"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Plowshares and Prophets


The Bible (Luke 4.24) tells us that no prophet is ever welcome in his (or her) hometown or country. That is as true today as it was in the time of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. Let's face it. People just don't want to hear that God is displeased with their behavior, and that they really need to change their ways (just like those crazy Israelites). So, what's a prophet to do??? Keep at it, that's what.

While it often seems that so many Christians are complicit in the violence of the world, there are those who are steadfast in following the nonviolent Jesus, and fewer still are those who are prophets - endowed with extraordinary spiritual and moral insight, and called to proclaim peace to the world. Father Bill "Bix" Bischel, who was one of the participants in yesterday's Disarm Now Trident Plowshares Action, definitely fits that description.

It is natural for people steeped in the structures of violence so deeply embedded in our society to dismiss those who engaged in yesterday's action at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor (see the previous post for details). And just like the prophets of old, Bill (and his plowshares companions) will be reviled by many who are unable or unwilling to look at not only the violence inherent in omnicidal (nuclear) weapons, but also the violence within our own hearts.

I hope that the missioning letter (below) from the provincial, Patrick J. Lee, SJ, provides an insight into Father Bischel's depth as prophet and peacemaker.




Missioning Letter

October 23, 2009

William J. Bichsel S.J.
Bellarmine Jesuit Community
2300 S. Washington St.
Tacoma WA 98405

Dear Bix,

A provincial writes a lot of letters missioning Jesuits to do the work of God. This is one of the hardest I’ve written, but also one that seems clearly blessed and confirmed by God.

I have told you that I see your role in our province as a prophet – called by God to proclaim a message of peace. Prophets are never appreciated by everyone. Their message is often painful and difficult to hear. Certainly that has been your experience. You have suffered scorn, indignities, and even prison for the message you have proclaimed. Now you find what God is calling you toward may result in more of the same.

We had thought that perhaps your days of protest were over, and that you might be able to live the remainder of your life with some rest from civil disobedience. But in Nagasaki you once again heard God calling you into action. I know you have listened hard to that call, praying and discerning for over a year to make sure it truly was from God. Now there is no doubt.

And so I mission you to hear and respond to what is in that deepest part of your heart. On November 2nd, the Feast of All Souls, you will return to the Trident Submarine Base at Bangor, Washington, to take part in what will happen there. Go with my blessing and my prayers, Bill. And know that you carry with you the prayers and blessing of the Oregon Province.

I will also pray that your life as a prophet and a witness to peace will be an inspiration to younger Jesuits who may be hearing God’s still distant, disturbing call to prophecy against the violence and war.

May God bless your desires, and give you the courage, the strength and the abundant grace to fulfill them.

Patrick J. Lee S.J.

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