We Want Promises
And Jesus answered them, “Go tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them.” – Luke 7:22 (NRSV)
We believe that action is the proof of faith. We follow Jesus who healed the sick, fed the hungry, and confronted the powers. And when John’s followers asked about his identity, he responded with a litany of deeds: “The blind see, the lame walk…and the poor have good news preached to them.”
Wait, what? That last part. The poor get a sermon? Talk? Promises? Shouldn’t they get something more useful than words?
For Jesus, it seems, deeds are necessary, but not enough. People need inspiration, too. Heart-raising horizons. Affirmations of dignity and worth. Revolutionary assurances of a new world coming, and a new way of being in it. They need good news.
Without imagination to reveal the impossible and promises to galvanize the spirit, you can feed people all day and still not satisfy their hunger. You can heal them all day, but still not cure what ails them. Bodies need help; beleaguered hearts do, too.
Colombian author and journalist, Gabriel García Márquez, once reported on an election in northern Mexico where the entrenched ruling party was again poised for victory. Operatives had paid people to attend a rally and listen to the customary catalogue of party accomplishments: new sewers, community centers, streetlights.
Of course, rampant graft meant everything was badly built. Things broke down with depressing regularity. Still, the crowd applauded on cue as speakers touted each achievement. But way in back, a man raised a placard on which he’d scrawled a massively subversive message: Basta ya de realizaciones. Queremos promesas! Enough already with accomplishments. We want promises!
Yes. Yes, we do.
Give us promises as well as health, O God, hope along with bread. Make us whole with the good news of love.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.