By Keara Ette
Sunday, January 22, 2017
A couple years ago, I ran into a young adult I had originally gotten to know through Old St. Pat’s. He greeted me warmly, but then asked very candidly, “Where have you been?” I was a little taken aback by his question, but he continued, “I know you care about racial justice, but showing up is part of that.” I was taken aback, and I think I said nothing in response before other people arrived to the event we were both attending that night. Internally, of course, my defensiveness was going into high-gear:
I work a lot – including a lot of nights – and I don’t have consistent ‘free time’!
I have little kids, and I need to be present to them when I am not at work, because that matters in the formation of children.
I don’t have the resources to pay for additional childcare!
But no matter how I silently defended myself, his words continued to resonate in my heart and in my prayer for many days, months, and now years after. Like an indictment, his words stay with me because they are true. While my defensive statements are not false, the truth of the matter is that as a person who lives in a world where some are born with the privilege of not being discriminated against on a daily basis – I need to do more “showing up” when it comes to making the change that I think the world and my community needs.
The prophetic voice is often an uncomfortable one to hear. I thank God for the prophets in my life, not because they make me feel good (because they rarely do!), but because I know I need them to guide me out of the comfortable space and into the important work of solidarity, justice, peace-making. The dominant culture we live in is rarely welcoming to prophetic voices, precisely because they challenge the things that we are getting wrong. Like the John Baptist, prophets in our own day call us to recognize where we are disorienting ourselves (away from the mercy, justice, compassion of our God) and adjust our course.
Today’s Gospel reading describes Jesus’ response to hearing about the arrest of John the Baptist: Jesus starts his ministry. He is reminded of the prophet Isaiah’s words: The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen. These are not sweet, comforting words coming from someone who was predicting a new era would fall upon the people. Rather, they are evocative words that would be fulfilled because Jesus began his mission of preaching the Kingdom of God. And Jesus begins this work knowing very well the environment in which he is living: one that tries to silence prophets, one that wants to keep the status quo, to ‘keep peace’ for the benefit of the powerful maintaining their power.
There are prophets in our midst today. Their voices are hard for our ears to hear, especially if our hearts are holding on to a way that is off-course from true justice, mercy, dignity, equity. I pray that God help open our hearts to be stung by the prophetic calls, so that our course might be adjusted and each of us can find our ways to get to the work of Christ, our brother, our Lord.
You can contact Keara by emailing email@example.com.