Groundhog Day in Wonderland

Take Care of Sister Earth
September 24, 2018
Sister Gwendolin Koniar, OSF
October 17, 2018

By Sister Judith Ann Zielinski, OSF  

Since 2016, life in America feels like a cross between Groundhog Day (Different day, same results) and Alice in Wonderland: “Curiouser and curiouser.”

I read presidential tweets with unverified accusations and name-calling; see images of American citizens at political rallies spewing hatred; watch ongoing police brutality toward African-Americans; see foreign dictators embraced while traditional allies are disdained; and witness the human rights of immigrants, refugees, the poor and uninsured threatened with walls, cages, massive medical bills and jail cells. In this “post-truth” era, the mainline media is discredited and labeled as “fake news.”

Groundhog Day, indeed: It’s forced me to grapple with the question of how to live as a disciple during this surreal time in American history: How to respond and engage politically? Was Jesus himself “political?” –and if yes, what might that mean?

In first century Palestine, the Jews were oppressed and their land occupied by the Roman Empire. The poor were taxed ruthlessly to enhance the luxurious lifestyle of the nobility. Protests against this unjust system were met with torture, imprisonment and death. Devout Jews despaired over these conditions. Where was God? Didn’t God see their suffering? Why didn’t God act?

Instead, Jesus announced: “The Kingdom of God is already among you.” (Luke 17:21) This wasn’t poetry: He meant that there would be no superhero-God-swooping-in-to-save-them. Instead, the Jews themselves were to birth the Kingdom of God. They were to “make the way by walking,” living alternatives to Rome’s patterns of violence, intimidation and greed. They themselves needed to participate in overcoming the political evil of their day!  They were to cross social boundaries; practice compassion and forgiveness; engage with strangers; share meals; and live in a nonviolent and more authentically human fashion.

As Jesus preached and healed, he moved around strategically so as to avoid capture, but when he was ready to “go up to Jerusalem and die,” he timed and orchestrated his arrest and death publicly, deliberately, and freely. It was clearly a political action. His call for a just and peaceable kingdom had branded him as dangerous to the status quo, and for this, he died. But before he did, he left a challenge to us who follow:

Be Salt. Be seasoning, Be flavor. Bring intensity and boldness.

Be Light. Bring clarity, not heat. Be a beacon, a candle. Dispel darkness.

As Franciscan instruments of peace, this “salting” and “lighting” must be non-violent: No name-calling, no lashing back, no anger. We are all—including our political “enemies”— children of God. As Franciscan Richard Rohr describes this mystery, “everything belongs.”

The journey toward creating God’s peaceable kingdom is shared by all of us. I do not need to be the messiah, nor do you: That job has already been taken. But we do need to do our small part. It may not feel like much, nor will it solve all injustice tomorrow, but it’s all we can do. I am comforted and challenged by this piece of Jewish wisdom:

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. 

Walk humbly now, You are not obligated to complete the work, But neither are you free to abandon it.  –The Talmud

Thus this mandate describes my own political resistance: However I can, wherever I can, Be Salt. Be Light. I invite you to join me.

Sister Judith Ann Zielinski

Sr. Ann Marie Emon

Sister Judith Ann Zielinski has found a ministry telling stories, in which she communicates how others contribute to the greater good. She serves as the Director of Faith & Values Programming at NewGroup Media, in South Bend, Indiana, a position she has held since 2002.

She is a writer and producer of multiple broadcast and non-broadcast programs, that have taken place nationally as well as internationally.

In 2018, Sr. Judy celebrates her 50th Jubilee as a Sylvania Franciscan.

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4 Comments on "Groundhog Day in Wonderland"

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Sister Judy, thank you so much for your very pointed reflection. I am a watcher of CNN news and often listen to the panel discussions voiced by people who are credible, trying to make sense of the turmoil we are experiencing in our country today. I am greatly disturbed by the remarks made by this man we call our “leader” and the great unrest he is stirring up in our country. Prayer is our HOPE for a change to come about. Your words fill me with the determination to increase my prayers for peace, justice and creating a peaceable “kingdom”… Read more »

These certainly are challenging times in more ways than one. I enjoyed your connection between Alice in Wonderland and Groundhog Day.
Being salt and light sound good to me. I also just caught up with your Oreo blog from earlier in the year. Love those cookies!!!
Thanks for sharing your insights with us. Fake news gets to me these days. Your wisdom and truth are much needed and appreciated.

Sr. Brigid O\'Shea Merriman

Thanks much, dear Judy. Yours is a great reflection; it also stimulates my own thinking.

Sister Sharon Havelak

Thanks, Judy, for a powerful – and hopeful – reflection!

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