December 14, 2014 click on left end of black bar to play-pause
December 14, 2014
John 1:6-8, 19-28
Fr. George Smiga
John the Baptist was fearless. Even when people questioned him as they do in today’s gospel, John continued to speak out. Even when people ignored him, John continued to testify. Without a powerbase or any influence in the structures of his society, John continued to proclaim. He was “a voice crying out in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord.”
John saw his role as representing the voice of God in the complicated world in which he lived. As such John is an example to us, because as Christians our job is to represent the voice of Christ in the complicated world in which we live. And that world gets more complicated every day. This week a Senate committee released a report on torture, otherwise known as Enhanced Interrogation Techniques—techniques that were used in the wake of 9/11. The report has spurred a wide debate in our country. No one denies that our government used brutal and inhumane techniques in order to extract information from prisoners who were under its control. No one denies that the motivation for doing this was to obtain information that would protect our country. But what is being debated is whether the use of torture can be justified.
As I listened in the media this week to the back and forth debate over this report, I could not but notice how many voices were arguing whether torture was effective or not, whether it worked. But there were few voices arguing whether torture was right or not. It seems to me that the voices of Christians, of you and I, should be raising that question. Even if we can gain useful information through torture, should we being doing so?
I say this because there simply is no doubt where Jesus would stand. If Jesus were part of a CIA planning group on the use of torture, we all know where he would come down. His clear teaching of non-violence and of the dignity of every human being, would make him opposed to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. Since this is clear, is it not our responsibility to represent his voice in the national debate? Now people will say that Jesus did not live in the world in which we live. He did not have to face the horrors of modern warfare or extreme terrorist groups. This is true. But, Jesus knew violence. He knew the violence of his own world. His very cross was the preferred method of torture of the Roman Empire. Others will say that Jesus was just a simple rabbi. He had a romantic and unrealistic belief in the power of love and forgiveness. Perhaps. But, if we see Jesus as our Lord, if we are baptized in his name, if we worship him in this place, is it not our responsibility to represent his point of view.
I am not asking that we march on Washington or even write to our government representatives, though you might choose to do that. What I am asking is that we carry the teaching of Jesus in our hearts, and that we speak out that teaching in the office, in the lunchroom, around the table with our family and friends. When people begin debating whether torture works or not, we should be the ones who ask whether torture is right or not. If we do that, some people will judge us as naïve and overly pious. Others will say that Jesus’ teaching of non-violence is too simplistic for our complex world. But their judgment of us should not be our concern. Our calling is to represent what Jesus would say. John the Baptist is no longer with us. That is why it must be our voice crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord.”