The following is an excerpt from the First Sunday of Lent reflection in our Lenten Reflection Guide 2022: Upholding Human Rights and Human Dignity. The following article was published in the March-April 2022 issue of NewsNotes. Find the entire guide here, available in English and Spanish: https://bit.ly/Lent2022MOGC.
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.
… 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. Amen.
- 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: https://bit.ly/HR40mogc
Maryknoll Mission Experience
Sr. Elsie Monge, MM, 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.