A Very Catholic Week: The March for Life, Selma, and Immigration Reform

There are three things I heard over the past week that are stuck in my head.

First, “We are the pro-life generation!” Thousands of young people chanted this refrain at last Thursday’s March for Life in Washington.

Then, “We’re not asking – we’re demanding! Give us the vote!” This was a masterful Daniel Oyelowo portraying Martin Luther King, Jr., in the film Selma, which I saw on Saturday. In the scene, the minister and civil rights leader is speaking to a church congregation of African Americans who had systematically been blocked from registering to vote in Selma, Alabama.

Finally, “La iglesia está con ustedes,” or “The Church stands with you.” This was the message delivered by Bishop Sullivan and pastor Fr. Vince Guest at an information session on President Obama’s immigration executive action at the Parish of the Holy Cross in Bridgeton on Sunday. At the gathering, which drew over 500 people, experts from the Camden Center for Law and Social Justice described the president’s order, which could make thousands of undocumented South Jersey residents eligible for a type of temporary permission to stay in the United States.

Taken together, these lines and the events where I heard them offer some interesting points about discipleship. Here are three:

1) God takes sides; we should, too.

I once heard a conference speaker tell the story of an older brother, a younger sister, and a dad. The brother often picked on his sister, she would call out for Dad’s help, and he would intervene on her behalf. The son complained, “You always take her side! You love her more than me!” The father replied, “It’s because I love you both the same that I take her side. If someone ever picks on you, I’ll take your side.”

This anecdote gets at something crucial about God’s love. Of course He loves all his children the same amount. But like the dad in the story, that doesn’t mean he remains neutral in all conflicts. Instead, as we see over and over again in Scripture, he sides with the oppressed and suffering. Think of the enslaved Israelites in Egypt who Moses leads to freedom, the exiles in Babylon who God’s prophet Isaiah comforts, and the woman caught in adultery who Jesus defends from the angry, judgmental mob. To imitate God’s love in our own lives, we must be on the look-out for similar instances of the powerful targeting certain groups of people, and raise our voices with and for those in harm’s way. What incredible examples of this sort of faith in action I witnessed on the National Mall, at the movie theater, and at Holy Cross.

2) As we do our best to take the side of the poor and vulnerable consistently, we will find that we don’t fit neatly into the American political left/right binary.

I love the consistency of the message woven through my recent experiences: pro-life, pro-racial justice, pro-immigrant family. It reminded me of something Cardinal Timothy Dolan said during a speech a couple years ago. We are called to be comprehensive in our care for “the uns,” he said: “the un-employed; the un-insured; the un-wanted; the un-wed mother, and her innocent, fragile un-born baby in her womb; the un-documented; the un-housed; the un-healthy; the un-fed; the under-educated.”

I imagine a Catholic advocate phoning her Congressman four times in a given week, calling about various issues that the Catholic Church in the US is speaking up about. On Monday, she urges the representative to work toward the legal recognition of the unborn as human beings. On Tuesday, she asks him to protect social safety net programs like food stamps and Medicaid. On Wednesday, she voices opposition to physician-assisted suicide. On Thursday, she calls for a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the US. And on Friday, the congressman’s receptionist wonders aloud, “What party does that woman belong to, anyway?”

If we truly let our faith inform our politics, then that’s the question people might be asking themselves about us.

3) Siding with those who are vulnerable is risky.

In Selma, King gives a sermon in response to the racially motivated murder of a teenager in the town. “Those who have gone before us say, No more! No more!” he says. “That means protest! That means march! That means disturb the peace! That means jail! That means risk! That is hard!”

I think of the hundreds of parishioners who gathered at Holy Cross on Sunday – many of whom, who, despite the risk of deportation, keep working to provide for their families and secure civil rights. I feel for the young pro-life marchers whose peers look at them with suspicion or condescension. Selma invited me to remember those in who were beaten and killed because of their race, and to lift up those who continue the ongoing hard work of racial reconciliation across the country.

After the March for Life, I made it to Lindenwold just in time for our diocesan Respect Life Mass, hosted at the Parish Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Gospel passage selected for the Mass was Matthew’s Beatitudes: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me,” Jesus tells his followers. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

As risky as faith can be, Christ reminds us that he is with us always. There’s no finer solace – and no finer call to action – than that.

This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.


Three Tips for Introducing Christmas to Kids: Story, Simplicity, Sharing

Recently, my sister-in-law texted me a photo of my niece, who’s 18 months old, covering her gaping mouth in pure wonder at the sight of a chintzy Christmas-light display in a big-box store. It reminded me of the uniquely wonderful time of year this is for young kids.

But you don’t have to watch TV for more than a minute these days to be reminded that our culture’s focus on buying and getting stuff can undermine Christmas’ meaning. Here are three other S-words that might be good to keep in mind while introducing Christmas to toddlers: story, simplicity, and sharing.

Story

In the wonderful “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, Charlie Brown, frustrated by the commercialism of the season, wonders, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

Linus knows, and he stands in front of the gang and recites from Luke’s nativity story. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

There are few stories more awesome and meaningful. As a family, spend some time with the Christmas story – and take advantage of the great tangible symbols of the season, like an Advent wreath and a kid-friendly, hands-on nativity scene.

Simplicity

The photo of my niece reminded me that it doesn’t take much to excite a little one! Here’s another example of this truth: Over Thanksgiving weekend, family friends with two kids – two years and five months old – stayed with my wife and me for a couple days. The two year-old’s current favorite activity involves crayons. She doesn’t color with them, though. She just removes the paper, bit by bit, and throws it away. That’s it. On Christmas, I imagine she’ll enjoy playing with the box a toy comes in more than the toy itself.

In an article I read recently, blogger Joshua Becker described his family’s Christmas gift-exchange practice. He and his wife give their children three gifts: one thing they want, one thing they need, and an experience to share with the family. By establishing those expectations early, their kids aren’t disappointed at this seemingly small pile under the tree, and it has allowed them to shift their focus from stuff to friends, family, and faith.

Sharing

Back to Charlie Brown and Peanuts for a second. In a classic strip, Violet approaches Charlie Brown with a piece of paper in hand. “This is my ‘git’ list, Charlie Brown,” she says. “These are all the things I figure I’m gonna ‘git’ for Christmas from my two grampas and two grammas and eight uncles and aunts!”

Charlie Brown replies, “Where’s your ‘give’ list?”

“My what?” asks Violet,

“I knew it!” harrumphs Charlie Brown as he walks away.

Violet has no conception of giving, but it’s probably not her fault. Her doting, well-minded family sees her as a recipient with nothing to contribute herself. But Christmas is a great time to work on building habits of generosity and thoughtfulness. Participate in a food drive together (dropping cans in a box is always fun), or make some homemade Christmas cards for loved ones.

With the three S’s of story, simplicity, and sharing, you can help young children learn what Christmas is all about.

This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.


Social Justice and the New Evangelization: Perfect Partners

When I was invited to speak at a parish recently, I shared a story that my predecessor in Life & Justice Ministries, the late Larry DiPaul, loved to tell.

At the end of a family gathering years ago, Larry packed up some leftover lasagna in a Tupperware container to take home. Larry was a prolific coffee drinker, and he stopped at a 711 he often frequented on the drive back from his family’s house.

Outside the store, he saw a guy he called “711 Sam,” a homeless man who was almost always hanging out there. Larry had chatted with him in passing occasionally, and paused to talk on his way back to the car.

“How’s it going, Sam?” Larry asked.

“Not bad, Larry, not bad,” Sam replied. “But I’m pretty hungry tonight.”

A light bulb went off in Larry’s head.

“Hey, I’ve got some lasagna in my car. Would you like it?”

“Oh, sure, thank you, Brother Larry.”

Larry walked over to his car, grabbed the lasagna, and brought it back to Sam.

“Hold on just a second,” Sam said. He walked into the 711 and returned a moment later with two knives and two forks.

Larry didn’t understand.  “Why do you have two, Sam?” he asked. “Do you have a friend around?”

Sam held out one set to Larry.

“A meal goes a much longer way when you have someone to share it with,” Sam said.

And so they sat together on the curb and ate the lasagna together.

The phrase “social justice” means a lot of different things, depending on the context. From a Catholic perspective, one of my favorite definitions of the term is right relationship. Social justice is all about building relationships between people that reflect God’s dream for us – relationships marked by mercy, compassion, and mutual kinship.

Sam taught Larry an incredible lesson about right relationship that night outside the 711. At first, Larry saw Sam as a recipient of Larry’s own generosity. It was a one-way relationship: the giver and the receiver. Then, Sam’s surprising gesture shook Larry up and fundamentally altered their relationship. Sam and Larry became companions – a word that literally means those who break bread together.

Of course, social justice also includes political work to change the social structures that permit evils like poverty, hunger, abortion, and so many more. But as a priest friend of mine likes to say, “You can’t work to end poverty if you don’t know any poor people.”

Right relationship is also at the core of what the Church has termed “the New Evangelization,” which is an ongoing process that calls Catholics to share the Good News with new vigor in a world where so many are searching for meaning. The New Evangelization is all about deepening our relationship with Christ as friend and savior and deepening the relationships we build with one another as Church. This shared emphasis on relationship makes social justice work and the New Evangelization natural partners.

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For those in the Camden area…

The role of social justice ministry within the New Evangelization is the topic of two presentations Dr. Jonathan Reyes will lead here in the Diocese of Camden on Tuesday, December 9. He will explore how these two ministry priorities inform and encourage each other. A gifted teacher, Dr. Reyes is the executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace, and Human Development for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Join us for either free event to reflect on how we, as individuals and as faith communities, can more effectively proclaim Christ’s Gospel of justice and love.

Dr. Reyes will lead two sessions on Tuesday, December 9: 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm primarily for parish staffs and volunteers, and 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm for a general audience. Both sessions will be held at Church of the Holy Family’s Aquin Center (226 Hurffville Rd, Sewell, NJ 08080). Admission is free. To register or for more information, please contact Norma Guzman at 856.583.6170 or norma.guzman@camdendiocese.org

This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.


Called to Love All Life

Daniel Hoover and Martha Jordan are the keynote speakers at this year’s Diocese of Camden Respect Life Leaders Gathering on Saturday, October 18 at St. Charles Borromeo in Sicklerville. By then, they’ll be married! (Yes, to each other!) The gathering, Called to Love All Life, will bring together current and aspiring leaders in the pro-life movement from the diocese’s parishes and schools.

Below is a quick interview with Daniel and Martha, but first here are their backgrounds:

Daniel grew up in Grass Lake, Michigan.  He attended Michigan State University where he studied religion and philosophy before getting his Masters of Theology from the University of Notre Dame through the Echo Faith Formation Leadership Program.  He is currently the pastoral associate of St. Mary Magdalen school and parish in Wilmington, Del.

Martha grew up in South Jersey, and was a long-time parishioner at the Catholic Community of the Holy Spirit (Holy Name of Jesus Parish). She received a Bachelor’s degree in Theology, with a minor in Human Life Studies, from Franciscan University of Steubenville.  After college, Martha worked with organizations such as Generation Life and FOCUS as a campus missionary at Boston University. Martha now works at the Catholic Leadership Institute in Wayne, Penn., where Church leaders receive world-class leadership training, following the example of leadership made known to us through Jesus Christ.

The title of the gathering is “Called to Love All Life.” Love is a word we throw around a lot. What do you think love for all life, especially the vulnerable, entails?

Daniel: For a long time I have been fascinated by the term “true love.” I think that title is used because so many times what is called “love” is actually insincere and self-serving. Love for all life, if it is true love, results in us loving other’s as Christ loved them. Christ’s love is an aching, desperate, compassionate, self-less love. His love drove Him to willingly die for us. Mother Teresa said we should “love until it hurts” and I think that in many different forms, that is what love for all life entails, loving until it hurts us. Also, not ignoring injustice in the world.

Martha: When I think of loving on a daily basis, I think of how I can love in simple ways – through gestures, a smile, a hello, etc. It is not always easy to love the people you live with, or work with, and I think loving people in your daily life, as well as the most vulnerable, requires an open heart, and the recognition that all people you meet are a mystery to you. All who are vulnerable have a story that we don’t know about.  Loving the vulnerable requires the recognition that each person involved is a gift waiting to be received in love.

Who is a person in your own life (famous or not-so-famous) whose example of love in action has inspired you? Why?

Daniel: Maybe it is cliche but I have been really moved by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa). Reading the book of her personal letters (Come Be My Light) I saw how everything she did was inspired by her love of Jesus. Unfortunately, I think often our motives are often less pure, even if we don’t realize it.

Martha: I have a friend whose love for all people is expressed so clearly whenever she interacts with another. She allows all of the details of a conversation to be important so that love might be shown. When she speaks her tone is loving, kind and sweet, her demeanor is pleasant, she smiles, and her body language is open. She communicates with people with great intentionality because of the love she has in her heart for Christ and His people. It inspires me because it is so uncommon today to take the time to look, listen, and speak to each person as though he/she were the most important, and yet — it is in these actions — in this love, that the hearts of people are moved to believe in Christ, in love.

Pick a favorite Scripture passage that is important to you when reflecting on our call to protect the dignity vulnerable — especially the unborn.

Daniel: There is also a passage from a document called the Didache from around the year 100 A.D. that is believed to be the recorded teachings of the Apostles and it says for Christians to be against abortion.  The fact that we have protected the unborn for 1,900 years is so beautiful to me.

Martha: John 8 – The story of the woman caught in adultery.  Jesus has come to protect us and save us, to bring each of us into union with Him.

For those interested in attending the event:

Besides Daniel and Martha’s keynote address, the day will feature Mass and communal prayer, breakfast and lunch, topical breakout sessions, and networking time with dozens of respect life leaders from faith communities all over the diocese. You can register for the event by clicking here, or email michael.laskey@camdendiocese.org for more information. All are welcome!

This interview is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.


Prison Ministry Today: An Interview with Sr. Mary Lou Lafferty

Sr. Mary Lou Lafferty, OSF, the Prison Ministry Coordinator for the Diocese of Camden, took the time to answer five questions about her ministry. To learn more about her, check out this great interview from the National Catholic Reporter. To get involved in prison ministry, visit this diocesan website.

Why do you think the Church is called to be engaged in prison ministry?

A greater awareness of the injustice in our penal institutions is reaching high proportions due to social media outlets.  In turn, the sensitivity by the Church is heightened and the need to minister to this population is gaining strength.

Being a Franciscan, I often call to mind Francis of Assisi’s own conversion while imprisoned. During his incarceration, the emptiness of his youthful years became clear and a personal transformation took place.  This was the beginning of Francis’ outreach to all peoples … the poor, the lepers, the outcasts …

This same outreach is the challenge that Pope Francis gives to each of us.  How can we bring the Good News to our brothers and sisters in our jails and prisons?  How can we be instruments of Jesus’ love, mercy and forgiveness?  His promise to be with us always, in good times and not so good, should be a source of strength and peace that needs to permeate all ministries of the Church.

We live in a society that is about retribution and revenge.  Just watch the nightly news!  How can we assist in reconciling incarcerated men, women and children with themselves, their God and the members of society?  As a faith community, we need to be about restoration and reconciliation, affirming the God-given dignity in each person we encounter.

How would you describe the purpose of the ministry to someone who had never thought about it before?

The purpose of the ministry is often threefold – provide spiritual opportunities for the incarcerated that influence the rehabilitation process; reduce fear and restore a sense of security in the community; and extend a consciousness of understanding, compassion and healing to the victims.  We are progressing fairly well with programs and religious services to the imprisoned; however, there is a great need for outreach to members of the community and the victims/victims’ families.

Do you have any stories from your time in the ministry that have inspired you?

In general, the selflessness of the volunteers never ceases to amaze me.  The majority of these men and women have other commitments to family, work and themselves. But their availability, when needed, is commendable.  Each one, without exception, has shared with me how his/her life has changed since beginning this ministry to the incarcerated.  They give of themselves so freely!

However, there is one story that has touched my heart: Early on, I received a letter with a check enclosed to be sent to a specified local parish as his monthly tithing.*  This was not his former parish, rather, it is the parish of the victim (a staff member) whom he killed in a drug-related car accident.  It was his small way of making amends to all those whose lives in the parish were touched by this horrific incident – the loss of a beloved staff member by his act of selfishness.  As Pope Francis says – “Who are we to judge?”

*Working for $.25 an hour is how he is able to accumulate money for his monthly tithing.

What challenging social issues connected to our criminal justice system have you learned about since starting your ministry?

All Catholic social teaching begins with the fundamental principle of the defense of human life and dignity.  From our earliest learning, we were made aware that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God with dignity, value and worth, regardless of race, creed, gender, nationality, class or any other human characteristics.

So how can we supplement the penal system to provide justice to these inmates?  They are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, personal safety, timely medical care, as well as opportunities for work and education in order to maintain their human dignity.  “…none of us is the sum total of the worst act we have committed … As a people of faith, we believe that grace can transform even the most hardened and cruel human beings.”  (See Origins 29:17 – pp. 261-266.)

The Preferential Option for the Poor and Vulnerable is also a principle of Catholic social teaching to which I have always had a deep commitment.  However, to look at this principle through the eyes of those affected by the lack of adequate resources from early life – children who are hungry, abused (mentally, emotionally, physically), homeless etc. – often end up living lives of crime due to the impact of their upbringing.

Serving here in Camden, one of the most dangerous cities in the US and claiming the highest violent crime rate in the State of New Jersey, I am aware that more than ever of the necessity for the presence of the Church in prison ministry to address the basics of the people through pastoral care, advocacy and charity, as well as those affected by these conditions. This is a mandate for the Church given in Matthew 25 … for the incarcerated, their families and their victims.

How can parishioners here in the diocese get involved in prison ministry efforts? Are there multiple ways for them to serve?

There are many opportunities for parishioners in the diocese to get involved.  Some people may be open to give direct service, while others may prefer to minister outside the jail/prison.

For the first group, after becoming approved for a particular institution, the following are areas that need assistance: sacramental preparation, scripture reflection, Bible study, small group facilitation, values discussion and mentoring, to name a few.

For those who would prefer indirect service, possibilities are prayer ministry, making rosary beads, victim support, legislative advocacy and letter writing. The qualification are simple … Anyone who can see God in the faces of the women/men whom he/she would encounter and has an open, non-judgmental posture would be a candidate for prison ministry.

This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries. To get involved in prison ministry for the Diocese of Camden, visit this diocesan website.


Two Life & Justice Saints: Popes John XXIII and John Paul II

On Sunday, the Catholic Church will canonize Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. It’s worth taking some time to read up on them and the canonization at the USCCB’s special site for the historic day, or dip into any of their great books.

In this space, I’d like to highlight three quotes from each saint-to-be that demonstrate their shared, deep commitment to the promotion of human dignity and social justice. They are truly two Life & Justice Saints.

First, Pope John XXIII.

1) “Individual human beings are the foundation, the cause and the end of every social institution.” Mater et Magistra, no. 219.

In Mater et Magistra, his 1961 encyclical on Christianity and social progress, Pope John XXIII boils all of Catholic social teaching down to this principle. When we evaluate any of our social institutions — governments, businesses, economies, schools, healthcare systems, and so on — we are called to examine how they affect individual persons. Profit or success for those few at the top are not enough.

2) “We must speak of man’s rights. Man has the right to live. He has the right to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, particularly food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services…” Pacem in Terris, no. 11

In his seminal 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, John XXIII articulates and explores basic human rights from a Catholic Christian perspective. In the most forceful way up to that point in papal history,  John XXIII asserts that all human beings have inviolable rights, including the right to life and the right to live well, because they are created by God.

3) “The common good ‘must take account of all those social conditions which favor the full development of human personality.’…It is generally accepted today that the common good is best safeguarded when personal rights and duties are guaranteed.” Pacem in Terris, nos. 58, 60

If individual human rights are one side of the coin, the common good is the other side. The phrase “common good” appears 73 times between Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris. Not only do all humans have individual rights, but we all have responsibilities to make sure the rights of others are upheld. In a special way, civil authorities have an obligation to promote the common good through creating social structures that promote the well-being of all.

Now, on to Pope John Paul II.

1) “Solidarity… is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.” Solicitudo Rei Socialis, no. 38.

What a compelling, strong stand against our tendency toward individualism. John Paul II makes it clear that Catholicism and any form of libertarianism are not compatible.

2) “The Gospel of God’s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel.” Evangelium Vitae, no. 2. 

If “common good” was Pope John XXIII’s favorite phrase, “human dignity” is Pope John Paul II’s favorite. In this encyclical, he shows how the Church’s care for all human life represents our striving to emulate God’s love for each and every person.

3) “Human life belongs only to God: for this reason whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself.” Evangelium Vitae, no. 9.

In an era that has devalued certain forms of human life, Pope John Paul II reminds us that everything we have is a gift from God — most importantly life itself. As a world, how are we doing at cherishing that gift?

This week especially, we thank God for the gifts of Popes John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, and pray that we might have the courage and zeal to promote life & justice the way they did.

This post is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.


What Are You Doing For Easter?

“What are you doing for Lent?”

A few years ago, when I was a parish youth minister, I asked the students to think about ways they could truly live the season. There was a lot of discussion about giving things up: technology, certain foods, picking on a younger brother or sister. Some mentioned collecting money for Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl, and others expressed a hope to pray or attend Mass more. I was impressed by the level of commitment from many of those who responded. Giving up Facebook or video games is not a small challenge for our tech-centered generation. But there they were, getting into the spirit of the season in an intentional way, thinking about ways to incorporate the Lenten practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving into their lives.

These students mirrored the wider church: We do Lent really well. Parish offerings are plentiful, Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday pack churches, people give things up and stick to it. The season and its multitude of tangible reminders – those ashes and palms; no meat on Friday; no “alleluia”; purple everywhere – make it hard to forget it’s a special time of year.

On Holy Thursday and Good Friday that year, I saw some students at the parish.

“What are you doing for Easter?” I asked.

I wanted to know where they were going or what they were doing on Sunday, and that’s what they told me. Visiting with family, eating a big meal, doing homework.

A few days later, I caught myself comparing those two respective questions about Lent and Easter. “What are you doing for Lent?” is a probing spiritual question. It requires a 40-day answer, and implies action and discipline.

“What are you doing for Easter?” is a polite piece of small talk. It has to do with one day’s plans. We celebrate well, and then it’s “almost summer” time and things begin to wind down.

It’s easy to forget that Easter is a 50-day season, 10 days longer than the Lenten marathon. It’s the most important season we have; we’re an Easter people, after all, not a Lenten people.

What would it look like if we committed ourselves to the Easter season with the same energy we bring to Lent?

Inspired by our triad of Lenten practices, here are three Easter practices you might try from now through Pentecost.

1) Feasting

Lent is a time of fasting, but we do not fast for its own sake. We fast so that we might be ready to welcome and celebrate the risen Christ at Easter and throughout the season in a special way. We fast so we can feast! So, take some time to intentionally feast this Easter. Call a friend you haven’t spoken with for a while. Have a picnic. Fly a kite. Play hopscotch. Do something new and creative that celebrates life and brings joy to the world.

2) Singing

Many of my favorite moments involve singing: A pop music jam session with my siblings and my wife. Shouting along with Bruce Springsteen on “Born to Run” with the car windows down. That first “alleluia” at the Easter Vigil. One of my favorite theologians Walter Brueggemann points to Isaiah 42:10 as a key moment in Scripture: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” After the quiet grief of Lent and Good Friday, the victory of life over death energizes us to be able to sing again. So sing out especially loudly at Mass, and find other times to sing.

3) Bringing Easter Joy to Others

The Road to Emmaus is one of the great Easter stories. Soon after the resurrection, an unrecognized Jesus walks along the road with a pair of his disciples, chatting with them and breaking open the Scriptures. The conversation is going so well the disciples invite Jesus to have dinner with them. When he blesses and breaks the bread at during the meal, the disciples realize who is with them, and he instantly vanishes.

Blown away by this encounter with the risen Christ, the disciples race back to Jerusalem on foot, which was seven miles from Emmaus, to let the apostles know – minutes after they had just completed their first hike of the day. Fourteen miles in one day is pretty impressive, by any century’s standards.

What a force for good and love it would be if we could somehow channel that same Easter excitement. There are so many places in the world where the joy of the risen Lord is obscured by persistent darkness and so many people who could use a loving gesture that brings new life. Spend some time in Easter as an instrument of God’s compassion in one of these places of suffering.

There are about 50 days left until Pentecost – that’s plenty of time to get moving.

So, what are you doing for Easter this year?

This post originally appeared on the Center for FaithJustice blog and is also featured on the website The Ampersand for the Diocese of Camden Life & Justice Ministries.