If we are to be pastors and if theology is to enlighten us, we must be able to discover the sense and meaning of the historical present. Discovering the meaning of the present-note that I say the present, not the future-is called prophecy. Here I am not talking about prophecy as an extraordinary charism. I am talking about it as the thing that goes to make up the day-to-day life of real Christian faith. Jesus said that we would be able to move mountains if we had faith as small as the mustard seed. Well, the mountains with which I am familiar are pretty quiet; so our faith must be very small indeed. Prophecy is part of this faith held by the Christian people.
The word "prophecy" comes from a Greek word (profemi) which means "to speak out before someone." The prophet speaks out before the people, telling them the meaning of the events that are taking place here and now. Moses stands before the enslaved Israelites and tells them that Yahweh has sent him to liberate them. He stands before the pharaoh and tells him to let the Israelites go. The Hebrew text then tells us that the pharaoh "hardened his heart."For the Hebrews, the heart was the seat of man's liberty. The Bible is telling us that the pharaoh lost his freedom because he had sinned, because he was exercising domination over other human beings.
Then Moses asked God for the gift of liberation, and the plagues began. How would we describe those plagues today in sociological terms? If the water supply of some large city was turned to blood today, would it not smack of sabotage? Then came the other plagues, culminating in the horrendous death of all the firstborn in Egypt. Only this last terror changed the mind of the unjust oppressor. He let the Israelites go, not out of a sense of justice but out of fear. Pharaoh changed his mind again and sent his army out in pursuit of the Israelites. His army was swallowed up in the Red Sea. How much violence there is in this whole story! And we must give this violence consideration too, because all these questions must be examined in any Latin American theol-
Moses is a prophet because he spells out the meaning of events before the people. The point he makes is that they have been enslaved and that now God chooses to liberate them. Here pastoral theology becomes reflection on the praxis of liberation. Christian praxis must be committed to the day-to-day liberation process of people; it must seek to discover the ultimate eschatologic.al meaning of that process.
Let me give an example of what I mean by this. When I open the morning paper, I should know how salvation history is working itself out through everything that is happening. I should not say: "I don't understand anything that is going on in this country or around the world." The person who feels "lost" in the face of events-be they political' economic, cultural, religious, or spiritual-is a person who has little or no faith. He must ask for an increase of faith, because he does not discern the im port and meaning of the present. In such a case this individual leaves home in the morning and heads for work. He may want to serve his fellow men. But he does not know how to do it, and his work may actually be a disservice that directly contradicts the message of the Gospel. Since he does not know where the meaning of events lies, he may perform many meaningless things.
This is an important point. There is no sense in trying to shore up a building or reinforce it if we' have not asked ourselves whether the building is worth saving in the first place. Perhaps we have not noticed that other people are at work laying the foundations of another building, that there is where we should be too. It is most important for us to discover the sense and meaning of things, because all our activity will depend on that. We can waste a whole lifetime in useless labor. As the old saying goes: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. But it is not just our intention that can go astray; our whole effort can be misguided. We must work for something that God really wants. We must use all our intelligence and will to get closer to what God wants to reveal to us in the difficult but adventurous times in which we live. What is taking place before our eyes is wondrous, even though; we may not notice it at times. I think we areat the dawn of a great phase of Church history, and this applies in particular to the Church in Latin America. That is what I shall try to bring out in the remarks which follow.
But before I pursue that topic further, I would like to Clarify a few points for those of you who have some acquaintance with theology. I should like to indicate how Church history came to be separated from dogmatic theology; how theology lost its roots in history so that we now find it difficult to comprehend the day-to-day reality around us. We must rediscover a great brand of theology that we have forgotten. Right now I should like to sketch how all this happened, and I want to begin with our own history as an example.
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