Thursday, December 9, 2010

Prophet: Harbinger of Hope (reflection on the first reading from today's Mass: Isaiah, 41:13-20)

"I am the LORD, your God,
 who grasp your right hand;
 It is I who say to you, 'Fear not, 
I will help you.'" Isaiah 41:13. Much is made of how the Old Testament prophets were seemingly quite ornery and usually harbingers of the message of God's judgment against Israel, often due to a lack of following the covenantal prescriptions of the law and for oppressing the poor and vulnerable. However this is but "one side of the coin" of what prophetic ministry is all about.

Prophet's were very basically persons who were called by God to share to some degree in the vision of God's plan for all creation. The covenant laid out by God with the Israelites, and that continues to be handed down even to this day, isn't a "quid-pro-quo" arrangement or "rulebook" for how to curry divine favor. In other words, following the prescriptions of the covenant, Ten Commandments, or Jesus' teachings doesn't entail "checking the blocks" in our relationship with God so as to reap temporal rewards! (Though many in our country are under this impression; this "heresy" is called the "Gospel of prosperity") Rather, abiding by God's promises means sharing in God's vision for creation that the covenant points to as possibilities for a world in desperate need of healing and radical reorientation.

When one begins to share in God's life and the vision that God has for the world that surrounds us, one can't help but become a "harbinger" of concern for the world and hope for the world. In other words, seeing the world more and more as God does, in all of it's grandeur, pain, difficulty, glory, brokenness, and hopefulness cannot help but stir the impulse to respond by critiquing what doesn't mesh with the divine vision and pointing to what does coincide with God's plan. The crux of the matter really comes down to opting to be drawn into divine life, opting to share in the divine way of envisioning, and than opting to work toward making that vision a reality for our world.

One concrete and timely opportunity to share in God's divine life, vision, and action for the world presents itself in the crisis currently unfolding in Sudan. In 30 days the Southern part of this country will vote on a referendum to secede from the oppressive northern regime which has enacted a systematic campaign of genocide against the people of Darfur and the people of the South. President Al-Bashir of Sudan, who has been indicted by the United Nations for genocide, is making preparations to invade the South should they secede (his forces are beginning to mass at the border between north and south). It is estimated that over 200, 000 persons in the south could lose their lives if the north invades. This is a situation that cries out to heaven! This is a situation that only the most obtuse and hardened of heart cannot help but believe God is deeply concerned about and is calling us to respond to! Objections on the part of some of our citizenry regarding the US not being the world's "policeman" simply don't hold water when we are taking about genocide. Furthermore, an invasion by the north would completely shatter the humanitarian aid infrastructure that is largely financed by the US. For the Christian and person of good will, the simple fact of the matter is that this is a question of choosing to share in God's covenantal concern, vision, and action or choosing not to. Pat, TOR (For more information on what you can do to respond to the crisis in Sudan, please visit my Facebook page, "Patrick Foley". Today I begin a 30 day vigil of prayer and reflection on behalf of the people of Southern Sudan)