Sunday, April 19, 2015

Teresa, a nun: Yes to gay marriage. Abortion? Women can decide (Part 2)

by Roberta Trucco (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Corriere della Sera I Blog (in Italian)
April 19, 2015

We publish the second part of the interview with Teresa Forcades i Vila, a Benedictine nun who calls herself a "feminist".

You argue that saying "My freedom ends where yours begins" induces competition rather than solidarity. But this is the definition we grew up with...

"Freedom is something that I feel when I treat you and me well. Strictly speaking, for me freedom is love. This is what St. Augustine said. I think he's right. All of us, whether we believe in God or not, are made in the image and likeness of God and God is love, He's free love. We are loving beings (beings who love and are loved), and when one loves, one is free. But when we act with violence, with resentment, without trust, we are full of negative emotions, we are blocked from love, closed to love, we are not free."

But in Church tradition, love is taught as pure sacrifice ...

Love is sacrifice too, and women feel at ease because their love is putting others before themselves. Something you can only do in a true and authentic way. If deep down, you don't feel like doing it, you can't do it. The real challenge is to act in accordance with your own feelings, what you really are deep down, and accept saying: "I would like to love you this way but I can't, not now." The real challenge is to be authentic. If I can't, I have to have the courage to tell myself so and try to grow from this awareness. It's important to respect my truth because otherwise I fail, and if I fail, I carry around only resentment. Love is not a duty; God doesn't want sacrifice. We mix love and duty but Isaiah says: "God does not want sacrifice. Love is joy, it's a celebration, it's only good if it's free.'"

Like Mary's love?

"Mary is a truly free woman. She was able to look upon, to relate to God, from a position of equality. When God asks her if she wants to have a child by Him, if they want a child together, Mary's first reaction is one of amazement. How can we imagine this interaction between God and a human being, a woman? God says to her, 'I'm not God because I make the rules, because I tell you what you should and what's right to do, because I'm the adult, but simply because I'm life itself. You and I can only interact if we choose, if you wish to.' God has given us dignity and choice."

Two female figures of reference in the Gospel: Mary Magdalene and Mary of Nazareth ...

"I replied about Mary of Nazareth through my experience. But if you're asking me how in the tradition Mary Magdalene and Mary of Nazareth can be interpreted, it's another story. Maybe you don't know, I grew up in an atheist family. I read the gospel for the first time at 15. It impressed me. My second reading was Jesus Christ Liberator by Leonardo Boff. No story about God when I was a little girl. I went to church only for baptisms and communions. From my readings, I can tell you that according to tradition Mary is a submissive woman, but in the gospel, Mary is described as a young woman who knows what she wants, who makes the decisions that concern her, who says yes to God. Leonardo Boff, in his book, paints Mary as a woman who could be the companion of God. Mary wants to be pregnant by God. Her wish is extraordinary. We know that a woman can get pregnant by a man she doesn't love, but you can't spiritually. You can't rape a woman spiritually -- physically, but not spiritually. God doesn't impose Himself on her by force, God asks Mary and Mary says yes and becomes pregnant because they love each other. For me, it's very beautiful because it's what God wants with each of us -- to make each one of us [male and female] spiritually pregnant to bring God into the world. I believe that the Christian God (He or She) doesn't want to impose, S/he is a God who exists in space and time if we give Him or Her life as Mary did."

So then men, males, can give life?

"Yes, of course, because we're queer and we give life. All female images can also be applied to men, and vice versa, because, as we say in the Church, Mary is a model for everyone, not just for women. Mary is the perfection of humanity, and Jesus too -- both for men and for women. Jesus is an inspiration for everyone and so is Mary. Jesus is God and Mary is not God but is what humanity can be when it is full of God and, therefore, is like God. There isn't a hierarchy. God says: "I don't call you my servants but my friends." I think this is liberation -- we don't have a God who is over us and oppressing us. God has all the power, but He doesn't use it to oppress, but to encourage us. One who saves us time and time again from our fear of deserving death."

Are you in favor of gay marriage?

"Yes, because sexual identities should not be regarded as closed boxes that God wants complementary with each other and that should remain so forever, fixed in defined and separate roles. I live in the world and I see people of the same sex who love one another and I ask myself, 'Why is it wrong?.' They seem happy, they are really in love. Why then shouldn't they be blessed? Why not in the Church? Why shouldn't we rejoice at love, whatever form it takes? Of course, if there is anger and resentment, if there are acts of violence in the couple, it's not good, but that can happen in any couple, whether heterosexual or homosexual. The main point is how two people are together. Of course, children can be born from heterosexual couples and not from homosexual couples but I don't think that's the fundamental aspect of marriage . I love children very much (I wanted nine) and I think they are very important, but the central point of the couple's life for me is something else. The secret of marriage is to be two trying to be one, and then going back to being two. It's like God in the Trinity -- we are one but we are also separate. This can also be experienced in community life in very different ways. In the couple, maximum intimacy between two people is achieved; it's not easy, but it's a sort of journey together. If you grow on this journey and you show others how love can transform reality and what myriads of relationships are possible between human beings...This is all very fascinating."

How do you define self-determination? Do you think it's a right?

"Yes, I think it's a right, but I would be cautious in using the language of rights. I'm currently studying the philosopher Simone Weil, who has written extensively on this subject in a way that's persuasive to me. She argues that it would now be necessary to replace the word "right" with the word "duty". We don't speak of the duty to be submissive to authority, but of duty towards those who are needy, who are suffering. I think this is a healthy sustenance for society. We believe that rights are the foundation of a free society, good. But then the philosopher Hannah Arendt asks: 'Who has the right to have rights?'. There are people who have no right to have rights. Imagine a 12 year-old girl forced into prostitution -- where are her rights? She should have them. Instead, many people have no rights. So we're lying. We say that the dignity of the people comes from the fact that we have rights. That girl doesn't, in practice, in her real life. So what are we talking about? The problem is that the rights aren't real. In real life, this girl has needs, not rights. And then we start talking about the needs and, perhaps, we can change something. Of course, the issue of rights is a strong subject, but if you talk about needs, it seems like turning backwards, but you have to look at reality. Perhaps the philosophical question that we should ask ourselves is this: 'Why does having needs seem negative?'. I don't want to downplay the talk of dignity but I really want to take seriously the problems of this young girl and to do that I have to speak a language that makes sense to her. For her, it makes sense to understand what she needs, whereas if I talk about rights, she feels without dignity and can't get what she wants."

But you've said that you're for self-determination...

"For me, self-determination is freedom. Being a person, being made in the image and likeness of God, means that no one can tell me what to do, I have to move in and out to find my truth. You move an object from one place to another; a person must move alone. You can give them tips, advice, but then they decide alone. What do I think of abortion? I don't support abortion, but I don't think it's right that a state has the power to put a woman in jail because she decides (within a certain period) not to carry the pregnancy to term. In the first five months of pregnancy, when the baby is still totally dependent on the mother to see the light and lives thanks to total intimacy with the mother, it's right that the mother make a decision. We must help her make this decision, because there are two lives at stake -- that of the mother and that of the fetus. No one can force a mother in one direction. She must be able to exercise her freedom of choice."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Teresa, a nun: The Church is misogynistic but God is also a woman (Part 1)

by Roberta Trucco (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Corriere della Sera I Blog (in Italian)
April 18, 2015

"The Church says: 'The most beautiful thing is to represent Christ; you women can not!'. Christ offered us his body and blood and then someone can represent him only if he's a man -- this is clearly unfair and doesn't make sense. Not just that. In the Church there is clericalism; only priests can represent God. I don't agree. Then it also happens that only priests can make decisions about the operation of the Church, which is made up of men and women. That's why I believe the Church is misogynistic."

The speaker is a Benedictine nun of Catalan origin, Teresa Forcades i Vila, whom I met at the Sant Benet monastery in Montserrat after reading the article by Michela Murgia, "Persone da conoscere: Teresa" ["People to know: Teresa"]. A long chat about the differences and similarities of gender, gays and queers, married life and freedom, clericalism and patriarchy has confirmed to me the idea of a thinker we will hear about more and more. Yes, because Teresa, who has a medical degree and a doctorate in the United States in alternative medicine and psychology, is at the forefront, "unexpectedly", on the issues of feminism, in denunciations against the pharmaceutical lobby, in the ethical criticism of capitalism and even against the Church's position on burning issues such as homosexuality and abortion, and against its patriarchal structure. In July, the Italian translation of her book La teologia femminista nella storia ["Feminist theology in history"] (Casa Editrice Nutrimenti) will be in the bookstores.

Meanwhile, we are publishing a two-part interview with Teresa Forcades i Vila.

Let's start with gender differences. You say they're not just a cultural value. What does that mean?

"You said value. First, we can try to understand why even today there is a tension between what we usually call "difference feminism" and "equality feminism". I have great respect for all women. But for me, defending equality between the sexes and the uniqueness of the individual is essential. Everyone is unique; we aren't a number in a list of something generic. This is a value for me and it is what equality feminism talks about: let's let people grow up freely without waiting for a pattern to emerge."

But then, according to you, what are women who argue for the differences between the genders thinking?

"If we look at males and females, there's a clear difference. Women who argue for this difference have begun to analyze what happens at the beginning of life -- in the mother-son and mother-daughter relationships that -- as well as those with the father -- mark our being a woman or man. Me too, now that I've become an adult and older, say that I tend to look like my mother. I think: "How is it possible?". It is so: many women begin to talk and move like their mothers. So, what we call gender (male and female) is not only a cultural construct. For a child, whether male or female, the referent of emotional, intellectual and physical life is a woman. The first subjective identity is a slow and difficult process of separation from the mother, a different experience whether you are male or female. All of us, from childhood, ask, "Will I love my mother? Will I  be like her too? Or will I be different?". Here, the male can't easily play the role of mother, which for him is not natural, and so he passes through an experience of contradiction: "I want to be like her but I'm not." This is the same starting point for all. However this childhood subjective identity is also the basis of the stereotypical error of difference feminism and certainly of the patriarchy that says: "Because of this difference, we decree that this subjective identity must be so forever in life."

An error?

"It's the fossilization of an initial dichotomy, which doesn't have to stay like that forever. For a little one, it's good that the mother indicates what is good or right, but at some point he has to go his own way and should be allowed to go. To clarify what I mean, I want to mention the first chapter of John's Gospel, which tells of the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus. Nicodemus is a grown man, a doctor of the law who is familiar with Scripture and the Torah. He is very fascinated by Jesus but doesn't want to be recognized as his follower and therefore seeks him out at night to talk to him and asks how we can become mature adults. Jesus replies, "You must be born again." Nicodemus is surprised: "How can an adult go back into a woman's womb?." Jesus says: "This is not the road to rebirth; you have to be born through water and the spirit." For me this means being queer. Queer is an English word, untranslatable for us. In its original sense, it means strange, askew, something that is outside the canon. It's a word of rupture with the habitual patterns in which we talk about reality. A "straight" person is usually a heterosexual person, a queer person is someone who deviates from the straight path. Actually it means going beyond labels of any kind. I don't imagine life as a linear path -- you start from the childhood subjectivity to get to a point where you make the jump and you're queer. No, that's not it. We must gain our identity every day. If my childhood subjectivity comes out every time I'm in trouble, what Julia Kristeva, a Lacan psychoanalyst, calls "a crisis" happens. The crisis occurs when an adult loses his head, loses himself, acts like a child, without reasoning. It can happen to all of us, especially if something threatens our security. That's why in times of crisis violence against women, who are seen as those who sustain needs (the one who gave me her breast, looked after me, supported me in my desires), reemerges overpoweringly. Even women, when there's a crisis, require themselves to be like a mother. It's a very complex process; according to Kristeva, it's the crux of the problem of violence against women."

When you say that patriarchy is built by men and women together for psychological reasons, what do you mean?

"The patriarchal society is one in which men and women live as adults with the same child identity, without being reborn in water and the spirit. Being reborn means something new every day, something different for each of us. It's a challenge, it's the beauty of a life lived fully and consciously. It's also scary, because you have to take responsibility for yourself. Sure, we love freedom, but in reality we're afraid of it. And the fear of freedom in gender issues leads to going backwards, to the subjectivity of childhood."

To overcome that pattern, therefore, we have to be reborn in water and the spirit. One way is Christianity, but I suppose it's not the only path...

"Of course not. You can be reborn in water and the spirit but also be queer. Many queer people aren't Catholic, most of the movements promoted by queer people have nothing to do with Christianity but have a human life that drives them to this openness shown by Jesus in the Gospel of John -- overcoming the childhood pattern to be reborn to something profoundly new and unique."

Let's go back. Do you think that the Church is misogynistic?

"It's obvious that the structure of the Church is objectively patriarchal. If by "misogynistic" we mean hostile to women, of course it is. Obviously I consider it very serious not to allow women to represent Christ, because what do I, a woman, learn with respect to the fact that I'm female? As a child I didn't want to become a woman because I felt that it was disadvantageous. Males are allowed to do things that females are not allowed to and this is really a bad message for girls, but also for boys. For all of us, it's a patriarchal, misogynistic message. A message given by the Church, irrespective of whether this Pope or that Bishop is good or bad. It's a structural issue that I believe should be changed. How? By opening up to women the opportunity to represent Christ as priests do. I personally know a group of women who are fighting for it. Some of them are bishops and have been excommunicated, but I think they will continue to fight, to dream of a different future for women in the Church. I hope that their battles soon bear fruit in the Church."

  How do you stay in a "misogynistic" Church ?

"I'm here, in this monastery, simply because I was called by God completely unexpectedly. I came here when I was 27. I was finishing my master's degree in medicine and I needed a quiet place to prepare the thesis. I sought hospitality in the famous monastery of Montserrat, but there was no room and the Benedictine monks suggested that I go over to the nuns. At first I didn't want to. I imagined that the place would be sad and the nuns, boring. Then I realized I was falling into a contradiction: I, a feminist, was assuming that the nuns could not be interesting. So I accepted the challenge. I came to stay here, I found a very interesting community, and after a month of study, I, who had come not to become a nun, not because of a vocation, but only to prepare for an exam, I felt something growing in me. It was God's call. I really believe that God has called me to be a nun."

How do you bring a female point of view, and fight for it in a misogynistic structure, without becoming an enemy of men?

"The institutional battle isn't a problem because you can always separate institutions from people, from men. If a bishop, a cardinal, a priest or even the Pope behaves in a misogynistic way, I have no problem saying it or writing it. I don't judge, I don't feel like an enemy. I simply describe what seems obvious to me. Within a couple, it's different. The couple shares a total intimacy, emotional, sexual life, and I think it can act much more in depth than I do, even if this requires a lot more effort. The real challenge is to try to understand what it means to be free within the couple, be free and be one, have my space and make room for the other. Freedom!"

To be continued...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Believing from personal experience

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
April 19, 2015

Luke 24:35-48

It isn't easy to believe in the Risen Jesus. Ultimately, it's something that can only be grasped and understood based on faith that Jesus himself stirs in us. If we have never experienced "within" the peace and joy that Jesus instills, it is difficult for us to find "outside" evidence of his resurrection.

Luke is telling us something about this when he describes the encounter of the risen Jesus with the group of disciples. There are all sorts among them. Two disciples are telling how they recognized him when dining with him at Emmaus. Peter says he appeared to him. Most have still not had any experience. They don't know what to think.

Then "Jesus stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'" The first thing for awakening our faith in the risen Jesus is to be able to sense, even today, his presence in our midst, and spread in our groups, communities and parishes the peace, joy and security that come from knowing he is alive, closely accompanying us in these times that are not easy at all for faith.

Lucas' story is very realistic. Jesus' presence doesn't magically transform the disciples. Some of them are afraid and "think they are seeing a ghost." All sorts of doubts arise within others. There are those who are "incredulous for joy." Others are "amazed."

That's what happens today too. Faith in the Risen Christ isn't born automatically and securely in us. It awakens in our hearts weakly and humbly. At the beginning, it's almost just a wish. Ordinarily, it grows surrounded by doubts and questions -- is it possible for something so great to be true?

According to the story, Jesus stays, he eats with them and devotes himself to "opening their minds to understanding" so that they can get what has happened. He wants them to become "witnesses" who can speak from their own experience and preach not just any way, but "in his name."

Believing in the Resurrection isn't a one day matter. It's a process that can last years sometimes. What's important is our inner attitude. Trusting in Jesus always. Making much more room for him in each one of us and in our Christian communities.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pontius Pilate in the Creed

by Victor Codina, SJ (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Cristianisme i Justícia Blog
April 3, 2015

It is somewhat surprising that both in the short creed (the so-called Apostles' Creed) and the long creed (the Nicene-Constantinopolitan one) that we profess in the Sunday Eucharist, refderence is made to Pontius Pilate, under whose power Jesus suffered, was crucified, died and was buried. It is strange and even shocking that along with the Father, His Son Jesus Christ incarnate of the Virgin Mary and with the Holy Spirit, Pontius Pilate is mentioned.

Pilate, governor of Judea (26-36) was a man both weak in the face of popular pressure and arrogant, cruel, arbitrary and ruthless, "the imperial, bloody and ruthless Roman" [“el romano imperialista, puñetero y desalmado”] as is sung in the Nicaraguan Mass ... While recognizing the innocence of Jesus, accused because of the envy of the priests, he did not free him so as not to fall into disfavor of Tiberius Caesar -- "if you release him, you are not a friend of Caesar" (Jn 19,12). He wanted to act speedily in the face of Rome, so he washed his hands in a cowardly way (Mt 27, 24) and ordered Jesus to be crucified. Years later, Pilate was removed from office for his brutal actions and banished to Gaul. How, then, to explain this strange intrusion of Pilate in the Creed?

When the early Church introduced Pilate into the Creed, it was not acting irresponsibly but with great wisdom. The reference to Pilate places Jesus in human history, in time -- under the Roman Empire and in Judea, where Pontius Pilate was governor. Jesus, and therefore the Christian faith centered on Jesus, the Son of the Father incarnate in Mary, is not an invention, a dream, an ideology or a beautiful myth to comfort our angst. Jesus is certainly an extraordinary, novel and mysterious event, but a historical one that is part of the history of salvation, part of our human history.

And it is great news that he suffered, was crucified and buried under the power of Pontius Pilate, has risen and is sitting with the Father. He who rose was the same Jesus of Nazareth who went about doing good and freeing victims of oppression (Acts 10:38).

This is the historical dimension of faith underlying the Creed when citing Pontius Pilate, the foundation upon which we Christians follow Jesus in today's world and our time, discerning the signs of the times and proclaiming the joy of the gospel to today's world. And it is a call to not wash our hands before the real problems of our time, not put our selfish interests ahead of the defense of truth and justice, not be content with asking skeptically, like Pilate, "What is the truth?"(Jn 18,38). Because the truth is siding with those who suffer, with the poor and oppressed, as Jesus did -- He is the truth (Jn 14:14). Washing one's hands like Pilate did ends up producing victims ...

Pilate's presence in the Creed not only roots Jesus in history but becomes a negative warning of how we are not to act in life -- we can't act like Pilate. All this we can keep in mind when, while reciting the creed -- both the short and the long one, we say that Jesus "suffered under Pontius Pilate" ...

Third Theology Congress: The Legacy of the Martyrs For the Future

Blessings on the Theology Department of the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in San Salvador for posting a web site with videos of the presentations and other documentaries relating to their March 18-23,2015 conference on the theme "El Legado de los mártires de cara al futuro" ("The Legacy of the Martyrs For the Future"). For your convenience, we have made a list of all the available videos here as well. The videos themselves are in Spanish so we will not translate the titles. The conference site also contains biographies of all the speakers.



Documentaries:

Friday, April 10, 2015

The initiation of Dom Helder Camara's path to sainthood now has a date

By Luis Miguel Modino (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
April 9, 2015

The Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife announced at a press conference on April 8 and informed through its web page that on May 3rd at 9 a.m. the people of God of the capital of the state of Pernambuco will meet at the Cathedral of the Holy Savior of the World in Olinda to celebrate the opening of the beatification and canonization process of Dom Helder Camara who was archbishop of this Brazilian archdiocese for over 20 years.

In this celebration, Monseñor Fernando Saburido, the current archbishop of Olinda and Recife, will introduce the members of the legal commission that will be responsible for recognizing the heroic virtues of one of the most important Brazilian figures of the past century and whose international recognition goes beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church. The prayer to ask for the intercession of Monseñor Helder Camara will also be presented.

At the press conference, the head of the Archdiocese of Olinda and Recife signed the document publicizing the authorization of the Holy See, recorded in a letter sent by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and signed by Cardinal Angelo Amato, dated February 25th of this year in response to a letter sent on May 27th, 2014 in which Monseñor Saburido asked if there was any impediment to opening the beatification process of Dom Helder. The archbishop himself expressed his surprise at the rapid response of the Vatican Congregation.

Monseñor Fernando Saburido has always shown clear appreciation for his predecessor. And he stated it once again in the press conference when he said, "I have enormous affection for Dom Helder and since I came to the archdiocese, this wish of the people of God has existed." That attitude contrasts with Monseñor José Cardoso Sobrinho, successor to Dom Helder and predecessor of Monseñor Saburido, who took it upon himself to squander the memory of the one who is now being considered by the Church as a possible saint.

The process that will soon be initiated, and whose postulator is Frey Jociel Gomes, is made up of different parts that once completed will raise Dom Helder to be considered venerable, blessed, and a saint. It starts with drafting various documents and will move forward as miracles through the intercession of the Servant of God are recognized, as canon law calls for.

The importance of this news for Brazilian society is marked by the prominence it has had in the news headlines of "Rede Globo", the main Brazilian television network, which has highlighted the figure of Dom Helder and his contribution to the social development of the South American giant.

We can say of Monseñor Helder Cámara, born in Fortaleza on February 7, 1909, that he was one of the most outstanding people not just in the Catholic Church but in Brazilian society in the 20th century.

He was always one of the great defenders of the cause of the poor, especially during the era of the dictatorship that ravaged the country during the same period he was Archbishop of Olinda and Recife. The military regime accused him of being a Communist and a demagogue, being known as the "red bishop" as a result of his constant denunciations of the situation of persecution, exploitation and destitution in which a large part of the Brazilian population was living.

The result of this was the constant reprisals to which he was subjected, causing his house to be machine-gunned, his name not to be able to appear in the national press, an international campaign promoted against his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, and his most immediate collaborators to be imprisoned or even killed, as happened with priest Antonio Henrique Pereira Neto in 1970.

Dom Helder died on August 27, 1999, and his reputation for holiness has been growing with the passing of years, especially among the poorest people. He was buried in the Cathedral of the Holy Savior of the World in Olinda, where the initial celebration of this process will take place which many hope will lead him to the honor of sainthood.

Living in his presence

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
April 12, 2015

John 20:19-31

John's account could not be more suggestive or challenging. Only when they see the risen Jesus among them is the group of disciples transformed. They regain peace, their fears disappear, they are filled with an unknown joy, they notice Jesus' spirit upon them and they open the doors because they feel sent to live out the same mission which he had received from the Father.

The current crisis in the Church, its fears and its lack of spiritual strength originate at a deep level. Often the idea of the resurrection of Jesus and his presence among us is more of a conceived and preached doctrine than a living experience.

The Risen Christ is at the center of the Church but his living presence is not rooted in us. It's not incorporated into the substance of our communitiesand doesn't usually nourish our projects. After twenty centuries of Christianity, Jesus isn't known or understood in his originality. He isn't loved or followed as he was by his disciples.

You can tell right away when a a Christian group or community feels as if it's inhabited by that invisible but real and active presence of the risen Christ. They aren't content to routinely follow the guidelines governing ecclesial life. They have a special sensitivity to listening to, seeking, remembering and applying the Gospel of Jesus. They are the healthiest and most alive spaces of the Church.

Nothing and nobody today can bring us the strength, joy and creativity we need to face an unprecedented crisis, as can the living presence of the risen Christ. Deprived of his spiritual force, we won't get out of our almost innate passivity, we'll continue with doors closed to the modern world, we'll go on doing "what's instructed" without joy or conviction. Where will we find the strength we need to recreate and reform the Church?

We have to react. We need Jesus more than ever. We need to experience his living presence, remember at all times his criteria and his Spirit, think about his life again and again, let him be the inspiration for our actions. He can spread more light and strength to us than anyone. He is in the midst of us, communicating his peace, his joy, and his Spirit.