Monday, February 23, 2015


Old Testament covenants were confirmed in blood according to recent readings in this Lent’s “Little Black Book.”  Even in Prophet Isaiah’s writing this was being completed, in a new direction—and fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Son of God, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, says the Lord.”  Mt 9:13

2-9-15 -- ISIS targets bombed by Jordanian strikes -Getty images

But mercy is seldom found in the midst of our nation’s current rules of engagement with other cultures.  They show us little mercy in return.   The tactics of ISIS are abhorrent to us.   The world becomes a more dangerous place.   USA Today focused on this, in a shortened story that appeared in our local Sunday paper {full article worth reading}.  At its center is the testimony of an aid worker Kayla Mueller, recently killed while kidnapped by ISIS.  She was reportedly [not denied by our government] a casualty of our own allied Jordanian fighter jets, during a targeted retaliatory raid on ISIS that we’d encouraged.  Undaunted by the dangers, she’d stated [and many other aid workers feel]—“For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal.”

Even those who deliberately choose not to live by the sword, on both sides of the conflicts, are killed by swords.  Our task as Christians, is to put away this proliferation of swords.

From "The Last Supper" [Catholic Worker table of hospitality]  by Fritz Eichenberg

There is innocence, though completely unearned, in every child in the womb.  There is innocence, however contradicted by guilt, in every enemy.

In today’s  lectionary reading we have Matthew 25’s last judgment scene.  God does not ask us sheep or goats if we’d determined if those “least of the brethren“ we’d encountered, appeared worthy of works of mercy.

There is risk in giving service, the same risk that Jesus took for us, and calls us to take, even for those last on our list.

Illumination--water color   by Kathy Brahney

Monday, February 16, 2015


Yemeni soldiers stand guard outside the U.S. Embassy in Sana'a, Yemen, as it's abandoned, on Feb. 11.   Photo: Yahya Arhab, EPA

Today’s daily mass scripture story [see below--Gn 4:1-15] is that ancient one, Cain & Abel, we feel we know by heart, but have seldom deeply explored for its comprehensive warning against envy & violence—and how that should be applied to today’s commonplace, institutionalized violence.
In this account from Genesis of the earliest of times there are only four people in the world.  Paradise has been lost, and they must work for a living.  To keep mindful of God they make sacrifice, offering first fruits to God.   Abel the younger brother does so [the best of his flock], Cain the older holds back [from the fruit of the soil].  The images we have [not in the text] are of God’s acceptance, smoke rising in Abel’s case, and rejection smoldering down in Cain’s.  Cain is envious and angry at God’s preferential treatment of his brother, so much so that Cain murders Abel—the first grievous sin recorded outside of Paradise.   Cain despairs, pleads with God, that with his banishment to wander, stripped of his ability to till the soil, others will surely kill him on sight.   So God puts on him the “mark of Cain” and the fatal warning—anyone who kills the murderer, will be subject to the wrath of God sevenfold.
 Abel -- by William Blake,   {Cain is marked}
Here in the first texts of Judeo-Christian scripture we find God strictly contradicting the “eye for an eye” worldly justice that still plagues the human race.   We are not to take up the lethal means of the aggressor.  We are not to kill the killers.  Yet in our day we have reversed God’s intention.  Instead of a sign of mercy and protection, we’ve made a “mark of Cain” into an automatic death sentence.

We place a “mark of Cain” [first and unredeemable, in our terms, murderers] on the people of ISIS, and terrorists of many nations, and religious fanatics of the Middle East, and many criminals or racial groups we deem threat to life & limb.   We do not heed God’s Old Testament admonition not to kill Cain--“If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.”   In the New Testament this fundamental message is made flesh—in the life, death and resurrection of God’s only begotten Son.  God is mercy.  God is forgiveness.  God is love.

The most recent manifestations of the ancient sin of Cain occur daily in the Middle East.   A Jordanian fighter pilot immolated in a cage, 56 counter strikes by Jordan’s fighter jets against ISIS military barracks and two ISIS prisoners in Jordan executed, in retaliation.   U.S. strategists want Jordan and others to launch a more continued, ferocious attack, and we’ll give them a 1 billion dollar aid package to help them do it.
 Iraq - Syrian family -- {partial to ISIS or some other faction?}
One center of murderous activity -- site of recent international envy-greed-pride-hatred

In Yemen our drones have been killing off those on a list we’ve marked as Cains for a more than a decade.   The result is at least seven-fold violent vengeance, as our latest allied president resigns, and we retreat from our embassy there, thousands being killed in complex Sunni-Shiite-alQaeda fraternal violence.
Hellfire missiles launched from drone
An image taken from a state-run television channel Al-Masriya broadcast after Egypt conducted airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Libya 2-16-15--Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

nd most recently in Libya more than a dozen Christians are beheaded—and vigorous killing of those Cains that did the deed is the neighboring Egyptian dictator general’s response [still our ally after his coup and violent repression of Egypt’s nascent democracy].  The satanic serpent who calls for the death of Cain continues his seductive insinuating whisper down through time.   Cain’s sin is terrible.   But contrary to the will of God, we’ve used the mark of Cain as our national target practice and war policy.  When will we listen to the voice of God--Father, Son and Holy Spirit—“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Mt 9:13

Illumination y Kathy Brahney

Hosea 6:6  Old Testament
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Abel became a keeper of flocks, and Cain a tiller of the soil.
In the course of time Cain brought an offering to the LORD
from the fruit of the soil,
while Abel, for his part,
brought one of the best firstlings of his flock.
The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,
but on Cain and his offering he did not.
Cain greatly resented this and was crestfallen.
So the LORD said to Cain:
“Why are you so resentful and crestfallen.
If you do well, you can hold up your head;
but if not, sin is a demon lurking at the door:
his urge is toward you, yet you can be his master.”

Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out in the field.”
When they were in the field,
Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
He answered, “I do not know.
Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The LORD then said: “What have you done!
Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!
Therefore you shall be banned from the soil
that opened its mouth to receive
your brother’s blood from your hand.
If you till the soil, it shall no longer give you its produce.
You shall become a restless wanderer on the earth.”
Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear.
Since you have now banished me from the soil,
and I must avoid your presence
and become a restless wanderer on the earth,
anyone may kill me at sight.”
“Not so!” the LORD said to him.
“If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.”
So the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight.

Monday, February 9, 2015


Padre Heriberto prepares for the Youth Procession
Young people of San Mateo parish process around the church--one of about 20 processions through the town in the Eight days of  Fiesta

One of my purposes in traveling to the mountains of Chiapas was to see if prayer and renewed contact with the people of San Mateo parish there, could inspire efforts back here in Michigan to help our young people find mission service work.   I was surprised to learn when I arrived, that the young adult group of this remote parish in southern Mexico was right then doing a 2 week service project at a center, 3 hours away, for Central American immigrants & refugees.  Twenty five of them were doing chores and befriending between 100 – 200 of them at a large welcome center run by nuns in Palenque, one of the railroad stops, for those that hop the trains and ride atop them, looking to flee the violence in their own countries.   Mexico with all its problems is still a safety valve for them, and yes, many are headed further north to the U.S. and Canadian borders.

How remarkable with all the dissonance in Port Huron and many U.S. cities created this past year by the “threat” of illegal immigrants including children, that these Mexican youth had taken it upon themselves {with the limited resources of life in Tila, Chiapas} to lend a hand to those less fortunate than themselves.
Central American migrants stand on top of train cars while waiting for the freight train La Bestia, or the Beast, to travel north through Mexico to the U.S. border in January 2012--Jorge Luis Plata-Reuters

Young people down there are putting their faith in action.  Our young adults and older, working together to build new opportunities for international and national service, can certainly do the same.  The harvest is great, but the laborers are few.  There are plenty in the pool of potential laborers, but they’ve yet to be gainfully invited into the work of Gospel nonviolence.   Instead we’ve had a post 911 burst of military recruiting, training in lethal violence, and no end of violence in sight.

Lord, teach us to pray, and to work for peace.  If we begin to look around in the world, making direct personal contact, we will see many, many good examples.

Catechism class leads procession--their banner a plea for justice for assassinated students, and immigrants, an end to violence in all of Mexico

There are opportunities now awaiting -- The hope is to greatly expand, for Catholic youth and all young people -- a new evangelization, of service.


For an in depth review of the refugee-immigration problem, which mentions the Palenque situation towards the end, see

Monday, February 2, 2015


It’s the vigil of the main feast-day, January 15th, in this town.   Waiting, sitting, three hours in the central church for the 100 automobile procession through the mountains to arrive from Jolja, delayed by rain.   The mass for the coronation of Nuestro Senor de Tila has yet to begin, and will last another two hours plus, more than 5 hours total.   No one in the packed Sanctuario church leaves, except for seven or eight of the oldest, walking away disappointed, with their canes.  It’s surely the longest church visit of my life, and beautiful.     These following thoughts, along with the rosary, and prayer for my family and friends, fill some of the time -----

Yes, you must pay for the common good, but never obligated to pay for the corporate bad.  To pay into an unjust system that brings war death and suffering to so many, in the name of protecting our comfortable way of life, is social [communal] sin.  Our current U.S. federal taxes are also intrinsically unjust, favoring the rich in so many devious details.   How far away from these faithful people that sit around me here in this sacred Sanctuary, is the mountain of money sat on by the international super rich.

Even your charitable contributions—are factored out for most of us.  You must be relatively rich to get credit for giving to the poor.  Unless one has many professional expenses and qualifying deductible for interest paid on large debts, and capital depreciations, IRS Schedule A & B says your charity doesn’t count.   Even though the poor and middle class are as charitable percent wise, or more so than the rich, our system ignores their gift.  In the U.S. gambling and instantaneous financial speculation in stock market and foreign currency exchange are much more rewarded, than kindness to our neighbors.

Pay taxes, but for real needs, not to those that rob and kill the poor to give excess to the rich. 
Here in Tila we’re surrounded by poverty, and faith.

ow back home in Port Huron, MI USA, as April 15th slowly approaches -----

Lord, help us in our country, land of the free, take the IRS risk of re-directing our federal income tax dollars—to help end injustice at home and abroad, encourage creative work, turning away from war towards peaceful purpose.

Martin Luther King has said that an unjust law is no law at all.  Isn’t cooperating with a system which routinely exploits the poor worldwide, and favors the powerful, a cooperation with evil?  [We keep talking about winding down our wars, but nearly 50% of our federal income tax money still goes to the military’s war-making and preparedness] How long will we wait for the powerful to give us back a balanced, grass-roots democratic system {unshackled from billionaire manipulators} which meets all people’s needs, and rejects the violent domination of war machines?   Vote for peace and charitable justice now, openly, with civil disobedience tax dollars.   {On how, & risks, visit the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee }.

“Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people,” Dr. King said.   The people of Tila are embracing this courage, out of years of “low intensity” war in their part of Chiapas, Mexico, a war that was partially maintained 30-35 years ago by our tax money.  They’ve prayed for healing grace this Jan 15, and are on the path of reconciliation and peace.  May we also pray, and take courageous steps to embrace our all being members of the same church, followers of the Lord Jesus, seen in this part of Chiapas as Nuestro Senor de Tila, who enjoins us everywhere to, “love your enemies, pray for them who persecute you.”  “Put away the sword.”
Mexican soldiers of low intensity warfare - still present in Chiapas

We are considering a number of small charitable projects in partnership with the parish of San Mateo, Tila to continue with them on the path for justice.  More on these later.

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

Click on image--enlarges most of them.

See video [first effort] of our local group in front of the St. Clair Co. Courthouse, July 4, 2013, urging us all to take steps to convert from unjust war taxes--from war tax to peace tax.  Thanks to, and prayers for, Sandy Quintano, the videographer now deceased, for her years of courageous persistent service to the cause of peace.