There are a lot of unbelievably horrible things going on in the world, and even right here in the Tri-Cities.
Did you catch the local documentary Here? Sex Trafficking in Our Community at a recent showing or on TV? Stories like that one, about the worst kinds of evil perpetrated against human beings, pop up every day.
When the shock of this hits us full force, what is our response? Blame God or reject the whole idea of a loving God? Pray for the victims, or for someone to bring justice?
Jesus was struck with compassion for the people he saw who were "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36-10:1). He told his disciples to ask God to send out workers, and then he sent 12 of them out to heal.
Many commentaries, homilies and sermons draw out subtle meanings from this text -- who the shepherds were, who the sheep were and how they might have been harassed, how God equipped disciples to be the workers. But I think there's a joke hidden here that hints at very practical application. It's this: God told disciples to pray for workers and then, in effect, told them "Guess what? Your prayers are answered -- it's you!"
There is much more to this call to action than simplistic platitudes like "If it's to be, it's up to me" or "Be the change you wish to see." From the gospel story alone one can discern that the call involves preparing in communion with God through prayer, being equipped by God, and then serving to effect change.
We cannot expect someone else to clean up the world's messes. In particular, those who claim to believe that God makes a new creation in us and gives us the message and ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20) have no excuse for sitting back and relying on others to carry out that ministry or telling God to take it back and do it without us.
So if we get serious about wanting an end to the horrors that still exist in our world and right here in our community, we are very much in danger of being conscripted, as it were, to do the work of ending them.
There are many examples of people in the world who are responding to that call. We can see it in people of many faiths, and no faith, whose consciences will not allow them to remain idle or simply expect others to repair the world but rather compel them to act, whether they believe the call is divinely directed or not.
We need more of these people of action, so maybe I'll start by praying for God to send them. Or maybe I'm too afraid I'll hear, "Guess what, Ken?"
-- Ken Jarman is a scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and member of Christ the King Catholic Church in Richland. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.