Remove labels to welcome the good that comes into our lives.
Francisco Javier Vera is a young Colombian environmentalist. At the age of ten he had already founded the movement “Guardians for Life”, and in December 2019 he spoke in favor of the environment in the Congress of his country. It is striking that in these years of activism some have delegitimized his speech just because he is a child. The expressive level and precision of his arguments are cause for suspicion. It has even been said that he is an instrumentalized and indoctrinated person; as it has also been said of the teenage environmentalist Greta Thumberg. In this context, Francis has asked that the knowledge of young people should not be belittled or undermined; nor should the argument that they are children be used to delegitimize a valid cause: the defense of life and the environment (cf. F. Vera). The discrediting of Francisco’s activism, because of his young age, is an example of so many others that we face in our society. Sometimes the “uncomfortable prophets” in favor of life, the environment, peace, etc., are disqualified because of their gender, social class, sexual preference, level of studies, nationality, religion, etc. The label we place on the person weighs more than the good they bring to the community. This is not new. Jesus himself experienced the disqualification of his contemporaries, as we will hear this Sunday.
Without explanation or justification, Jesus relates: “A prophet is despised only in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house” (Mk 6:4). Jesus is referring to his own prophecy, which unfolds between the “admiration” and the “scandal” of his countrymen, who finally decide to reject his message. Mark explains that such a reaction has no other foundation than prejudice towards the simple origins of his family, people of the village, recognized in any case by the carpenter’s trade of father Joseph. Besides, they have seen Jesus growing up, they know that he has neither a rabbinical degree nor an official credential that accredits his teaching. However, Mark does not fail to mention that there is a recognition of the wisdom of his words (cf. Mk 6:2); wisdom arising from the experience of God, his Father. But prejudices, like a fence, do not allow them to hear and discover the novelty of his message. This makes us suppose that the justifications poured out against him, in the end, are nothing more than evidence of feeling challenged by the message and actions of an authentic prophet.
Certainly, the argument of being too well known not to believe in Jesus, as we deduce today from the Gospel, may seem to us of little weight. It is not if we are sincere and analyze the times in which we have not given credit to those who live among us; for example, in the area we are reflecting on, and in basic matters, it is comfortable for us to ignore those who question us for our poor waste management, for the waste of water, or in general, for our irresponsible consumption. Thus, the call to common responsibility ends up being reduced to “I know what I am doing”, “these are personal choices”. In the same way, in a broader context, the exposure of the ecological problem tends to be minimized, as Pope Francis expressed it in his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti: “Often the voices raised in defence of the environment are silenced or ridiculed, using apparently reasonable arguments that are merely a screen for special interests” (FT 17). Today the Gospel of life continues to be rejected. It is almost always because it disinstalls us or reveals our incoherence and selfish interests. The Word of this Sunday is presented to us as an opportunity to question ourselves: do I discover the prophecy of Jesus in the discourses of life in the world? What do they trigger in me? Rejection or welcome? Admiration or scandal? May Jesus’ teaching this Sunday motivate us to see beyond the labels we place on our acquaintances, so that we may be able to welcome the good that comes into our lives.
I stand in the crowd of the world and I listen to you Master. I listen to you because your life-giving words still captivate me. I admire your wisdom but I also recognize that on many occasions I end up invalidating your voice, I end up silencing the fire that you are kindling within me. Make me follow in your footsteps so that I may commit myself decisively to the project of life and love in the present world.
Author: Gladys De la Cruz Castañón HCJC
Catechist Sister of Jesus Crucified.
She has a degree in Catechetics and is a candidate for a Doctorate in Catechetics at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.
She is a member of the Diocesan Delegation of Catechesis in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Volunteer for the Global Catholic Climate Movement.