Saturday, April 26, 2014

To Every Creature

So they called them back and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.  Peter and John, however, said to them in reply, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.  It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”  Acts 4:18-20

But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.  He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”  Mark 16:14-15

(Excerpts from The Masque of Anarchy by Percy Bysshe Shelly)
Stand ye calm and resolute,
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war.
And if then the tyrants dare,

Let them ride among you there,
Slash, and stab, and maim and hew,
What they like, that let them do.
With folded arms and steady eyes,
And little fear, and less surprise
Look upon them as they slay

Till their rage has died away
Then they will return with shame
To the place from which they came,
And the blood thus shed will speak
In hot blushes on their cheek.

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few

The account in Acts may provide us the first real-life examples of civil disobedience beyond Greek literature.  Throughout the early history of the Church, we see several instances where the Easter message has resonated in the preaching and actions of the disciples.  They heal.  They proclaim. And they will not yield to anyone.  “We must obey God rather than men. (Acts 5:29)
Civil disobedience is commonly seen as the active, professed refusal to obey unjust laws, demands, and commands of a government or of a belligerent, occupying international power.  It also is often (but not always) nonviolent resistance in the image of Christ standing before Pilate.  Civil disobedience is one of the many ways people have rebelled against what they deem to be unfair laws.  Think India and Ghandi’s Satyagraha.  Think Poland and Lech Walesa’s Solidarity Trade Union. “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
That may have been easier said than done when dealing with the violent Communist regimes of the last century. 
Tomorrow as the Church and the world marks the beatification of Pope John Paul II, one of the remarkable facets of his papacy is how he identified with people everyone and supported their freedom through love.  In many ways, the election of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla and the new pope’s support of the Polish people and the truth shown through his soft power, leadership and love, helped to set free the people behind the “Iron Curtain” of Communism.  
According to various biographical accounts of his life, in June 1979, Pope John Paul II traveled to Poland – the first international trip of his papacy – where ecstatic crowds constantly surrounded him.  His presence to Poland uplifted the nation's spirit and sparked the formation of the movement that inspired the Polish people to work to bring freedom and human rights to his troubled homeland.  Solidarity is not only the name of the Polish trade union but it also is one of the core tenants of Catholic social teaching.
Just as Pope John XXIII accentuated the role of the Church in the Modern World with Vatican II, John Paul II reconciled the modern world with the Church by causing a bloodless revolution.

The example of the disciples shows us the power of people who have no power.  The civil authorities kept telling them to stop but did not attack them violently.  It was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  What cause or injustice inspires you to solidarity with people who face injustice?    

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