In today’s gospel, Luke lets us know that telling the truth is sometimes dangerous. (LK 4:16-30). Jesus comes to Nazareth, where he grew up, and all is well – even amazing – as he stands up in the synagogue and reads (eloquently, it seems) from the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming that the message he read was being fulfilled as he spoke. The local folks wonder how he became so erudite – or so wise – since his father was Joseph (the inference being: a local guy, simple like themselves.) All was fine until Jesus started talking about past failures of Israel to be attentive to the prophets, such that God’s favor fell on foreigners instead. He had predicted their reaction by saying, “A prophet is never accepted in his own native place,” and was proven true as they ran him out of town and were ready to kill him in their fury – but it was not his time and he escaped.
There have been many people in our lifetime who have been vilified for speaking the truth, calling attention to societal conditions that are unjust or immoral. It’s easy to point to famous examples like Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, however, I’m thinking of local people of conscience who work tirelessly for justice and are often ignored or disparaged for upsetting the status quo. It seems now that there is so much that needs fixing in our world that we can no longer turn a blind eye but must all be willing to speak up for change. And I believe there is hope in this era of mass communication where we have access to so many resources and so many spiritual people calling for transformation. I’m reminded of the epilogue from A Sleep of Prisoners, a play by Christopher Fry, that speaks of this urgency today and I write it as a spoken message to be read aloud because I think it is in the speaking that the urgency can best be felt.
The human heart can go to the lengths of God. Dark and cold we may be, but this is no winter now. The frozen misery of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move. The thunder is the thunder of the floes, the thaw, the upstart Spring. Thank God our time is now, when wrong comes up, to face us everywhere, never to leave us until we take the longest stride of soul [men] ever took. Affairs are now soul size. The enterprise is exploration into God. What are you making for? It takes so many thousand years to wake. But will you wake for pity’s sake?