2009-11-29, Putting on the Heart of Jesus the Prophet

 Nonviolence: Dismantling Racism

Putting on the Heart of Jesus the Prophet
ML 2009-11 

With the beginning of the new church year on November 29, 2009, the community of the Spirit of St. Stephen begins its 15th consecutive year of praying for nonviolence and working for peace. This year we will look for, listen for, listen to and act with the prophetic heart of Jesus. It seems fitting to follow our focus on the least of our sisters and brothers and before that the Beatitudes, some of the most prophetic words of Jesus, with attention to the actions of Jesus the prophet.

We will take time throughout the upcoming year of prayer, the first Sunday of Advent 2009 to the Last Sunday in Ordinary Time 2010, to consider the prophets that influenced Jesus, the prophetic actions and works of Jesus, modern prophets and our own call to individual and communal prophetic action.

We will collect answers to the question: What makes a prophet? As we define the characteristics of a prophet. We will look at the actions of holy men and women through the lens of prophetic witness. We will look to our tradition, especially at the words of Catholic Social Teaching. We will look at ourselves.

We begin the season of Advent with prophets in abundance: Jeremiah,
Baruch, Zephaniah and Micah, lesser-known to us perhaps but well-known to Jesus, and continue on to the more known: John the Baptizer, Mary, Elizabeth, Jesus and Isaiah.

The prophet Jeremiah in the first reading of the First Sunday of Advent sets us firmly on our prophetic prayer path: "The days are coming, says our God, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, I will raise up for David's line a just shoot; this one shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure. And this is the name they shall call her: "God our justice."

We will begin simply, in this simple season, by becoming mindful of the depth and breadth of the challenges to which this prayer invites us. To give us strength and courage for this journey, we return always to the prophetic action of breaking bread in community and the common yet prophetic words we know by heart: Do this in memory of me.

Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are the trinity of feasts that feed us continually on the gift of Jesus Christ living always, with us, within us and among us. Advent calls us to remember again and to prepare for the miracle of the incarnate one, The Word made Flesh, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Advent's Jesus, this year brought to life in the gospel of Luke, calls us to be on guard lest our hearts become weighed down with the worries of life, to watch and to pray constantly. And so we begin anew in our unbroken circle of prayer.

We begin simply in this season of Advent as our ancestors in faith have done for centuries. We begin by creating some quiet space to call out our need in ancient melody. We begin by gathering ourselves in the truth of Isaiah's prophecy; "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." We begin by calling present the mystery that holds Emmanuel, God-with-Us, in an hour we do not expect. We begin by lighting the candles of promise and possibility that have shone throughout the ages and will not dim for us now. We begin by opening our hearts to a new season of God's revelation through the prayerful consideration of the mystifying, prophetic, fundamental life of Jesus the Christ. We begin.

As a Christian people, when we prepare to begin our new church year we are at our most radical and counter-cultural. Perhaps we are even at our gospel best in this short, dark, lovely season. We begin this prayer during the season of Promise and Hope, the season of waiting, wonder and awe, the season of coming fulfillment. We renew ourselves to the difficult prayer and action of nonviolence with a conscious consideration that is at once basic and prophetic. We seek the place of true peace in our own heart to root us in this new growth. Mother Earth encourages us to slow down, contemplate, breathe deeply of the unique air bearing snowflakes, to wait. Residents of the Northern hemisphere we are reminded to open our hearts like the leafless branches around us and love the life deep within that we cannot see. The season of Advent calls us to many of the same postures. Our culture calls us to frantic busyness, multiplication of lights to keep the darkness at bay, over-consuming, over-indulging, over-scheduling, Christmas muzak filling the silence and gifts without heart or soul; often we answer the call.

In the midst of this clash of season and culture, we take the opportunity to carve out some stillness and maybe even some silence throughout our weekly community Eucharistic prayer. We will continue the centuries-old tradition of lighting the Advent wreath, its four candles enlightening our prayer more and more each weekend. We will call ourselves into this prayer quietly, singing the ancient chant of captives longing to be free. We invite prayer leaders, homilists and musicians to place the prayer of words and sounds conscientiously into the quiet created by the singing bowl. We challenge ourselves to the gift and burden of silence in this season of active waiting.

"Many of us are uncomfortable with mystery. Mystery has to do with befriending darkness. Mystery has to do with not knowing, with unknowing, with living in unprejudiced awareness in the present moment with nothing to hold us save our trust in what is unseen. Mystery requires that we negotiate the darkness, aware of the force that holds us together, sensitive to the pull that sends us forth. Often we resist mystery of any sort, perceiving the unknown and uncertain as threats to be eliminated rather than invitations to deeper truth.
                                                Judy Cannato, Radical Amazement

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