence: Silent suffering as a virtue in the eyes of God. However, suffering is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Suffering manifests differently due to intersectional differences in society, one’s life experiences, and availability of resources, among other things. Although there is something to be said about respect and grace, we ought to show others that we are not obligated to remain stagnant in our suffering.
Gutiérrez notes that innocent people suffer to remind them to challenge injustice in the world. Gutiérrez’s critique also denounces the idea of redemptive suffering – the idea that individuals ought to partake in suffering as a punishment for their own or another’s wrongdoings. In fact, this passage calls for recognition of injustice through the maltreatment of Christ, who had done no wrong, yet suffered greatly; He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.
This passage is a call to action against injustice inflicted on those who are made in the Image of God, or Imago Dei. He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. This passage mandates that we stand up against violence inflicted on all persons, as we are all made in the image and likeness of God. It is the wish of God that we do this, for injustice is sinful, and by Christ’s sacrifice we are called to live for righteousness. By this notion, we move forward with a vocation against injustices that affect marginalized communities, injustices that threaten personhood and dignity, and unjust systems that perpetuate themes of malice and violence.
In the Gospel, Christ speaks of a shepherd, a familiar illustration, although rather than himself as the shepherd, he identifies with the gate leading into a pasture. This symbolism points to the idea that Christ is the great mediator between God and humanity, Christ is the open door for communication to and from God. This information is pivotal because of the great love and peace that Christ preached in his teachings, but also because of his distaste for elitism and exclusivism.
Christ warns against the thief, a self-serving leader who is unconcerned with the happenings of others. We must know that this monologue is in response to the mistreatment of a blind man (see John, Chapter 9). This parable is given as a response to the maltreatment of God’s Creation, and protests the suffering that a person has endured because of hierarchical injustice.
We are called to discern that the Pharisees have displaced, hurt, and robbed marginalized people of their dignity. Gustavo Gutiérrez writes, those only concerned with themselves and with protecting their knowledge, are incapable of solidarity, thus perpetuating hierarchical ideologies that create separations between communities. By entering through Christ’s gate, we are asked to live in a way that dignifies all people and enables solidarity; only then can communal flourishing occur, where the people will come in and go out and find pasture, where one might live in the abundance of life.
Gustavo Gutiérrez is a Peruvian Catholic theologian who is credited with writing one of the foundational texts within Latin American liberation theology. His writings often concern the option for the poor, and those who have been “discarded by society.” He currently teaches at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, USA.
Dignity of the human person is one of the major points highlighted in Catholic Social Teaching (CST). CST comes from the life and words of the lived Christ, who came as the mediator between God and Humanity.
In this week’s readings, there is a theme that Catholicism holds intimately: human beings as relational. In the first reading, we witness a community coming together; in the second, solidarity is mentioned; and in the Gospel, the proper treatment of individuals was highlighted. Each of these themes points to the value and dignity in each person. Understanding this teaching ought to be the first step one takes to work toward justice.
This realization, although seemingly obvious, is incredibly powerful. The valuation of dignity refuses hierarchical ideologies and marginalization. It does not allow us to separate ourselves from other human forms of creation, and instills a communal sense of flourishing and/or solidarity.
In John’s Gospel, the Pharisees did not account for the dignity of those whom they were stealing from, and this is what Christ denounced. Each person, no matter who they are or where they have come from, is incredibly precious and entitled to proper treatment and care. Further, as we read in 1 Peter, one is called to denounce the systems that inflict suffering on others, and to live in solidarity with those who suffer at the hands of systematic oppression. We are called to live communally, uplift and enhance the lives of others, and to work against injustice for the sake of communal flourishing, as set by the example of Christ. Therefore, we must remain close to Creation to remind ourselves that injustice can occur when barriers are placed between a dignified understanding of others.
As you make your daily commute, and in the safest way possible, reflect on your surroundings. Ask yourself how things may have come to be. Do you pass by the same people every day? What do you notice?
Take inventory of Creation – use the senses available to you. After you have taken inventory, ask yourself how you would like to appreciate the things you noticed going forward. Think about the ways in which you can help bring dignity to the Creation you observed, and what is already dignified or dignifying about the way that Creation exists. Creation is quite an ambiguous term, so be mindful of becoming overwhelmed. Let this exercise bring comfort to you, and to those around you.
“If those in power, wherever we are, whichever…society, began working together – we would eliminate poverty and ensure that poverty becomes history. It is a moral duty of us as human beings.” These are the words of José Ramos-Horta, a human rights activist who is known for his work protesting the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. He dedicated his life to fighting against the domination of his fellow country people by Indonesian forces.
Ramos-Horta spent over 20 years developing a human rights network to defend his country’s people, and urged the United Nations to adopt a peaceful resolution between Timor and Indonesia, whose government had killed over 200,000 Timorese citizens. The resolution he drafted included the right to self-determination and independence for all Timor citizens. It encompassed dignifying principles and called for respect of persons and rights of all people. His advocacy came to ultimate fruition in 2002 when East Timor joined the United Nations and gained its independence. Since then, his entire life has been dedicated to advocacy against oppression. He holds a commitment to justice and dignity for all persons through democratic leadership, resolution of conflict through mediation, and promotion of good governance. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996.
Trans Housing Coalition, and more specifically, Trans Housing Atlanta (THA) is a community of grassroots, transgender-led and founded individuals whose aim is to provide safe housing and supportive services to transgender and gender non-conforming folx who are experiencing homelessness in Atlanta, Georgia. THA helps facilitate movement toward independent living, and helps to promote sustainable employment options. Moreover, this community seeks to reduce individual behaviors that might put a person at risk. This community functions on the notion of dignity and respect for those who have been marginalized by society, families, and/or friends. They embody practices of justice, love, and care for others.
From Stravitz Gallery
“Solidarity” by Hussain Alobaidy
Image description: On a dark background are a number of figures holding one another up, outlined in light green. Their bodies are clothed in orange, and they have different skin tones.