Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Human Efforts, God' Grace" by Joe Mulligan, S.J.

Published in the Catholic Worker, June-July 2009

“The people united will never be defeated” has been a popular slogan of struggle in Chile and other Latin American countries.

“We shall overcome,” proclaimed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with those who organized, marched, and went to jail with him.

“Yes, it can be done” (“sí, se puede”) chanted César Chavez and the United Farm Workers.

“Don’t mourn, organize” was the message of labor songwriter Joe Hill and other union activists.

These encouraging messages show us how to cooperate with God in bringing about the coming of the Kingdom and the implementation of God’s will. It couldn’t be clearer that God’s will for the Kingdom is to be carried out on earth, not just among the departed souls and angels. How? By using our God-given intelligence and freedom to solve our problems, working together with God for a better world.

We must let God’s will be done in our lives, families, and communities and organize so that God’s will for justice and freedom may become a reality for all in social, political, and economic structures. In these structures and systems, it is people’s power, united and smart, which makes change, for the entrenched power of the ruling class does not yield without a struggle. As Dr. King said in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

Organized Truth-force, speaking truth to power, non-cooperation, boycotts, marches, sit-ins, draft resistance, tax resistance, and other forms of civil disobedience, organizing unions and neighborhood groups, especially when the stakes are significant -- these are some of the methods of exerting power non-violently at our disposal.

God’s will is not that women and children be beaten, that more people be unemployed or exploited, that millions suffer malnutrition or AIDS, that the prisons and jails of the U.S. contain over 2 million inmates, that the U.S. invade other countries at will. These evils happen because we misuse the freedom and potential God has given us. Problems made by humans, can be solved by humans. In this seemingly impossible and overwhelming task, we may feel alone, even if we organize millions to act in unison.

But we are not left to our own devices, limited energy, and propensity toward despair. Moses and the prophets were always assured of Abba’s presence and strength even in the face of fierce opposition. Jesus often told His disciples: “Do not be afraid; I am with you.” United to the Vine, we will produce much fruit.
It was not God’s will that Jesus suffer cruelly and perish ignominiously on the cross "for our sins,” to assuage some divine wrath, to make a sacrifice of expiation, to save us. These are images which were applied to Jesus after His death and resurrection. In retrospect, Christian theology sees that they were fulfilled in a magnificent way by Jesus. It was God’s will that Jesus announce the Kingdom of justice and love and inaugurate it by His work, that He be faithful to this dangerous mission in face of the intense persecution it would unleash against Him, and that Jesus and His cause be vindicated in the Resurrection.

“Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want”(Mk 14:36). Jesus’ will was one with Abba’s; He was the faithful prophet and courageous liberator to the very end.


This article is from my journal written while I was in two county jails from late January to late April, 2004, serving a 90-day sentence for “crossing the line” onto Ft. Benning, Ga., in a November 2003 protest against the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas. The School, now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), has trained thousands of Latin American soldiers, some of whom have returned to their countries to be notorious torturers, assassins, and other human-rights violators.

The complete version of the article can be found at: