Saturday After Ash Wenesday

Readings: Is 58: 9b-14 / Ps 86: 1-6 / Lk 5: 27-32

I read these passages with the impact of the words of Diane Nash still ringing in my head and heart. Diane Nash was this year’s keynote speaker for our annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration. She spoke to a standing room only crowd of students, staff, faculty, and administrators who all sat silently in rapt attention listening to every word. There was not a sound in the room but her soft, pure voice of wisdom and vision; in short, we all were listening with our hearts and feasting on her words.  She shared stories of her work in SNCC and experiences with MLK in the early days of the Civil Rights movement, she clarified the principles of non-violence which she had renamed “agapic energy”, and she spoke of the current need for resisting social structures that violate the integrity and dignity of those most vulnerable. We must change ourselves through love before we can transform the world for God’s sake. Speaking to the students in the room, she said “We loved you before we knew you” and she called us all to become agents of change for all those we do not know. Her instruction on how to do the right thing and counter violence with love of and with others parallels the messages in our readings today.

Isaiah and Luke both speak of doing things in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. Isaiah cites fasting as that which people did with the expectation that this ritual, this sacrificing, would yield rewards from God. It was a quid quo pro type of relationship with God and an instrumentalist desire for an immediate return on ones’ actions, the sign that we were indeed right and deserving of God’s gifts. Luke talks about our misjudgment and mistreatment of who counts, of whom we see as worthy of sharing our table in our need to feel secure and superior to others.  Our hunger for love and our fulfillment with food and fellowship are crafted on our terms and for our benefit. These actions, then as now, create a world of poverty, oppression, and suffering and should be seen as such. Simply put, Isaiah, Luke, and Diane Nash’s message for us suggest that the only way of being fully ourselves for God is living outside ourselves in and through our relationships with and for others, especially those who are shunned. Unlike a fast, there is no end to this “sacrifice” and no expectation or need for an immediate return; one should continuously work to make sure that everyone gets a seat at God’s table.This is love in action, this is agapic love, and this is God’s gift to us. We should heed their call.

Carol Anthony
Center for Peace and Justice Education