A handwritten postcard from my dear Chicano friend Brother Martin arrives in the mail today. Attached to the postcard is a two-page newspaper article.
In his beautiful cursive hand Brother Martin wishes me a peaceful, joyful season of new beginnings.
And then, without any narrative lead-in, he writes: “In one of the gospel stories Jesus tells the apostles that there are some evil spirits that can be cast out only by prayer.”
This is the sum of his message, on this little postcard.
He closes with a prayer that “the evil spirit that causes many fears today may be cast out.”
The attached article, I notice, as I unfold the massive full-color two-page story from the Yamhill County News-Register, is titled “Wall of anxiety,” with a subtitle: “Services for immigrants face uncertainty in the age of Trump.”
There it is, plain talk, right out there.
Yamhill County nestles smack-dab in the heart of the abundantly fertile farmlands of the Willamette Valley bioregion. The people who live in the grip of fear—fear of deportation—are men and women and older children who do the back-breaking labor to bring in the harvests.
The people who, in many ways, put food on my table.
I wonder about their tables.
Fear moves in close now, striking not just nameless immigrants “out there” but these ones here, in Yamhill County. Or it could be Lane County. You know, the ones whose faces we see around town, in our neighborhoods, whose names we may know.
Fear spreads its paralyzing chill far and wide.
What is the antidote to “the evil spirit that causes many fears today”? Jesus’ answer is clear: Prayer.
Today I came across an engraving of the prophet Jeremiah. Except I cannot see the prophet’s face. He is kneeling at his prayer stool in the temple, his head cradled between his arms. Jeremiah is weeping.
Beseeching God, I notice, with tears and supplications, one broken human heart before the broken heart of God, is a powerful form of prayer.
In fact, I am convinced, the human heart breaks only because God’s heart has broken first.
Action, too, is a form of prayer, as the Indigenous prayer circles at Standing Rock revealed in recent months. Focused, peaceful, resolute.
Yet action, without being invited by God to act, quickly becomes my work and not God’s.
Still, I can ask to be invited to right action, and to right prayer.
In fact, we all can ask. We must urgently ask how, in our times, to become “one body, one spirit in Christ,” in order to stand firm for the humanity of us all.
The church calls standing firm for the humanity of us all “solidarity.” There is no viable alternative to solidarity, Pope Francis often reminds us.
Right now I am reading the book of Jeremiah. And I feel called to do what I have lost the appetite to do: to pray and to fast. To submit those parts of me that would rather rail and blame to the yoke of nonviolent, creative, collaborative response to an already suffering humanity that risks new crushing blows.
We will soon submit to the stress test. We will be tested in our grasp of the gospel, and in the depth of our commitments. Tested on our care for the commonweal. We will be tested.
We rush headlong into a sober season. Space-making and compassion for those who are not “us,” coupled with a steely faith, now feel like the urgent thing.
I feel the urgency for us to actually step up and be the body of Christ, sent for a worthy mission.
A mission that will stretch us, that will inconvenience us. That will keep us alert and on our toes, resolutely nonviolent, keenly discerning and shrewd, as Jesus was.
Fast and pray. Fast and pray. The urgency is upon us.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on the nature of God’s calling.