An article about the benefits of swearing in the workplace was posted on LinkedIn recently. Many who read the piece applauded its message: that foul language can sharpen important points and is actually a sign of intelligence.
But people of faith might argue that cussing in the workplace is simply surrender—and a sign of larger problems in the corporate culture. That surrender to our base instincts once inspired New York City to adopt what its citizens once knew as “Broken Windows Policing.” This is a criminological theory stating that small but visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder in a neighborhood, create an environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes. It may start with a single broken window or even a small string of obscene graffiti. No big thing, you’d think. But if not repaired, a new standard is set for that neighborhood’s tolerance for disorder–a lower standard.
In this Sunday’s first reading from Ezekiel (Ez 2:2-5), it’s clear, that attitude of surrender was at the root of this prophet’s mission:
“Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you,” Ezekiel heard God say. “But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD! And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—they shall know that a prophet has been among them.”
Are we called to be 21st century prophets? Just because we live many centuries after the Bible’s prophets doesn’t mean God doesn’t call for them anymore. But the price of standing up as one of them these days can be just as painful, as Paul testifies in Sunday’s second reading (2 Cor 12:7-10). It can inflict the pain of being an outsider—of being on the receiving end of verbally-tossed stones. Nevertheless, under the right conditions, we can hear the Spirit speaking as clearly to us today as Paul describes it:
He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”
Both Paul and his 21st century brothers and sisters have the same role model: Jesus. As Sunday’s gospel reading indicates (Mk 6:1-6), when Jesus stood up against what was popular in the eyes of man but ugly to God’s eyes, the attitude of the ungodly was equally universal: “Who are you to tell us what’s right or wrong?”
They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
If 21st century prophets don’t open their hearts to hear God’s spirit speak, another voice will fill that void——one that says “Even if it IS broke, don’t fix it.”