By John Gillman, PhD, BCC
A Maryknoll Liturgical Year: Reflections on the Readings for Year A. Judy Coode and Kathy McNeely (eds.), Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY, 2013. Paperback, 208 pp. $20.
One of the principles of biblical interpretation is to read it in light of human reason and experience. The reflections in this volume engagingly do that using multiple lenses from Maryknollers throughout the world who hear the sacred texts from within the diverse communities where they serve.
The 48 different authors are Maryknoll sisters, priests, brothers, and lay missionaries, some of whom have served up to 50 years among the people. The stories are filled with touching human encounters where vibrant faith is lived out in the midst of struggle and poverty. Having seen how forests have been ravaged and the land abused, the authors again and again call for the need to respect the environment, following the injunction of Pope Benedict’s plea: “If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation.”
The rhetoric can get overheated, when in her reflection on the Palm Sunday readings, Sister Antoinette Gutzler pronounces that “the modern-day choice for Barabbas is a choice to harm the environment and to protect our national and world securities through the building of armaments over the way of life that God has given us in creation” (p. 86). Still, such fervor and respect for Madre Tierra becomes a clarion call that awakens the consciousness of readers to pay attention and take action.
Responding to the story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, Brother John Beeching reflects on how much he has learned from the Buddhist monks in Thailand who risked their lives caring for wounded Burmese refugees who escaped the repressive military regime of their home country. Noting that Jesus singles out the Canaanite woman, a foreigner, for praise, John wonders “how often we find ourselves praising the faith of a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Buddhist” (p. 153).
In another essay we hear about how Bishop Bunleun Mansap is inspired by his Buddhist friends in the field of peace and justice, leading him to say: “This is the Good News that the Buddhists give us. They are evangelizing us” (p. 145).
What I found most inspiring was the radical faith and profound trust these many Maryknoll missioners embody each day, strengthened by their love of God as manifested among the immense web of people where they live and serve. Through their response to the call of the Gospel, the living Christ is incarnated.
John Gillman is NACC and ACPE supervisor at VITAS Innovative Hospice Care in San Diego, CA.