Word Magazine June 1969 Page 17


Rev. Vladimir Berzonsky

Holy Trinity Church, Parma, Ohio

“All the city was aroused, and the people ran together; they seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple ,… And as they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. He at once took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them; and when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul . . . Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks . . . (Paul) said to the tribune, ‘May I say something to you?’ … ‘I beg you, let me speak to the people.’ (Acts 21:30)

Who of us isn’t alarmed at the evidence of the communication breakdown in today’s world? Power has supplanted persuasion; intimidation has driven off free speech not only from the streets but, of all places, from the college campuses, where we should expect reason and persuasion to decide issues.

Peaceful demonstrations and picketing have turned into forcible takeover of entire campuses and turned requests for representation into lists of “non-negotiable demands” that seldom omit to insist upon the removal from office of those in authority.

The unchristian, inhuman principle behind these tactics is the pre­supposition that not only forms of government, but persons themselves are incapable of change. When we conclude that people are unable to reform themselves, civil war is inevitable.

How unlike the ways of Jesus and his disciples, whose only power was persuasion, and whose weapons were simply their voices. All he asked was to be heard. It makes evident his conviction that nobody is incorrigible. Every human is capable of transformation, to the very moment of his death. When we no longer believe that, we are no longer members of Christ’s body.

But, if we ourselves believe that each person is capable of transfiguration we must, like Jesus and St. Paul, not believe only theoretically but in fact and witness; we must never give up on any of God’s children: The alcoholic, the prostitute, the black militants, the Hippies, Yippies and all other exhibitionists . . . All, whatever their ideas, wherever they are or however they behave. All are created in the image of God, no matter how they distort that image or try to deface it, whether by their behavior, or even by the use of alcohol and drugs.

If we say we love, we must also love all of them. If we believe, we must convey our faith to whomever seeks sincerely to find a meaning to life. If we say “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” we must have faith, despite the confusion and anarchy all around us, that God is at work even in our times, as much as He was in centuries past.

We cannot long for a return to some idealized golden age of our ancestors. God sent us to live in this world, in this period of time, and to bear witness to Him in this particular setting. If we do less than that, we are failing Him and ourselves.