March 8: Zeal for the Gospel! (L3B)

“Zeal for your house will consume me.” John 2:13

This Sunday, we see Jesus in the Temple precincts, and we read this passage that appears at the beginning of John’s gospel. In contrast to the other three gospel writers who place the story much later in their narratives.

All the same, it’s Passover, and Jesus is angry over the violation of the Temple and tells the money-changers and those selling doves: “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

What strikes me is the change in personality of a Jesus who is compassionate to all, willing to call out to children, women, and the sick. Here, he is angry over the misuse of religion for financial, political or personal gain, and, most of all, its corrupting effect on the religious, spiritual lives of people — with the feast of Passover so near.

Today, do we have a zeal for the gospel? How do we live our moral and ethical lives in the context of our conflicted world? Are there people or saints whose enthusiasm inspires us, sharpens our religious vision, and stirs us to action?
In effect, this is what Jesus did in his own time. What about ours?

Twenty- years ago, Sister Eugenia Bonetti, a sister of Consolation, saw the influence of human trafficking and prostitution on the streets of Southern Italy. As a result, she and her community took women and children into their convent; today, she heads “Slaves No More,” an organization that coordinates Italy’s “counter-trafficking Office for Women & Children.” In 2013, Sister Eugenia was awarded the “European Citizens’ Prize” and caught the attention of many in Europe, and she caught the attention of the newly elected Pope Francis.

Only several days into his pontificate, the Pope, concerned about “crimes against humanity” that manifest themselves today, directed Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, and the research arm of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, to consider the global implications of human trafficking and modern slavery; as well as the sale of human organs and body parts.

Thus began the collaboration with Archbishop Justin Wembly, the archbishop of Canterbury — and a worldwide effort to enlist religious, political, and business leaders on behalf of their cause. Their aim is a shared commitment to inspire spiritual and practical action by all world faiths and people of goodwill to eradicate modern slavery by the year 2020.

In March of 2014, a joint statement signed by the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, established the Global Freedom Network, which calls attention to the global issues of human trafficking, prostitution, forced labor, and modern slavery. By mobilizing faith-based communities, by endorsing ethical purchasing and manufacturing arrangements, caring for victims and survivors of slavery, reform laws and enforcement, and education.

Our zeal today should extend to modern crimes against humanity in defense of women and children. Something worth getting angry over!
In September of this year, Pope Francis will speak in New York City to the United Nations General Assembly. His zeal for a worldwide ban on human trafficking and modern slavery will be among the Pope’s top priorities.

San Carlos Cathedral, Monterey, CA.

Read more about “Nuns Intercede for Victims,” and Sister Rita Giretta, Casa Ruth, Caserta, Italy in the NYT, 5/3/15.

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