14 Ordinary Time B – July 7-8, 2012 – Prophets With Meta-Ideas
Did you ever have a brilliant idea, what might be called a “meta idea,” and you were eager to share it with someone? Did you ever get this for an answer? That’s impossible! It will never work!
One wonders what life would be like if physicists like Peter Higgs did not follow through in their search for the boson particle that could change the way we think about creation. What if inventors, theologians, teachers gave up on their meta-ideas because they were rejected and silenced? What wonderful works of art, music, literature and dance would be missing if creative and imaginative artists gave in to negativity.
The adjective “meta” is a Greek derivative and means beyond or after. Someone with meta-ideas imagines possibilities for the future, ideas that may challenge the existing state of affairs.
That is what prophets like Ezekiel did. A married man, Ezekiel came from a priestly family and preached newness after the destruction of the temple and the exile of the Israelites. He first admonished Israel for going way off track from its beginnings even suggesting that punishment by God was justified. Then, using utopian language, he imagined people endowed with a Spirit could claim a vision for the future.  Ezekiel had meta-ideas but was despised by his people who, at the time, were giving up on God.
The gospel reading continues this thread. Jesus, however, was more than a prophet. He broke rank with old spiritual habits and beliefs, he challenged the religious authorities of his time and he presented meta-ideas for living in a new Spirit. His ideas were rejected by authorities and even those close to him. It is likely then that this passage was written for early Christians whose own teachings were spurned. 
Walter Brueggermann wrote, “It is the task of prophetic imagination and ministry to engage people in the promise of newness that is at work in our history with God.”  What, do we imagine, would continue to nourish our relations with God and one another? Some say that some religious leaders are standing by the status quo. What groups, then, offer us meta-ideas that could change the course of our history without forsaking the fundamental Christian message?
Women religious have always helped people in their care to imagine the possibilities for getting ahead in life, for eradicating poverty in neighborhoods, for staffing hospitals, nursing homes and schools, for bringing hope to those who have none.
The organization Pax Christi imagines justice for all peoples. The movement was inspired during World War II when a bishop protested the deportation of Jews from France. He pleaded that all people, whatever their race or religion, have the right to be respected by individuals and by states.
Call to Action is a group that began in 1976 under the auspices of American bishops as a response to the challenges of the Second Vatican Council. It continues to bear the responsibility emphasized by Pope Paul VI when he said the laity have been summoned to create a more just world.
Collectively, Catholic bishops in the United States can be prophetic. Their conference will soon publish Catholic Reflections on Work, Poverty and a Broken Economy. It is a document that will express concern for people hurt by certain economic structures, people who are jobless and living in poverty.
Locally, there are commissions and organizations like the Diocesan Peace & Justice Commission, Circles of Mercy, Unity House, Habitat for Humanity, the Maureen Joyce Center and others that have meta-ideas for bringing hope to those who have none. Looking for something to do? There are plenty of opportunities.
And, of course, there are parishes like this one. Here we continue to search for ways to carry on the work of our patrons Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac who left indelible impressions on society in seventeenth century France. We who gather here to worship God are also called not only to take care of ourselves but to courageously challenge assumptions, proclaiming new possibilities for justice and peace.
1 Peterson, David L. In Attridge, Harold W. (Ed.) The Harper Collins Study Bible NRSV (San Francisco: Harper) 2006, 1096-1098.
2 Fuller, Reginald. Preaching the Lectionary: The Word of God for the Church Today (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press) 1984 Revised Edition, 322-324
3 Brueggermann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. (NY: Fortress Press) 1978, 62-63