Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today, we invite you to explore types of rupture with the help of Activist Theology; engage sacred rupture, and how Catholic Social Teaching can help us with this task; and embody questions of sacred rupture with the help of Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Mennonite House, and the Friendly Fire Collective.
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Arriving in Horeb, the mountain of YHWH,
Elijah went into a cave and spent the night.
And the word of YHWH came to him:
“What are you doing here, Elijah?
Go out and stand on the mountain before YHWH,
for YHWH is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountain apart
and shattered the rocks by YHWH’s power,
but YHWH was not in the whirlwind.
After the wind there was an earthquake.
But YHWH was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire.
But YHWH was not in the fire.
And after the fire there came a gentle whisper.
When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face
and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
A voice said, “Elijah, what are you doing here?”
Response: Adonai, justice will march before You.
I will hear what You, O God, have to say, / a voice that speaks of peace,
Your help is near for those who fear You / and Your glory will dwell in our land.
R: Adonai, justice will march before You.
Mercy and faithfulness have met; / justice and peace have embraced.
Faithfulness will spring from the earth / and justice looks down from heaven.
R: Adonai, justice will march before You.
Adonai, You will make us prosper / and our earth will yield its fruit.
Justice will march before You / and peace will follow Your steps.
R: Adonai, justice will march before You.
I speak the truth in Christ: I am not lying —
my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit
that there is great grief and constant pain in my heart.
Indeed, I would cut myself off from Christ
if that would save my sisters and brothers, my kinfolk — the Israelites.
Theirs were the adoption as God’s children,
the glory, the covenants, the Law-giving, the worship and the promises;
theirs was the ancestry, and from them came the Messiah
— at least, according to human ancestry.
Blessed forever be God who is over all!
Jesus insisted that the disciples get into the boat
and precede him to the other side.
Having sent the crowds away,
Jesus went up on the mountain by himself to pray,
remaining there alone as night fell.
Meanwhile the boat, already a thousand yards from shore,
was being tossed about
in the waves that had been raised by the fierce winds.
At about three in the morning,
Jesus came walking toward them on the lake.
When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, they were terrified.
“It is a ghost!” they said,
and in their fear they began to cry out.
Jesus hastened to reassure them,
“Do not worry, it’s I! Do not be afraid!”
Peter spoke up and said,
“If it is really you, tell me to come to you across the water.”
“Come!” Jesus said.
So Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus.
But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened.
He began to sink, and cried out, “Save me!”
Jesus immediately stretched out his hand and caught Peter.
“You have so little faith!” Jesus said to him.
“Why did you doubt?”
Once they had climbed into the boat, the wind died down.
Those who were in the boat showed great reverence,
declaring to Jesus, “You are indeed God’s Own!”
The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved.
The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.
Throughout the Bible, earthquakes, fire, thunder, and other such phenomena have connections to the divine, oftentimes signaling the presence of God (Ex. 19:18, Ps 68:7-9). The presence of God is meant to disrupt us, and God uses rupture and disruption to break into our rigid ways of being, reawaken us, and call us into greater love and solidarity with one another. These sacred disruptions are often callings to turn ourselves toward another path – one that lays the foundations for justice and peace.
Dr. Roberto Che Espinoza in their book, Activist Theology, defines rupture as “any break or instability that emerges” (19). Ruptures can be positive or negative, constructive or destructive, revolutionary or paralyzing. Most importantly, “if rupture contributes to us in productive ways, they encourage our becoming” (19). Anywhere the divine presence emerges, there is rupture. Those moments of rupture present a chance for us to respond by either heeding God’s call to love and solidarity, or by siding with empire.
Empire presents its own ruptures through acts of white supremacy, ableism, sexism, homophobia – any type of domination. The systemic disruptions it upholds “have paralyzed us into a way of being with one another that perpetuates a logic that is death dealing. We no longer know how to be human with each other or with ourselves because disruption has taken it all” (36). These types of ruptures, and the subsequent ongoing disruption they cause, are inherently oppressive, and seek to keep us in a state of brokenness for the sake of expediency and preserving power among a privileged few.
If the nature of the disruption from the powers and principalities of the world is to exploit and fracture the ways in which we relate to one another, then sacred disruption helps remind us of our shared humanity, and encourages solidarity and co-conspiration with the holy. Today’s first reading and Gospel are excellent allegories of how rupture can either paralyze us, or move us to faithful action.
It can be difficult, even controversial, to affiliate God with unstable, sometimes destructive moments. But if God is not enmeshed in such moments of rupture, then there would be no call to action. God is present in moments of stormy chaos and in the fire of riots and resistance. It is messy and complex, but God invites us into the instability, for that is where those who have been pushed to the margins are found. It is where solidarity begins.
Elijah chooses to stay at the entrance of the cave in safety, while Peter chooses to step into the storm. For divine rupture to be revolutionary, we must step into it. We are compelled to act. Our embodied action is sacred disruption.
We disrupt the powers and principalities of the world through our choice to resist them. “Resistance not only creates conditions of possibility for a new world to materialize but also helps us shift our politics and practices, so that life is framed by the restorative work of reparations and the deeply transformative work of changing ourselves so that we change our world” (25). Embodied resistance to empire is a mark of solidarity that leads to transformative restoration and liberation.
As we resist and struggle against the powers and stand in solidarity with the oppressed, we pave the way for justice, which paves the way for peace. Dr. Roberto reminds us that “God is in the struggle. God is in, the change that is becoming” (xv). God is in the spirit of resistance. God ruptures through empire’s obscurities in fire and storm, and in the quiet whispers and calm. Through divine rupture, God is urging us forward towards solidarity and prophetic witness.
Commentary by Revalon Wesson
Engage Catholic Social Teaching
Imperialist disruption is oppressive. Sacred disruption is liberative. Living into sacred disruption requires that we practice radical solidarity. If, according to Catholic Social Teaching that “at the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace” (source), then how does sacred disruption provide a framework for us on how to stand against the violence and oppression of empire, and instead embody the virtues of justice and peace?
Pope Francis notes in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si, “In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity, and a preferential option for the poorest of [us].” If we are to dismantle the injustices of the world, we must answer the summons to solidarity. This is the way that God calls us to participate in the pursuit of justice and peace.
Of course, the reality is that we are up against the powers and principalities of the world, and it is the function of empire to keep us fractured and work against the common good. Pope John Paul II wrote in his 1987 encyclical Sollicitudo rei socialis (The Social Concern): “It is important to note therefore that a world which is divided into blocs, sustained by rigid ideologies, and in which instead of interdependence and solidarity different forms of imperialism hold sway, can only be a world subject to structures of sin.”
Rigid ideologies, whether they be cultural, theological, political, etc., normalize systemic oppression by sheltering us from experiencing and enacting sacred disruption. They build walls that attempt to shut out divine rupture altogether, thus blockading the summons to solidarity. As Catholics, we are no strangers to rigid ideologies that uphold doctrine over people, or ritual and tradition over truly loving our neighbor.
Disrupting and dismantling the structures of sin that obstruct justice and peace requires that we boldly step into a role of true solidarity with a spirit of love, liberation, and holy resistance, rather than backing off when confronted with provocation, fear, or despair. In moments of rupture, we must trust in Jesus’s words when he tells us to take courage and be not afraid. Then afterward we must act. A question Dr. Roberto asks us in these pivotal moments of rupture is “Do we want to be charlatans or revolutionaries?” (21). If solidarity is found in the turbulent stormy waters, then we must step out of the safety of empire’s boat. If the divine is calling us to action– whether that be through the earthquake or a small whisper – we must stop shielding our faces from the invitation, step out of the cave, and heed the call.
A Contemplative Exercise
We invite you to read the prayer of confession from Enfleshed. During the pause near the end of the prayer, you will light candles and meditate on the following:
First, contemplate the ways you are complicit with empire and failed to be in solidarity with those who are oppressed. Light a candle or multiple candles as you examine your conscience and illuminate the ways in which your priorities were not your own, and your own concerns or fears outweighed the love of God and neighbor.
Afterwards, contemplate the ways in which you are harmed by empire. Be particularly mindful of any trauma that may come up within yourself. Care for it tenderly. Light a candle or multiple candles as you dictate prayer intentions over yourself and others targeted by harm. Illuminate the ways in which God is present in your resistance, hurt, anger, healing, and liberation.
Read the remainder of the prayer, and finish by blowing out the candles. Let the wind from your breath as you extinguish each candle, release the traumas, harms, and destructive ways of being. As you conclude this contemplation, leave in peace and be mindful of how justice paves your way.
Rosemarie Freeney Harding (1930-2004) was an activist, teacher, and leader in the Southern Freedom Movement. After moving to Atlanta, Georgia in 1961 to play a more active role in the fight for civil rights, she co-founded Mennonite House, an integrated living community dedicated to social service and hospitality, where activists and other movement leaders could rest, retreat, and seek safety from violence.
Alongside her husband, Vincent Harding, she organized a series of retreats called “Spirit and Struggle.” Committed to non-violence, but seeing the terror movement leaders faced daily, Harding saw the tremendous need for these activists to be grounded in communities of healing amidst the trauma. There was a hunger for respite, re-energizing, spiritual depth, and mysticism among the movement folk. Spirit and Struggle retreats played an important role in Harding’s participation in the movement and how activists show care, solidarity, and healing towards each other.
You can learn more about Rosemarie Freeney Harding by reading her memoir, Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering, co-written by Rosemarie Freeney Harding and her daughter, Rachel Harding.
The Friendly Fire Collective is a multi-faith community that draws from Quaker mysticism and prophetic tradition. They strive to “practice uncompromising dedication to one another, forged in the fires of solidarity” (2019 Retreat). Grounded in prayer, mysticism, and revolutionary and liberatory direct action that “seeks to build a new world in the ashes of the old” (About Us), the Friendly Fire Collective is fiercely anti-facist, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist. Believing that the dominant systems of the world only fuel the violent oppression that we see today, they desire to be a community that resists empire with an abundant Spirit-filled light, grounded in the love of God and neighbor.
The Friendly Fire Collective has collaborated with many organizations and movement spaces such as the Catholic Worker in Minneapolis, OutFront Minnesota, and the Center for Prophetic Imagination for prayer vigils, reading groups, podcasts, mutual aid, protests, and other forms of advocacy and direct action.
Image description: Against a white background, is a black rectangular square framing a person with brown skin and bobbed brown hair wearing a red, yellow, and orange dress that swoops upward and turns into flames. They have flame tattoos on one arm, and hold a lit candle in the other hand. Behind them is a black triangle with a circular hole near the top – through the hole, and radiating out from the triangle is blue swirling pattern.
Art is incredibly important in movements. From Black Lives Matter Plaza to George Floyd Square, movement art plays an important role in sending messages of solidarity and resistance, and in preserving history and hope.
“Catalyst” by Julia White, captures the act of standing in resistance as being a catalyst for change. This watercolor and ink painting draws inspiration from Johnathan Bachman’s photograph “Taking a Stand in Baton Rouge.” All proceeds for purchasing this artwork supports Black Lives Matter.