“[The] same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him.” Romans 10:11-12
The Season of Lent offers us the opportunity to prepare our hearts for the joy of Easter. In this time, we are invited to examine our lives to see where we have fallen short of our vocation to love God with our whole hearts, minds, and souls, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We humbly ask God for the grace to love more fully.
In the first reading for this Sunday, Moses recalls God’s faithfulness to the Israelites when they were oppressed in Egypt. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the Roman Christian community that all believers are radically equal before God. In the Gospel, Jesus rejects the devil’s temptations in the desert. All three readings invite us to remember who we are in the eyes of God and our call to love God in return.
As we turn inward to examine our hearts and recall our identity and mission as Christians, we can also turn outward to see how our failure to love God fully is manifested in society. One grave temptation we face as a global community is to value some lives more than others, to deny the fundamental dignity and value of every human person. All over the world, human dignity is denied and desecrated through the violence of war, desperate poverty, and environmental degradation.
Catholic tradition affirms that an essential part of the work of Christians is to proclaim the fundamental dignity of every person as created in the image of God. Since Vatican II, the Church has recognized that promoting human dignity involves working to protect human rights, which the Church understands to be the minimum conditions and materials that every human person needs to live decently, based on their inherent dignity.
The U.S. Catholic bishops write,
“The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency.”
In the Catholic tradition, human rights are understood to correspond to responsibilities. Every person has a right to the conditions which allow them to live decently and a responsibility to neighbors, family, and society to help fulfill the rights and needs of others. As Christians, are we truly committed to promoting the equal dignity of every person? Are we fulfilling our responsibilities toward our neighbors?
In this Lenten reflection guide, we will be exploring the Christian call to promote human rights out of respect for our neighbors’ God-given dignity. As the readings for each week teach us how to examine our hearts and ask for renewal, they also help us reflect on this most essential piece of the Christian vocation. We will explore how Maryknoll missioners live out this call and reflect on how God is calling us to grow as witnesses of the Kingdom of justice and peace.
Questions for Reflection
- What helps you grow in awareness of your own dignity and worth in the eyes of God?
- How can you promote the human dignity of your neighbors?
PRAYER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DAY (2018)
Praise to You, faithful God of life and freedom. Giving thanks, we celebrate your deep desire for equality and dignity amid diversity.
Guide us to hear – as one – cries of those made poor and cries of Earth. Together with peoples of every place and nation, we honor the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights -- protecting individuals, upholding the common good... unfolding still in modern history.
We offer thanks, too, for the church’s human rights tradition, evolving through centuries; expressed anew by Pope St. John XXIII; animated by many giving their lives for your unquenchable justice.
Lamenting violence, indifference and greed, we pray for and advocate with those whose rights are ignored, violated, denied... those displaced, abused, trafficked.
[The] United Nations; non-governmental organizations and all committed in peace to human rights within the fullness of your vast creation. Send us your energizing Spirit to speak truth and be light in darkness.
With trust and hope, we pray in the name of Jesus who stood with those oppressed, bringing Good News in his time, for all ages.
- Sr. Roma De Robertis, SCIC ~ 2018
Turn off anything that supports violence and demeaning behavior on TV, movies, and the internet. Grow in peace with yourself by fostering a spirit of gratitude instead of focusing on disappointments.
Faith in Action
Around the world and in the United States, Maryknoll missioners witness the impacts of racial injustice and how racism leads to human rights violations. Ask your Member of Congress to support a bill that would establish a commission to study the legacy of slavery by tapping the button below.
Maryknoll Mission Experience
Maryknoll Sr. Elsie Monge (right in photo) has worked at the forefront of the movement for human rights in Latin America for many years. After witnessing grave human rights abuses in Ecuador, in the late 1970s Sr. Elsie helped found the National Ecumenical Commission for Human Rights (CEDHU), an organization of unions, farmers, and professional groups that focuses on human rights education and advocacy, for which she is now the executive director. Her work investigating human rights abuses earned her a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
She writes, “What we do with the communities is help them have workshops and courses to help them better their living conditions but also to know what their rights are vis a vis the government…You have to demand [rights] but you also have to live and respect others’ rights. You have to negotiate.
“...I think it’s very important that people from the developed world reach out their hands to the developing world. That’s the most important thing, to empower those people to stand up for themselves, to be architects of their own destiny.”
First Sunday of Lent: Photo of river community available on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/gldpxjkzD8I.
Photo of Sr. Elsie Monge, MM, courtesy of the Maryknoll Sisters: https://bit.ly/3sEhuW4