May 31, 2020
Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world.”
I probably would have a hard time correctly setting up a chess board, but I “kind of know” the general concepts of the game of chess. There are more pawns than any other piece, they have limited mobility, and they are easily sacrificed if the king can use them to gain an advantage. The king is protected by all the other pieces and he rarely ventures out from his well-guarded position. The pawns, castles, bishops, knights, and the queen all serve to protect the king.
Is the game of life much different from a chess game? Who is serving who? Who are the pawns? Do pawns have value and worth? Who is the king? Does the king only care about himself or does he value human life and creation? These are especially important questions for us to reflect on.
Sister Joan Chittister in her book The Time Is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage says, “Our world stands on the cusp between authoritarianism and freedom, between compassion and national self-centeredness. Our world is mired in violence, institutional fraud, human degradation, political suppression, economic slavery, and rampant narcissism.” This is very depressing and sometimes I feel like crawling into a hole to try to escape the darkness closing in all around us.
The Good News is we have choices. We choose which king we will follow. Do we follow the way of the Prince of Peace, the Star of Bethlehem, the Good Shepherd who will risk everything to save one lost sheep (one pawn)? Do we follow Christ who give us a peace that surpasses understanding? Do we follow Jesus who Father Greg Boyle says “chose a oneness in kinship and a willingness to live in others’ hearts.” Do we live like Christ who stood with the poor, the marginalized, the outcasts, the people working in the meat-packing industry, the immigrant, our Navajo brothers and sisters? Jesus, the counterintuitive king, sacrificed his life for uncommon, common people. There are no expendable pawns in Jesus’ kingdom. He healed and restored human dignity for all.
Or, do we follow worldly kings who lead by force, domination, and violence? Do we follow worldly kings who sacrifice pawns for control and power and kings who attempt to divide us instead of unite us?
Chittister writes that “our world waits for you and me, for spiritual people everywhere—to refuse to be pawns in the destruction of a global world for the sake of national self-centeredness.”
Refuse to be a pawn.
Be the light of the world. Be peace. Be the calm in the storm. Be truth. Be more like Christ.
People of faith Chittister writes, Say, “YES to equal rights for all. Yes to alleviating suffering. Yes to embracing the different. Yes to who God made us. Yes to inclusion. Yes to life.”
“And, people of faith, say no to the abuse of women. No to the rejection of the stranger. No to crimes against immigrants. No to the rape of the trees. No to the pollution of the skies. No to the poisoning of the oceans. No to the destruction (death) of humankind for the sake of more wealth, more control for a few. As people of faith we say no to everything that is not of God.”
In the middle of this pandemic, ask yourself, how many lives are worth a one-percent increase in our gross national product? How many meat processing plant employees’ lives our worth a steady flow of beef and pork into our grocery stores and onto our kitchen tables? How many unarmed African American men must die before we rise as one nation under God and say, “Enough!”
Chittister exclaims, “Our faith is invalid unless we are living it.” Will we continue to live as pawns and say, “What can I do? We’re just a little ole church?” Or, will we stand up as the spiritual prophets (MLK Jr., Daniel Berrigan, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Sister Maura Clark) and say a loud, “Yes to life and equal justice and a loud no to abuse of power, racism, rampant materialism, and unnecessary and senseless death.”
Refuse to be a pawn. It takes courage Daniel Berrigan said to speak truth to a “culture of lies.” Chittister says the only question is, “Will we take up what we know is our moral and spiritual responsibility: to make the world a better place for all, to bring to life the fullness of Creation for all? To help bring about equality, safety, security, and compassion for all?”
“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” King said, and justice does not just happen. The spiritual path takes courage and endurance, and the setbacks can seem overwhelming. But…we are called to “run the race with endurance.” (Hebrews 12:1)
May we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and rise up like the prophets of old: Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah, Deborah, and Miriam. May we rise like Jesus the Christ. May we rise like the prophets of our time: King, Shuttlesworth, Septima Clark, Oscar Romero, Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and everyday people who refused to be pawns.
We are counting on God and God is counting on us. Let us rise.
Blessings and peace,