Thursday, January 23, 2014

Touch Him

Jonathan then spoke well of David to his father Saul, saying to him: “Let not your majesty sin against his servant David, for he has committed no offense against you, but has helped you very much by his deeds.  When he took his life in his hands and slew the Philistine, and the LORD brought about a great victory for all Israel through him, you were glad to see it.  Why, then, should you become guilty of shedding innocent blood by killing David without cause?”  1 Samuel 19:4-5

Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem…He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him…He warned them sternly not to make him known. (Mark 3:8A, 10, 12)

Excerpts from “A Prayer for Social Action” by Jack Reimer
We cannot merely pray to God to end war; 
For the world was made in such a way
That we must find our own path of peace
Within ourselves and with our neighbor…
Therefore we pray instead 
For strength, determination, and will power,
To do instead of merely to pray
To become instead of merely to wish;
That our world may be safe,
And that our lives may be blessed.

Because the books of the Hebrew Bible are arranged in a set order, I always assumed that it was a chronologically re-telling of salvation history.  But today is an example of how the time frame in this long narrative for the prophets overlapped. The words and deeds of Jonathan seem to foreshadow a warning that the prophet Ezekiel echoes later in the Hebrew Bible.  “Son of man, I have appointed you a sentinel for the house of Israel.  When you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them for me.” (Ezekiel 3:17)

Even though the warning from Ezekiel to be the watchtower for society, the events in Samuel’s history and Ezekiel’s warning both at the same time according to the notes in the New American Bible -- after the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.). 

The Divine Right of Kings like Saul to do whatever they want was a part of the social-economic-political life in the world both ancient and modern.  In some ways, the attitude if not the actuality of it passed on today’s leaders in countries around the world. Many of the individuals in modern history whose lives stand out do so because they elected, like Jonathan, to take an ordinary stand against an unjust regime.

Think Ghandi in India.  Think Lech Walesa and the shipyard workers in Gdansk, Poland who cracked the wall of the iron curtain with the organization of the Solidarity trade union.  Think Aun San Suu Kyi in Burma.  Think Nelson Mandela in Africa.  Think the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., right here in the United States.  They have all shown us that a struggle can be mounted with words and direct action, not with violence, the effect change in the world. Most (except Ghandi) are counted among the 101 individuals and 22 organizations which have earned the Nobel Peace Prize.

In essence, we all have inherited the legacy of Jonathan.  It’s right there in our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. We have the right to redress grievances by the petitioning the government.  We have the right to elect rulers and if they don’t do a fair and legal and ethical job, to bounce them out by peaceful election or by impeachment.  

We may not be a U.S. attorney investigating abuse of power, but this preferential option for action also is embedded in our covenant with God.  We have a tendency to focus on the preferential option for the poor that is rooted in Catholic Social Teaching.  However, no less a thread in that fabric is our responsibility to speak up and act out like Jonathan or those Polish shipyard workers.  It’s right there in the themes of Catholic Social Teaching enumerated in the USCCB web site:
The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities--to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

Just like Jonathan, we must speak out when we see injustice anywhere.  But we also must act, just like Jesus did with the people he cured with a touch.  Pick an issue and petition your government this week to make the changes you want to see in society.  Yesterday, thousands braved sub-zero weather to petition the U.S. government to change laws on abortion and protect the unborn. 

What issue shall you touch to petition the government about to bring about a seamless garment that advocates for a consistent ethic of life in our culture?  How will you do it?  Start small with letters and work your way up to direct action.  And do not forget to turn first to God for guidance.  

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