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A New Power

Alternative Community

A New Power
Tuesday, June 2, 2020

In an ideal sense, a community is a safe place. By protecting and nurturing the dignity of its members, the community is sustained even when challenged by external forces. Virgilio Elizondo (1935–2016), a Catholic priest and community organizer from San Antonio, Texas, compared communities formed among the marginalized in Latin America today with the earliest Christian communities. Working together in faith, they bring new life, hope, and dignity to their individual and corporate selves. Perhaps the current civil unrest we are experiencing across the nation is a cry for the same?

What happened in . . . parts of Latin America appears to be no less miraculous . . . than the spread and consequences of early Christianity itself. When the poor, the oppressed, and the marginated become aware of who they are in the Lord and begin their struggle for humanization, then the true liberation of humanity has begun. No matter how slow and difficult it might be . . . liberation will succeed, because no human power can keep Jesus in the tomb. . . . Not with the weapons of destruction will the converted poor triumph, but with the weapons of the power of selflessness and truth in the service of love.

An important element of this new power is that it is not power for the sake of personal gain, but power for the sake of all the oppressed, ignored, forgotten, and exploited members of society. The powerless are recouping power . . . the power of the gospel, which works for the betterment and liberation of all, especially those in greatest need.

In all this, prophecy is not just being spoken about; it is being lived out in ongoing confrontations by the previously powerless of society who now dare to go to the Jerusalems of today’s society: city hall, transnational corporations, boards of education, ecclesiastical offices. Those who had before simply accepted their state of exclusion and exploitation are now coming out of their tombs of substandard housing, disease-infected neighborhoods, economically enslaving jobs, schools that strengthened illiteracy, and churches that perpetuated segregation. Those who had been dead are now coming back to life.

In this awakening . . . renewed Christians are called to exercise a prophetic role. True prophecy is based upon a prophetic lifestyle, which of itself—wordlessly—confronts an ungodly society. It is this new lifestyle—this new way of relating with persons, goods, institutions, and God—that is itself an arresting alternative to the ways of the world.

Deep bonds often form during times of crisis, loss and uncertainty; people seek solidarity in human connection. What new communities and associations are being forged right now? How will they grow in the months and years ahead? What lifestyle changes and prophetic actions are being called forth by the new realities created by Covid-19?

Reference:
Virgilio Elizondo, Galilean Journey: The Mexican-American Promise (Orbis Books: 2000), 118–119.

Image credit: Dorothy Day, by Julie Lonneman. Used with permission of the artist. Julie Lonneman was a member of the New Jerusalem Community in Cincinnati, Ohio, founded by Fr. Richard Rohr in the early 1970s.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community. —Dorothy Day
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