‘Every time and place needs prophets’

December 30, 2013

Earlier this year I wrote about three activists who penetrated the grounds of the Y-12 National Security Complex, one of the United States’s most protected nuclear weapons facilities, to protest and draw attention to the billions of dollars spent on bombs. Last week, a friend of mine who’s a Catholic priest at a parish outside Ottawa used their action as inspiration for his Christmas sermon.

Photo by Linda Davidson (The Washington Post)
Photo by Linda Davidson (The Washington Post)

Here is part of it:

Fully aware and willing to face the consequences of their actions, this unlikely trio sit in prison tonight with the potential of ending their earthly days behind bars. They are there willingly because of their passion; yet their country could easily label them as terrorists. If you are a little uncomfortable about these characters, you’re not alone. Why couldn’t they just have stayed at home and wrote letters to their members of Congress? Why couldn’t Sister Megan have just started a blog from the comfort of her community’s convent? Were there not less threatening ways of making their point? … No one can reasonably explain how such simple folk could penetrate this fortress built to keep the world out. It wouldn’t take much to classify these three as senior-citizen extremists in their own right. Equally, they could also be seen as zealous souls, blindly detached from the judgments of any form of earthly court, willing to sacrifice — and yes, even die — for the cause of righteousness and peace.

Criminals? Kooks? Prophets?!

The story of Christ’s birth, proclaimed in our midst again this night, is actually even more radical, political and not without complexity. A carpenter, a teenage girl and a newborn baby born in the backwaters of nowhere is how God the Most High chose to become God with Us. While generations long awaited the arrival of the Messiah, never could they have imagined that he would break into the world in the middle of the night using such unlikely folk who risked home and reputation to freely cooperate with the plan of salvation.

[...]

Every time and place needs prophets to shake things up; to remind us of what is lasting and of what is passing. We need to let unlikely characters make us feel uncomfortable from time to time, only so that we can reclaim what is right and just. And if we let their passions stir ours, we may be able to rekindle the hidden corners of our souls that have grown cold. Because of the birth we celebrate tonight, the veil between heaven and earth is forever pierced; the ultimate barrier has been toppled and life can never be quite the same. With the incarnation the work of making God’s love known is a story that is never quite done, and for that he is always in need of prophets unafraid of going forth into the night.

Since being convicted in May of damaging federal property and intending to harm national security, Michael Walli, 65, Megan Rice, 83, and Gregory Boertje-Obed, 58, have been held at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Ga. They will be sentenced Jan. 28 in Knoxville, Tenn. The maximum combined penalty for their crimes is 30 years in prison.

Dan Zak is a feature writer and general assignment reporter based in the Style section. He joined the Post in 2005, after stints as an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a city-desk reporter and obituary writer at The Buffalo News.
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Caitlin Dewey | December 30, 2013