Speaking to the Soul: Don’t Do Us Any Favors

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Week of Proper 15, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

 

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 140, 142 (morning) // 141, 143:1-11(12) (evening)
2 Samuel 19:24-43
Acts 24:24-25:12
Mark 12:35-44

In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles this morning, we find Paul entangled in a complicated justice system. He is held prisoner under the proconsul Felix, who hopes to get some money out of Paul. Paul’s successor Festus also keeps Paul imprisoned, and he brings Paul’s opponents from Jerusalem to Caesarea to make Paul face charges. Paul speaks in his own defense and appeals to the emperor’s tribunal.

This system has many bureaucratic layers, but what really inhibits its ability to deliver justice is the fact that the people involved expect favors. We read that Felix left Paul in prison before leaving his post in Judea because “he wanted to grant the Jews a favor.” The religious leaders who oppose Paul ask Festus to transfer Paul to Jerusalem, “as a favor to them against Paul.” Festus in turn, “wishing to do the Jews a favor,” invites Paul to stand trial in Jerusalem. Paul responds by making his appeal to the highest authority in the empire, perhaps trying to escape from a system that is burdened and broken from doing too many favors for special interests.

In the past week, I’ve heard news stories about special favors that landed juveniles in for-profit prisons and that exposed people to deadly chemicals. Like Paul, we are sure to find that there is no escaping the influence of these favors on public life. But we may find opportunities to resist them, to reveal them, and to refrain from the favors that seem so friendly but that strengthen the grip of injustice on our world.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps  program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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