God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Faith and Joy..

I think I would never have considered in my keenest dreams that I one day would sort of advertise a papal writing. Anyhow nobody would expect that from me, but this Apostolic Exhortation is worth being read by a lot of people. This document cannot be labeled progressive or conservative, it does not introduce new teachings, but it paves the way to get back to the roots of our faith. Believing should bring joy to life, it should give meaning to life, it should protect life… It should serve the purpose of experiencing the unconditional love of God in our daily life. Evangelii Gaudium shows what it could mean if the church just does that: proclaiming the joy of the good news. And it also has a meaning for those working in the fields of social injustice or health challenges; those working on the ground, work on grass-roots level. Because this message has practical means – faith is practical and must express itself in doing good and caring for those around us and in need of a holding or supporting hand.
But read for yourself:
http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html

Read it as a caregiver, a patient, a believer, a person searching, even as a non-believer I am sure you get some heart warming thoughts from it. And for those within the church: exciting times are ahead – not in the sense that liberalism or left-wing attitude wins over the other side of the spectrum. Once again: old labels don’t work with this pope, and this is good so.

 

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

POZ Magazine: “Jesus Had HIV” Sermon Riles South African Christians

South African Pastor Xola Skosana upset churchgoers by preaching a sermon titled “Jesus Was HIV Positive,” Mail & Guardian reports. Skosana chose the sermon to draw attention to the stigmatization and silence that fuel the epidemic. The sermon drew scathing attacks, he said, because people assumed it meant Jesus was promiscuous. “My responsibility…is to…paint a picture of a God who cares for people…not who judges them and is ashamed of them,” he said, adding that “in many parts of the Bible, God put himself in the position of the destitute, the sick, the marginalized.”

Source: http://www.poz.com/rssredir/articles/Jesus_HIV_sermon_1_19029.shtml

To read the Mail & Guardian article, click here.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, , , , , , , , ,

27.12.2009 Feast of the Holy Family

How many families are destroyed through HIV and AIDS? How many families are broken because it did not work out any more? How many kids are growing up with one parent or even no one?
The feast of the Holy Family seems to be put onto this scenario the three persons Mary, Joseph and Jesus – most times found with halos and an ideal of family life. I am not so sure, so this morning, I tried to look at the Holy Family a bit differently to bring them closer to my audience. What did I see?

A girl getting pregnant before marriage – Father unknown. A baby boy in a stable – very unstable circumstances of birth. A son running away from his parents during a trip to Jerusalem, a young adult without a proper income, en route with some other runaways and some women, who, according to one gospel, support Jesus. I do see a Mum standing under the cross of her son, being sentenced as a normal criminal. And I am seeing a husband, who is disappearing during the family story without any further note..

Does that sound like a realistic family? Yeap, I do think so – and what makes this family holy is not all the unrealistic things attributed to them but that throughout the family history, Mary never lost hope; it is the message, that whatever happens to a family, one should never lose hope that things are coming right again at the end.

I am not sure how things are coming right again at the end when a family is broken up completely, or parents are lost at an early stage – human understanding cannot give any reasoning. But I belive that there is a bigger picture, which does not take away the pain and the suffering, but that brings together all the ends at the end. Somehow… Let’s hope.

Filed under: Networking, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

08.10.2009 secret gag order?

Since I took up my post as Fidei Donum priest in the Archdiocese of Cape Town, I am asked again and again what secret deal I have made, what kind of restrictions are lying on me to be able to work in the fields of HIV and AIDS for the church. And seems that people doubt it when I say, that there has been no burden laid on me in any form. The frame of my work constitutes our faith, which means that we have to proclaim that everybody is loved by God and that this love is unconditional. The frame is marked by the message of Jesus, that we are all brothers and sisters and that we have to care for each other. The frame is set by the spirit of God, his good spirit allowing all men and women to achieve full potential of their lives if it is not messed up by the fellow brothers and sisters. The framework consists of the message of justice for all, peace for all and an environment, which will keep a future for our kids and the kids of the kids.

I never doubted or lost that framework, and that is why I believe that it must be possible to talk to each other without any anxiety, to meet each other, to listen to each other. I will always be concerned if man of the cloth or employees of the church don’t meet this basic rule. I suspect, that if there is anxiety to speak to one another, there is a lack of experience of God’s unconditional love.
Nevertheless, in the framework of our faith I am working now in the new portfolio and I have no intention to change that frame. I believe that religion and faith has much power to give to the people, lots of strength, and hope and believe in a good future. And all this I want to take to those here in South Africa, who are stigmatized thought the pandemic and this little virus called HI virus.

Lets see how it all develops…

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

23.08.2009 The last birthday…

The last birthday
Little Fareed’s death – a common outrage in Africa

Fareed is emaciated and he breathes heavily. For a ten-year-old boy he weighs too little and his eyes seem far too big for his face. And yet, Fareed is one of the luckier children. He has been admitted into a hospital, the Ithemba ward at Tygerberg Hospital. Fareed’s sister has sat by his bedside for days. She holds his hand, helps to change the bedding, comforts him. When I meet Fareed for the first time, volunteers have just made up his complexion with base. His big, sunken eyes look at me with quiet determination. Fareed has a yearning desire: he wants to have a birthday party. He was there when a little girl in the next room had a birthday party, organised by colleagues from HOPE Cape Town. It had a cake with candles and presents and all the trimmings. He would like that too. But there is one problem: Fareed will not live to see his next birthday. He has only days to live.
We decide to grant him his last wish anyway. We bake cakes, buy gifts, and decorate the room. And two days later we celebrate his “eleventh birthday”. Fareed cannot get up, so all the children are gathered around his bed, the birthday cake with burning candles on the sidetable. We help him to unwrap his presents – he is too weak to do even that. Our chorus of “Happy Birthday” sounds more like a swansong. I struggle to hold back my tears, as does everybody else. It is a cheerful horror party which I won’t forget as long as I live. But little Fareed is happy. A smile frequent smile floods across his face; he doesn’t have enough strength to animate his joy. A week later Fareed dies. These beautiful memories are distorted by a rage that this child had to die because at the time the medications which might have relieved his suffering and extend his life were unaffordable. It was an unnecessary, senseless death. And yet it is this particular death which revitalises me in times of despair, when I’m about to give up, when the sheer enormity of the suffering I see threatens to crush me. Fareed, a fleeting acquaintance in my life, has seared himself into my heart with a scorching intensity. When doubts start to take over, I think about him and remind myself why I am involved: on behalf of Fareed and all the children and adolescents I have watched suffering and dying from Aids, some in calm serenity, others crying in pain. Every such child, every such adolescent, represents the dying cries of the crucified Jesus in our times.

Excerpt from the German book: “Gott, Aids, Afrika” – B.Grill/S.Hippler – Kiepenheuer & Witsch Verlag (gebunden/ hard cover 2007 ), Bastei Luebbe (Taschenbuch/ Paperback 2009)

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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