It is fitting – one would say – prophetic that these readings occur at this time and place. Our scriptures mention contrasts. There is the contrast of mortality versus immortality. There is the contrast of faith versus disbelief. There is the contrast of weakness versus strength.
Our first reading informs us that when a person is called to the prophetic ministry, they are not alone. The very Spirit of the Divine rushes in to bridge the gap between the mortal and the immortal. The Spirit strengthens the prophetess or prophet to be attentive to the message. Ezekiel is moved by the Spirit represented by the phrase, “Stand Up!” The Spirit roused him and rallied him. He is filled with physical energy. The words spoken by the prophetic person will always be powerful. Even if people do not change, they will know that a prophetic person was among them.
Martin Luther King Jr comes to mind. So too do the Nuns on the Bus. These prophetic individuals were roused and rallied to speak the message. The message is always one of balance, inclusion, equality, justice, compassion, peace and action. The message is not about self-aggrandizement. The message is always about speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves. The message both challenges and invites. While the message confronts, the speaker is not confrontational.
In the second reading we hear, “my grace is sufficient for you”. In Paul’s case, the physical malady he experienced persisted, however, the knowledge of the presence of the Divine helped alleviate this. This always Paul to state, “when I am powerless, it is then that I am strong.” We can extrapolate this to the message preached by a prophetic person. Paul learned that Jesus was often weak and powerless; and yet Jesus was strong. We see the power of weakness throughout history. In Jesus, in Gandhi, in Martin Luther King, Jr. In our current struggles in this time and place, it is helpful to remember that weakness is strength. We are called to be non-violent is our response to violence. Whether the violence is verbal or physical, our response needs to be one of non-violence in our spoken and written words as well as in our actions. Non-violence is not passive – it is active – just non-violent action. We seek to deescalate not escalate in all our actions and words.
As we stand up for the separated families, for the immigrant recruits and reservists who are being discharged, as we stand up to racism, sexism, bigotry, equality for the LGBTQIA community, we do so in a non-violent manner.
The cause for justice and peace is never easy. Jesus experienced many ups and downs in his life. Recall how when he was in the Synagogue? Jesus open the Scroll and read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” There was great enthusiasm for Jesus. In today’s scripture, Jesus experiences skepticism, then opposition and finally disbelief. He was even insulted. In the Jewish tradition the custom was to refer to a man as a son of the father. Today represents the only time Jesus was called the son of Mary.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that no matter how well organized our argument, no matter how well-crafted our words, we may not be able to persuade people to change their beliefs. In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ power was rendered ineffective because of their disbelief.
Like Jesus today, we are astounded not only in the lack of belief but indeed what people believe. The lack of compassion and care some people have for the other is alarming. The need to attack and demonize the other reminds us all of a terrible time in human history.
It is interesting that the people did not question what Jesus was saying. The question was really asking where did he get this? The people made an ad hominem attack against Jesus rather that what he was saying, teaching or doing. This reminds me of the attack on our institutions especially the Press. Rather than dispute the facts, the cry of “Fake News” is seen as an attack on truth.
Today, the call to be prophetic is not only for the Nuns on the Bus or Roy Bourgeois. Neither Dorothy Day nor the Berrigan brothers could do it on their own. They needed the assistance of countless similar likeminded individuals to rise up and answer the call.
From today’s Meditation by Richard Rohr, “In the United States’ not-so-distant-past, Christians were at the forefront of political and justice movements to abolish slavery, support women’s suffrage, protect civil rights, and establish and maintain Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Today I am encouraged to see many of my Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist brothers and sisters actively engaged with the political realm, speaking truth to power, and holding our political leaders accountable. Being political is a basic civic, human, and spiritual duty!”
Today’s scriptures rouse us up and rally us to be prophetic people. We cannot do it alone. We will need the support of the Spirit as well as the support of one another. Now is the time!