This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
BRADLEY MANNING A ENEMY OF THE STATE?
9 Thus says the Lord of hosts: Let your hands be strong—you that have recently been hearing these words from the mouths of the prophets who were present when the foundation was laid for the rebuilding of the temple, the house of the Lord of hosts. 10For before those days there were no wages for people or for animals, nor was there any safety from the foe for those who went out or came in, and I set them all against one another. 11But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the Lord of hosts. 12For there shall be a sowing of peace; the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. 13Just as you have been a cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you and you shall be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.
14 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Just as I purposed to bring disaster upon you, when your ancestors provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the Lord of hosts, 15so again I have purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; do not be afraid. 16These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgements that are true and make for peace, 17do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord.
The greatest of the Lord’s blessings on a nation are that its people speak the truth and administer true justice that makes for peace. At a time when the leader of a U.K. government which has scorned the poor co-opts the Bible in support of his view of society (David Cameron yesterday), British citizens might pray for the blessing of truth. Another great prophet Isaiah said “Truth has fallen in the public square and no-one helps her up.” The Levesen Enquiry into the popular press in the UK has revealed a predatory journalism which will do anything to sell newspapers and hardly anything to discover the truth. Simone Weil, the great French thinker proposed a new crime of “misleading the public” which would have serious penalties attached.
When people live in a media- drenched apathy with only the vaguest notion of what is going on in the world, there is cause for alarm. Those who speak truth (as Christopher Hitchens, the writer who died yesterday, tried to do) are dismissed as immoderate and unbalanced. William Lloyd Garrison, the American anti-slavery agitator whom the Church remembers today suffered from this same criticism:
-In 1831, Garrison returned to New England and founded a weekly anti-slavery newspaper of his own, The Liberator. In the first issue, Garrison stated:
“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; – but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.”
31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
When the Son of Man (Jesus and his disciples) come finally to rule the world, they reveal that they have come many times already in the least important of their brothers and sisters. Two things about Jesus’ savage parable should be noted:
1. It is directed first of all to “nations”, that is, whole societies, which are judged as to how they have treated the most vulnerable citizens. A society that permits the routine abuse of demented patients in hospital and saves money by hassling cancer patients to go back to work (UK this week), should tremble. Of course the message applies to individuals as well
2.Those who show compassions to those in need don’t know they are doing it for Jesus: they do it out of human compassion. The righteous are not looking sideways when they help someone-oh goody if I help this prisoner I’ll be helping Jesus-they just see the need and respond.
Christopher Hitchens, with his hatred of “religion” as a divisive force amongst humanity might have liked this parable.