December 2, 2011 (Written in SeaTac Federal Detention Center)
Today we mark the 31st anniversary of the four US churchwomen martyrs, slain in El Salvador. Lay Missionary Jean Donovan, Ursuline sister Dorothy Kazel and Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, gave their lives that the light of Christ might shine unto the gloom and darkness of this world.
I am struck by how the themes of light and blindness shine out so brightly in the scripture readings.
In the first reading, Is. 29: 17-24 it is written: “On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a scroll, and out of their gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.”
The responsorial psalm, Ps. 27, begins: “The Lord is my light and salvation, whom shall I fear?”
What strikes me first about the gospel is Jesus asking them: “… do you believe I am able to do this?” It’s like he needs and wants their affirmation. Through their faith he brings about what they deeply want. They become signs and messengers of the healing work of Jesus which comes to them through their faith.
This teaching and healing event of Jesus moved me to put his question “Do you believe I am able to do this?” explicitly in other events and healings in his life.
To the woman taken in adultery (Jn. 8: 1-11) his words can be: “Do you believe I am able to stop the capital punishment imposed on you?” To us in the 21st century his words could be: “Do you believe I will work with you to eliminate the death penalty?”
To Peter, whom Jesus told to put away his sword (Jn. 18: 11) his words could be: “Peter do you believe I can call you out of your violence to be a person of non violence?” To us today his words could be: “Do you believe that I can teach you to be non-violent? Do you believe I will work with you to teach others to do away with weapons? Do you believe I will work with you to teach universities to give up training for war by eliminating ROTC programs? Do you believe that I am able to work with you to eliminate nuclear weapons?”
To the rich young man whom Jesus counseled to give his wealth to the poor and follow him (Mk. 10: 17-22), and who was not able to follow Jesus because of his riches, Jesus’ words could be: “Your riches hold you and people who need help in bondage; unless you can let go, you will not be free or be able to share the richness of the human community.” To us, in our day, Jesus’ words could be: “Do you believe that I am able to accompany you on a journey in which you give up status and privilege and work to resist forces and policies which deprive people of a full human life?”
In the stillness and early shadows of Advent, the faithfulness and blood of the four churchwomen and the restored sight of the two blind men open my awareness to the presence of the Spirit.
The Spirit’s presence comes with energy and life-generating power which circulates hope and light in which we can walk. We can walk through fences, over borders, through Wall Street and Lockheed Martin, through Grumman and Boeings, through a corporate-person Supreme Court, through a bought out legislative body, and a sold out administrative head. All of this energy can come to us in the stillness of night. It’s the time of stillness, the time when we are aware that the promise of Peace can come to us in the night. And – all of this is free. We don’t earn it. We can be quiet and be open to it.
(Editor’s Note: Thanks to Joe Power-Drutis for transcribing Bix’s reflection.)