“Taking in the news.” It can refer to events both good and bad, taking in the news of a baby’s birth, for instance, or at the other end, receiving word of a loved one’s passing. In either circumstance the hearer drinks in the event, so much so that it shows up in a real world effect on him or her.
In the book of Nehemiah, we observe the Jewish people “taking in the news.” When the prophet Ezra steps onto a platform to read the Law and Commandments, their reaction is hardly casual. Bowing their faces to the ground, they then stand with hands in the air and shout out their double “Amen, Amen!
From the volume of those Amens, we hear how seriously they are taking in Ezra’s news. Voicing them, the people are committing themselves to go out and live by the coordinates the Law is laying down. Not merely assenting to Yahweh’s commands, the worshippers promise to enact them, give them flesh, turn them into the solid stuff of everyday living. While not always perfectly executed, these ringing Amens are sincere.
A key scene in Luke’s gospel (4:20-21) can be for us Christians (and indeed, Vincentians) a replay of that “Amen, Amen” from the Jewish people. It is an action-shot of Jesus as he “takes in” the Father’s mission and ingests the prophet Isaiah’s charged words. That mission? To bring the Good News of God’s power and grace to all people, especially to all those who have been left out. It moves Jesus to open peoples’ eyes to what really counts in life, to free up those bound down in one way or other. In the vocabulary of the Bible, Jesus announces a year of favor and brings about a world of truth, forgiveness and new beginnings. And that’s exactly what Jesus did — and continues to do. We also know the pivotal role these same words played in Vincent’s vocation as he too took in this impulse to spread the Gospel to the poor.
Our own issue is the same, how we “take in” the power of this announcement. How do we turn our Amens into “marching orders” for inserting God’s Kingdom into this place and time?
A pointed suggestion comes from the pen of St. Paul as he writes to the Corinthians. How in the here-and-now can we bring about more unity and inclusion in our world? Though of many parts, he tells us that underneath it we are all one body in Christ. How to firm up that oneness, how to highlight that underlying God-given worthiness which dignifies every woman and man?
And so some questions. What concrete action can I take this week to build bridges between opposing sides, of which there are so many in today’s world? How might I work to include people who been excluded? What tangible things can I do to free up those bound in by unfair societal practices, chained down by laws and mind-sets that discriminate? On a more cosmic scale, how be a part of the world-wide effort to stabilize our climate whose deterioration will affect whole generations in the future, generations Paul would recognize as the Body of Christ?
In the end, how to “take in this news,” this Good News Jesus announces and He Himself imbibes? Especially for us Vincentians, how might we put more heft onto our pledge to help the poor? How might all of us all live out the Amens we give to this Best of all Tidings?
At the end of every Eucharistic prayer, we affirm, “Through Him and With Him and In Him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, forever and ever.” May our Amens to that be as solid as it they are solemn.