Homily on Mark 6:14-29 - for July 15, 2012

God’s Voice Will Not Be Silenced

Speaking Truth to Power

This reading tells me that there are consequences to speaking truth to power, often deadly consequences.  But, God’s voice will not be silenced.  

We are told that John spoke against King Herod’s marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias.  Herodias was not too pleased about this negative publicity.  So she bides her time.  She uses Herod’s hastily spoken promise to her daughter to silence John once and for all.

But God’s voice will not be silenced.  We are told in the stories just before this that Jesus was rejected in his own home town of Nazareth.  Jesus left Nazareth but he was not deterred by this rejection.  He sent the twelve out two by two and Jesus and his disciples carried on God’s call to repentance when John no longer could. 

Speaking truth to power continues to have devastating consequences. 

In 2004, I went on a women’s delegation to Colombia with Witness for Peace.  Colombia has been engaged in an undeclared civil war for over 50 years. 

In Bogotá, we visited a group called ASFADDES, the Association for the families of the detained and disappeared.  ASFADDES began in 1982, after the disappearance of 13 students. By the time we were there, many, many more people had been detained, disappeared or killed.  When people go to the government to find out about their family members, they receive no information and no help. ASFADDES works for human rights and social justice, and to get information for the families of the disappeared.  They keep the memory of the disappeared alive with an annual public display of pictures of the dead and disappeared. 

One of the organizers told us that after 18 years of struggle, a law was finally passed that made forced disappearance a crime.  The day after the law was passed, her ASFADDES colleague was murdered.

Some of the stories these women told us are so horrendous that they still haunt me.  Yet these women continue.

Why do these horrible things happen?
It dawned on me, one day while gazing at a crucifix that Jesus died because of fear or rather because he taught us to be fear free. True "Love casts our fear." Institutions operate on fear. They use people's fear of being cut-off or cast out. Jesus taught us that love requires justice. Justice often requires that we speak out against the institutions in our society. The institutions of Jesus' time both political and religious did not want Jesus to teach about injustice. So they silenced Jesus in his day as they silence people in ours.

Fear and injustice go hand in hand.  Consider John's account of the Passion of Christ, where the corruptive power of fear becomes evident. It shows how fear affects the individual, in this case Pilate.

Jesus says, "Everyone who seeks the truth hears my voice." To which Pilate replies, "Truth? What is truth?" Now Pilate knows the truth of Jesus' innocence.  He knows there is no truth to the charges against Jesus. Yet, when the crowd says, "If you set him free, you're no friend of Caesar," Pilate sets aside the truth that he knows and surrenders to the fear of what might happen to him if he is perceived as an enemy of Caesar.

If I look at the story we heard in Mark today through the lens of dream analysis, which says that each character in a dream represents an aspect of the dreamer, I can see Herod as a symbol for fear.  At one time or another, we have all been crippled or hampered by some fear or another.  Earlier in my life my fears caused me to decapitate my spirit, to try to kill the “me” that God was trying to reach. 

But God’s voice will not be silenced.  God’s work of love and compassion goes on through us and in us, transforming us.  22 years ago, God burst through the walls I had built that confined me in a prison of alcohol and self pity.  Through mercy and grace I was dragged back to freedom and back to life.

Now, I am challenged with the knowledge that this grace demands a certain response, that is, to sin no more. Most sinfulness is rooted in fear. It is not so much a fear for safety as the fear of being cut -off or cast out. I still sometimes allow myself to buy into illusions and fall prey to the illusions that Jesus came to unveil and expose.

Sometimes, I ask myself, how often have I betrayed a truth that I know out of fear?  I need to internalize what I know in my head, that God loves me in my weakness, in my brokenness and trust that God will love me into wholeness. 

What can help me through my doubts is the rest of Chapter 6 of Mark’s gospel.  It is filled with the miracles that God worked through Jesus: Jesus feeds the 5000 with a few loaves and fishes; Jesus walks on water; and, heals the sick. 

If God can do all that, God can help me hear his voice─- and act upon it.  I pray for the strength and trust to cease acting out of fear and accept the responsibility to act out of love and truth. 

The people of El Salvador and of Guatemala have experienced human rights violations very similar to the people of Columbia.  When I become overwhelmed with the troubles in our world, the words of the poem, They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection (1980) by Julia Esquivel reminds me of the promise of Jesus.  Julia, an indigenous woman from Guatemala, wrote this poem during the era of the massacres in Guatemala.  Here are the last two verses:
Join us in this vigil
and you will know what it is to dream!
Then you will know how marvellous it is
to live threatened with Resurrection!
To dream awake,
to keep watch asleep,
to live while dying,
and to know ourselves already
In El Salvador, Archbishop Romero’s last homily on March 24, 1980 ended with the words:
“God’s reign is already present on our earth in mystery.
When the Lord comes, it will be brought to perfection.”
That is the hope that inspires Christians.
We know that every effort to better society, especially when injustice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses,
that God wants,
that God demands of us.”

God’s voice will not be silenced.  Amen!


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