an Easter economy

It is time for a new economy.

It is time for Christ to be our Cornerstone of all creation, even our economic exchange. It’s Easter, the season of new days and resurrected, restored creations.  The time is now for God’s Way to revive all that makes us broken and weak, especially the structures that create poverty and violence.

They brought them into their presence and questioned them,
“By what power or by what name have you done this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them,
“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.
There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”  -Acts 4: 7-12

Our society loves putting our faith in the wrong places. The early Christians understood that nothing would work unless Christ is its cornerstone, its foundation, the center upon which all is grounded. Today we seem to be pretty dense to this. We gamble on economics and politics to be our salvation as if they are the systems that will lead us toward justice and peace.

Today’s political and economic debates are littered with lies.

All over the spectrum, I hear the propaganda of capitalism. One side is blaring out that we need to have few regulations, little taxation and that those with the wealth and power ultimately will- by the nature of the structure- influence justice.  Supposedly, people can rise up by the boot straps and get on their feet if those with wealth and power are able to create more jobs.  On the other hand, I hear a suggestion that we need to redistribute wealth, that if you’re rich it’s because the structure has allowed you to be and so you owe something to the rest of humanity.  Glossy promotions boom out that careful investments, money management and increased shopping is the way to freedom, justice and peace.  How many times do we justify our materialistic habits with a shrug of: “my purchasing is helping the economy”?  We think morality should be guided by ability.  (I was disgusted to hear a story on Science Friday about mining resources in space to maintain our standard of living, without any discussion about whether it is morally OK for us to do so.)  For some reason everyone seems to believe that if we allow capitalism to work its course then things will be fair and everything will be all right.

Today is May Day, an international day of strike and an Occupy movement momentum maker.  These social movements cry out in response to the propaganda of capitalism: the structures we know aren’t working!

What would work instead?  It’s Eastertime.  We need a new economy, an Easter economy.  The only way is Christ, the cornerstone.

With Christ at the cornerstone of the new economy, all shall be gift.  According to God’s designs, we are interdependent with all creation.  We need plants, animals and clean air.  The creatures of God’s planet need us to care for them, too.  With mindfulness, we shall restore earth’s resources and all have enough.  We give and take with gratitude and constantly ask the hard questions about what we should do, not what we can do.

In an economy with Christ as the cornerstone, we can rely on each other.  We’ll know how to help each other and we won’t hesitate to do so because we understand that judgement isn’t up to us.  We know that hospitality and service means that we risk being uncomfortable and converting to creations who are more united.  We trust each other to do what is right, because no competition shall cause us to do wrong.  With joy, we work with our hands, create art, repair what is broken, grow our own food and freely give away what we don’t need.

The Gospel good news is that many are already living in these Easter economies.  I am thrilled to know people who will, in a couple of weeks, celebrate a weekend without capitalism.   I have some friends who have a “free shelf” in their house and sponsor a regular “free market” in Chicago in order to create a space for everyone to share what they have.

When it comes to giving, loving and serving survival shouldn’t be our concern.  With Christ as our cornerstone, our needs are supplied.  Sure, we may need to live simply and love freely in order to get by, but isn’t that the Gospel Way?  If we’re not concerned about money, bills and income then we suddenly have time to grow our own food, fix things that are broken and look for food in new places. We can give of our skills and time in exchange for the things we need.  I’d be delighted to come and teach a lesson or write for you; you can feed me lunch or help me fix my bike.

This vision isn’t just idealistic or pie in the sky.  This is according to Christ’s designs. Our faith needs to be in Him, we are made to love and share.  With new alternatives, our habits shall be converted and we’ll be healing the crippled and bringing life to the dead.  We recognize that justice isn’t up to us, that’s God’s work.  We all do our part to help make things better.  We trust and believe.   We know it in our hearts and we preach it with our lives: with Christ as the cornerstone of our Easter economy, everything will really be OK.

Little Resurrections

Since Sunday, I have been trying to pay attention to the little resurrections in the world around me.  How is God at work around me? How do I say Yes to the Risen Christ?  What is happening in my heart?

I feel renewed. I have been transformed by God’s grace. Each day God is working, letting Life have the last word. Alleluia!

Joy of fasting: recipes for Easter-living

Guest blogger Amy Nee

Easter came in singing, and the blossoming trees around town seem to confirm its promise of new life. Lent has come and gone and, along with it, our fasting obligations. As I face Ordinary Time and ordinary ways of living (if such a phrase can ever be applied to a Catholic Worker lifestyle), I am left wondering: what did we learn?

Going for forty-plus days abiding (admittedly imperfectly) by the commitments to go without cane sugar and sugar substitutes, to not bring new plastic into the house and to refrain from using electricity and other sources of energy on Sunday was not easy. But was it worthwhile? These three fasts may seem different to outsiders, but I found a unifying result binding together my experience of each.

Our fasts disabled “auto-pilot” – the everyday in-and-out I seem to be subject to, blindly doing things without thinking – and forced me into paying attention, preparing and being patient. As the practice of mindfulness developed and the excesses of convenience were diminished, my senses were refined so that I could hear the quietly-deep desires that are normally drowned out by the white noise of daily living.

I began to discover how foods full of sugar and corn syrup are disguised as a healthy choice (sometimes quite literally bearing that phrase on the label) through clever marketing and veiled language. While my cravings for easy options and sugary satisfaction wearied of the constant “no’s,” my body began to express its gratitude. With each little “no” I was making way for a larger “yes,” an affirmation of healthier, more just and often more creative choices that helped me make the connection between the food I eat, and where that food comes from, who works for it, and how it affects the quality of life for us all.

That creativity and conscientiousness came into play when shopping as well. Not only did I prepare physically, making sure to have a cloth bag on hand, I also prepared mentally, often not being able to buy what I wanted because chances were good that a shiny plastic film was between me and that item.

While browsing the cheese section of Whole Foods (after rummaging through its dumpster, of course), I found to my dismay that there was not one scrap of that dairy delight free of plastic wrapping. An employee, noting my long-lingering lack of selection approached. “Can I help you?” “I’m afraid not. Unless you have some cheese that isn’t in plastic?” “Oh. Hm, I don’t think we do.” “I didn’t think so. I am trying to reduce the use of plastic by not buying anything packaged with it. I really want to make a pizza, but if I bring plastic-wrapped cheese in the house I’ll be ostracized by my community.” “Mhm. Well, we can’t have that.” Being the savvy salesperson that he was, this young man did not submit to defeat. He came up with an alternative, “We have bulk cheese that doesn’t get put out. I could cut some off for you and wrap it in wax paper.” Beautiful! I would be hard pressed to think of a more satisfying purchase than that soggy slab of fresh, wax-wrapped, mozzarella.

Blocks of cheese

Going without plastic wasn’t easy, but the challenge was energizing and helped direct me toward a way of living more mindfully and responsibly on this beautiful, abused planet. Perhaps the most challenging and enriching aspect of the fast was our energy-free Sundays. The first Sunday morning was an education in unconscious habits—flicking on a light as soon as I walk in a room, checking my phone for the time, checking the computer for weather/correspondence/news—and a hitherto unnoticed dependence on the stove. What about coffee? What about oatmeal? I responded by forming a new habit of making preparations on Saturday.

One Saturday afternoon, in the process of boiling eggs and frying pancakes that would be eaten cold the next morning, it occurred to me that I was keeping the Sabbath in a more genuine way than I ever had before. So much of the work we do, and so many of the distractions I have, are based in technology. By removing that, not only did I have the opportunity to rest from work, but I was able to engage in activities that I often long for but relegate to the bottom of my list of priorities. I found myself reading more, practicing guitar, writing letters, spending time talking and – best of all singing with community members and friends.

I am tempted to cling to Lent, relying on the season and the Church and community to enforce discipline upon me. I am honestly more afraid of the riotous new life of Easter than I am of Good Friday’s tomb. The grave offers a quiet end, linen-wrapped like a newborn baby. The perpetual promise of resurrection presents an eternity of new days. And with each of those days, the choice; who will I be? How will I live? Do I go out for dinner or eat the mysterious leftovers in the fridge? It’s no wonder that the way Christ taught us to pray is for the things that give life one day at a time: God’s will, daily bread, forgiveness (for us and from us), relief from temptation, now and forever. And what is forever but an eternity of todays? Let’s start with the one we have, and live it well.

Amy’s post serves as a nice follow-up to guest blogger Jerica Arents introduction to this Lenten fasting.

Photo credit: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/554400

a princess, a pope and Jesus Christ

The world is buzzing with excitement.

I have heard gripes and seen grins about the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William, which will happen tomorrow with much pomp. To be honest, I wish I didn’t have other things going on and could sit down in front of the TV and watch it. I am sure that I’d cry a bit as I watched two beautiful people commit to each other in the presence of God, the world-famous and influential, as billions of people look on.  As you probably know, a lot of people are ecstatic and are gearing up to celebrate with the royal family.  Yet others are critical because it is such an expensive event and the money could be used for better purposes.

Another exciting, yet somewhat controversial, event is happening this weekend.  On Sunday Pope John Paul II will be beautified.  The opinions about his beatification are varied. Personally I am very excited (as I am every time a holy person is honored for her or his wisdom and influence).

I am not unlike other Catholics of my generation; I love JPII. I have been touched by his leadership and teachings.  As I grew into the Catholic faith, many of my questions were answered when I studied the letters from my far-away “Grandpa.”   For example, JPII’s theology of the body writings helped me gain much clarity about sexuality.  I wish I could have met JP II in his lifetime, but am comforted to know that I can pray to him for some advocacy in heaven while I try to do the work that he encouraged: convincing people of their dignity.

I understand the concerns of people who are opposed to JPII’s quick move toward sainthood, too. I know people who have publicly protested his canonization.  They are upset because his personal positions and opinions seemed to impact his leadership (as he discouraged socialism and rejected women’s ordination, for example).  Is he worthy of being named “Blessed” if he practiced discrimination?  On Sunday, though, I will celebrate Pope JPII’s influence in my own life and thank God for the contributions of the holy man to great peacemaking around the globe.

In a discussion about world excitement I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the important, but non-joyful events that have happened recently and probably challenge the faith and hope of many people.  There’s been a sweep of disasters across the nation. Specifically, the news about the tornadoes in Alabama brought tears to my eyes this morning. My heart still aches for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Japan, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Haiti, and for inner-city youth.  As we celebrate joyful events we must be attentive to suffering and disturbed by injustice.

During all of these occasions people unite.  In disasters, divided people suddenly have no choice but to survive and rebuild as community.  On both sides of divisive violence, the tears look the same.  During the royal wedding, when everyone is hearing the same music and prayers, politics and opinions probably won’t matter much.   Undoubtedly, on Sunday Catholics- and other Christians of all types shall unite in their prayers and parties.  Our human, global lives bring us together and help us remember that we’re in this together.

It’s Easter time.  Jesus is back and he’s helping us make sense of everything he taught.  He’s re-explaining that it is communion around open, inclusive tables that unite us.  As we break the bread and share it with other – no matter our differences- we become more the same.  We become his body.  In us, Christ lives. Together we celebrate as one body, the Body of Christ. Thanks be to God!