Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The rulers of the nations and the Reign of God

This weekend I preached three times.
When I read the Gospel (Mark 10: 35-45), I thought of Martin Luther King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon on the text which he delivered two months before his assassination. It became the inspiration for my preaching.

Since I preached to people who are mostly not powerful, I had decided to concentrate on what King calls a new definition of greatness. Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.

I made a reference to the difference between the way of the Lord and the rulers of this world and cited a few paragraphs from the Honduran Bishops’ Conference statement on the elections. But I mostly wanted to help people recognize their dignity and their capacities to be great – by being servants – as King emphasized.

Yet my first experience preaching moved me to a stronger critique of the powers of this world. 

When I arrived in Dolores on Saturday night , I found out that I couldn’t park near the church. The central park and the area in front of the City Hall had been taken over for a large rally for the mayor who is running for re-election. She is a member of the National Party. (The previous mayor was her husband who was murdered.)

The noise was deafening. The crowds were dense with little efforts for biosecurity measures, despite the fact that the mayor is a nurse.
I parked by the house of a Delegate of the Word and asked his wife who was outside their house if there would be a celebration tonight – with all the noise.

I walked up to the church past the rally as they cheered the candidates and entered the church.

The noise pervaded the church. At times, the noise from the political rally was overwhelming. Thanks be to God, the church had a good sound system, and the musician put the volume on high. 
I was frustrated. I knew that there was a danger of speaking out of my frustration and becoming strident. So, I prayed that God would help me speak a word that would give hope to the people.

But I could not help making a reference to the distinction between the noise outside which symbolizes the noise of the rulers of this world and the yearning for quiet humility which is at the basis of the Reign of God.

How often the political parties, especially here in Honduras, are like the rulers of the nations who lord it over their subjects and oppress them. So I preached on the greatness in the Reign of God, where everyone can serve, paraphrasing Martin Luther King.

 I also read a section of the Honduras bishops’ message on the elections, which I have put below. 

I noted that I was reading it without commentary – but it is a very pointed critique of the way politics is run here – seeking power, at whatever cost, and manipulating the people. Those who know the recent history of Honduras will recognize what the bishops mean when they write about politicians involved in corruption, drug-trafficking and organized crime. (I’ll leave that discussion to another post.)

When I preached twice on Sunday morning, I began noting the situation in Dolores the night before – the political hubbub outside, promoting a political candidate, and the desire of the people inside, to live a faith that is based on a God who became flesh – Jesús who washed the feet of his disciples. 

I ended all three homilies with a pointed contrast. 

John and James asked Jesus to sit on his right and left side – like those who sit at the right side of politicians at the front table of meetings and meals, representing power.

But Jesus offers another way of living; at his last supper, he knelt before his apostles and wiped their feet.

At this point, I was somewhat overcome – and ended up on my knees before the people. 

We serve a God who washes feet, in service of all, who came not to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for everyone. What a contrast.

y translation of part one of the Honduras Bishops Conference’s October 13, 2021, message on the elections.
We ask the people to overcome sentiments of indifference, apathy, and skepticism, brought on by our deficient system of government and its institutions, and which result in absenteeism. We, the bishops of the Honduran Bishops Conference, make an urgent call for you to go and vote, with responsibility and liberty. Our country is living through momentous and significant times. Therefore, we urge you to give you vote to the best candidates, with the best personal, familiar, and social profile, who are honest candidates, responsible and sensitive to the needs of the people, who participate in good politics, in favor of life and the family. This is to say: elect those candidates who, like you, think in favor pf a better future for your children. If you discover that you have in your hands the potential to aid the good of our fatherland and change the ineffective and unproductive direction that we have as a nation, you will take into account that your vote is sacred and that you cannot give it to someone who does not deserve it. Honduras does not deserve you voting for those who want to destroy it and seek to gain the elections “as it happens” [a como dé lugar], including fraudulent and deceitful actions. Elect candidates who are not stained with corruption, organized crime, and drug trafficking which have damaged the population so much. Be careful with the call of some candidates to “vote a straight ticket” [votar en plancha], which means renouncing the capability to elect conscientiously, as a fruit of a profound reflection. The electors should not be part of a fraud, for no reason at all and in no circumstance whatever, nor should they approve or consent to abuses of power, like the ones that happened in the last electoral processes: you have to live the electoral process as a true civic festival, during and after the elections. As Bishops and pastors, we feel obligated to make a call to the consciences of all citizens to be objective observers of the electoral process, in order to avoid any irregularity, and, if there are any, to know how to denounce them.


David Hansen said...

A wonderful message of courage and guidance based on faith. I hope it is used as you have to encourage congregation members to vote thoughtfully. Thanks for sharing,John.

David Hansen

John (Juancito) Donaghy said...

I read all of the bishops' statement at the Parish Council meeting a day before I preached and I left some copies with the office so they could pick it up to read in their meetings. `
The pastor has also been very outspoken in terms of voting - especially against "votando en plancha" - voting a straight ticket.