A Question of Vision

Thoughts on the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 27, 2019

by Rev. Jim Ryan,  jimryan6885@gmail.com

We will return to this later, but let’s first put a picture in our minds.  Picture Jesus showing up on Sabbath in his hometown synagogue and claiming to be the One who has been expected for at least 500 years.  He claims the mission of being the One who fulfills the hopes and dreams, the One who preaches justice and love.  Keep that picture in your mind.

So, here’s my story of learning the ways of bureaucrats and politicians.  This experience returned to me as we all endured the cruelty perpetrated against millions of our citizens who were deprived of their livelihood and put under unconscionable stress during this recent 35 day shutdown of a considerable portion of our federal government.

Back in the day when I was the grantwriter and development director of the David School, I investigated the possibility of accessing public education funds that would support programming at the school for the students.  David School, co-founded by Jean (my wife now, but not back in the late 1970s), was an alternative high school that was a private non-profit organization.  This was before anyone had ideas about vouchers.  There was Title 1 of the Education Act.  I read its sections on funding for students.  The law clearly stated that students were eligible for funds regardless of the school they attended.

So, not knowing the inner workings of the Floyd County bureaucracies and the politicians who funded them in eastern Kentucky, I thought a simple phone call to the correct Administrator would open the flow of cash to support students who attended David School.  We called the person whose job it was to administer Title 1 funds.  This person very patronizingly said how nice it was that David School was educating those drop-out students.  But this person also informed us that we must have it wrong because Title 1 funds go to the County for distribution to public schools only.  Besides, we were further informed that there wasn’t a whole lot of money anyway.  You know, “Nothing to see here.”  So we were told.

I wasn’t convinced.  It so happened, at the time, that I was a friend of the Congressman from Louisville, Ron Mazzoli.  Ron was that rare politician who believed in service based on ethical principles, and who practiced justice as fairness.  I called Ron and asked if he could help us.  He invited me to come to Washington, DC to stay with him and Helen at their home.  He would assign his staff to find out the truth about Title 1.

Ron’s staff confirmed for us that David School students were, in fact, eligible for Title 1 funds.  Also, they let us know that Floyd County was the recipient of over $1 million annually which in today’s dollars is comparable to $3.5 million.  This, in a county whose total population was less than 30,000 people in the whole county.

I returned to Floyd County with that information and recontacted the administrator to share what I knew to be the facts and the truth.  Caught in a lie, the bureaucrat just rolled over.  Oh, there must have been a mistake.  And, since I had obtained this information from a Congressman – well, of course, our students would be included as eligible and their programs would be funded as soon as possible.

I learned in that world everything is one way until it isn’t.  All is as it is supposed to be until it changes.  In that world, whether it’s students or federal employees, the bureaucrats and a large number of the politicians who fund their programs act in their own interests irregardless of the interest of the common good, or even of the laws that are solidly in place.  Sound familiar?  It applies to both students getting funded as well as employees getting paid.

We are a people equipped with the knowledge that comes from vision.  Contrary to those who control the public purse we follow the One who fulfills the Promise of Justice – the basic justice that says you pay your employees when they do their work.

This vision we share is also clear on what interest means.  It is not the interest of, “I’ve got mine now see if you can get yours.”  The interest we believe in is an interest that is mutual.  After all, we are One Body whose members work to make all the other members perform well.

It is important that we get this Vision right, because some think that some members of the Body are more important than other members of the Body.  It could be Bishops and Priests who think they are given the role to interpret their interest as being in charge.  Sound familiar?  This is the kind of interest that gives permission to some members to attack other members.  This is not interest. This is cancer.

Now, here is where the One who fulfills the Promise after 500 years arrives at his hometown synagogue on one fine Sabbath morning.  It is important, I think, for us to have the vision of how absolutely ordinary that day was.  It was a regular Sabbath, of no particular notice.  It was the usual gathering of worshipers with the possible exception of Mary and Joseph’s son returning home for a visit.  The reading selected by this hometown son was fairly standard fare.  And yet, on this day and in this place, in the hearing of this prophetic promise – Jesus claims fulfillment.

In order to have the vision to see that this visit to his hometown clarifies who Jesus is and what he is about – it takes faith.  It takes faith to act on this vision of justice and love.  Equipped with such a vision and such action we stand on the solid ground of economic justice for employees as well as for caring for those who are disadvantaged in a society that glorifies self-interest over mutual interest.

Thank God for the vision that sees this hometown son in clear light!

A Prayer

Giving and receiving, we are Christ.

Loving and caring, we are Christ.

Dying and rising, we are Christ.

Waiting under frozen ground, we are Christ.

Word of Life,

we are the stream that brings life to the desert;

Glory and praise to you from our hearts, in all creation.

Amen

 

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