While the relevance of today’s readings might slip by those who are not paying close attention, this Sunday’s passages from Scripture strike me as speaking a message of Christian vocation in a time of unrest and violence.
It was just a week ago that the country, particularly the community in Tucson, Arizona, found itself grappling with the tragedy and shock of a horrific murder. Several people, a federal judge and nine-year-old girl included, were murdered, while more than a dozen others, a congresswoman among them, were critically or seriously injured. What followed in the subsequent days of discussion, 24-hour news network chatter, political grandstanding and water-cooler dialogue was a serious attempt to understand why this happened and assign blame to whichever party was responsible.
Certainly the young man, whom we now understand to be mentally ill, is the only one guilty of this heinous act. But, I and so many others would argue, he is not the only one responsible. There are many degrees of responsibility to be considered in the wake of such horror.
The responsibility, as I heard in an interview with a psychiatrist this morning, of the State of Arizona to have better healthcare policies — AZ is apparently the worst in the nation for mental-health assistance.
The responsibility, as I have discussed previously, of our collective public discourse. The degree of responsibility varies from the individual citizen amid his or her network of dialogue partners all the way to those who garner national attention — deservedly or otherwise — like politicians, media hosts and dime-a-dozen pundits. Those who have the largest audiences and the most influence are largely responsible and most in need of reforming political discourse.
The responsibility, as our readings suggest today, is for us to be the “light to the nations” so that the Good News of God’s salvation for all may “reach all the ends of the earth” (Is 49: 6). How does one do that? What makes us a light to the nations, announcing the salvation of God?
The Psalm of the day, Ps 40 the refrain of which we all know so well “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will,” explains that: ”
Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
And that to announce God’s Good News (literally, ‘Gospel’) is to work for God’s justice on earth.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
We are a light for the nations when we work with The Lord to proclaim, as the Prophet Isaiah elsewhere explains, “release for captives, sight for the blind, good news to the poor, a year of favor — JUSTICE.”
Justice, as the prophets of God throughout history know so well, brings with it the wrath of the unjust, the dismissal of the powerful, the marginalization of the wealthy. For those are the ones who lose out, those are the ones that oppress and reap the earthly reward of greed and those are the ones that do not have God’s favor.
It is our call in a world of violence and injustice to be this light to the nations, to announce the Gospel of The Lord which is indeed good news for the poor and forsaken and a radical challenge to the comfortable and powerful.