Your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your old shall dream dreams, your young shall see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29)
This is a 2,500+ old text from the Prophet Joel recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the biblical world, the ability to dream dreams and have visions and prophesy was reserved for a chosen few and they were usually powerful men – Moses, Abraham, Joseph, David and the Prophets. Hebrew scriptures identify 55 prophets; only 7 were women.
We can appreciate the radical inclusion of Joel’s prophecy by the fact that he specifically mentioned both sons and daughters, old and young, men and women, and even servants (in some translation slaves) as people who would have the abilities of a prophet, a spokesperson chosen by God to speak on God’s behalf to convey messages from God.
About 500 years later during Pentecost, a Jewish festival celebrated 50 days after Passover, a small group of Jews who followed a teacher named Jesus claimed that this prophecy was fulfilled. A few days before, Jesus had left this small group (the Ascension) leaving them leaderless and powerless. Certainly no one would expect this small group of people to be spokespersons for God. But on that Pentecost day, they prophesied. But the real miracle was that the crowd who had come for the Pentecost feast was there and they heard this small group of people speaking in their own native tongue about God’s deeds of power. Many changed and became believers as a result. Christians recognized that day as the beginning of the Church.
We are living in a world dominated by the voices of the powerful and rich. They can buy TV ads and influence our media to spread lies and make people believe that their lies were the truth. They can manipulate the political system to make us believe that the rich should stay rich because the systems that they created are too big to fail. Their influential voices are moving us away from a sustainable future for all. We need a Pentecost soon if we are to turn this tide of unsustainability.
Where are the prophets for our world today? The prophetic voices of our time have to come from the powerless ones in our midst. They will tell us where resources are not flowing and recirculating. They will tell us where in our network are the places of unsustainability because they are the ones who are suffering in them. But even if they are prophesying, are we listening?
With the internet and the World Wide Web, we are more likely able to hear the prophetic voices of the powerless. Youtube.com, for example, offers everyone who has a computer with a camera, free of charge, the ability to broadcast his/her voice and image to millions. Social media allows people to network globally with each other, thus by-passing the system controlled by the rich and powerful in our societies.
A sustainist listens to the powerless voices. A sustainist assists the powerless to network with others locally and globally to find their voice together. A sustainist provides the powerless access to technologies that empower and amplify their voices. The fact is there are more powerless people in the world than there are powerful ones. There are more poor people than rich. If we can network and hear each other, support each other, and let our voices be amplified and circulated through our connections, then there is hope for a Pentecost in which the power would finally listen. When the dreams, visions and prophecies of the poor and powerless are listened to, perhaps there is hope for a sustainable future where everyone is sustained and not just a powerful few.
Reflection Questions for Day of Pentecost (Year C):
John 14-8-17 (25-27)
Eric H. F. Law
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