Let us set a trap for the just one,
for he annoys us
and opposes our way of life.
Wisdom 2: 12
As we approach Holy Week, the lectionary speaks with urgency about the imminent passion and death of Jesus.
The reading from Wisdom – about the just in general – is here applied in a special way to Jesus, but its significance goes beyond that.
The truly just one is Jesus, but many just persons have experienced persecution and death as he has.
But not all who are persecuted are prophets. Some are persecuted because their style of criticism is too harsh, too accusatory, too alienating.
Today is the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Reading his sermons and talks and remembering what he said, I believe that his message was what caused his death.
He was severely critical of US society and didn’t confine it to the problems of segregation and racism. When he was killed in Memphis he was beginning to work on the Poor People’s Campaign which sought to give a voice to those who were impoverished in a rich nation. A year before he was killed he gave his searing sermon “Beyond Vietnam,” in which he not only condemned the Vietnam war but also the roots of that war in the racism, materialism, and militarism he saw in the US society.
His message made him enemies. But he spoke it in light of a call to become the Beloved Community. He spoke it because he had a dream of solidarity.
Are we willing to speak uncomfortable truths, but in a loving way? Or do we criticize injustice in a way that makes us appear justified, accusing others?
Do we fail to see the roots of war and injustice on our own hearts?
Or, do we take the prophetic message to heart, changing our way of life, and inviting others to join us in this search for the Reign of God?