Au In the beginning was the Word

1.- On Sunday, the 7th October 2001 a Habakkuk’s impressive passage was read in all churches (1,2-2,4). The prophet contemplates violence after violence (crimes, injustices, fights, catastrophes) and he does not understand God´s silence. Therefore he directly interpellates Him: Yahweh, how long will I cry for help while you pay no attention to me? I denounce the oppression and you do not save. This is God´s answer:  Write down the vision; inscribe it on tables so it can be easily read… The proud will never posses my favour, the upright, on the other hand will live by his faithfulness. That same day, Lepanto´s battle anniversary (1571), the bombardment against Afghanistan was initiated, Unites States violent response to the 11th of September outrage.

2.- The North Americans massively support president Bush decision: 90 % are in favour of the war and the 67% although it reaches to innocents. United States bishops also support it, respecting the “sane moral principles”. The Vatican declares “legitimate defence” the United States military offensive against terrorism. On its part, the ACNUR denounces the humanitarian catastrophe previously suffered by Afghanistan: almost a million of internal displaced. The situation may become worse quickly, provoking massive exodus and thousands of deads.

3.- Violence after violence… therefore, what do we understand in Habakkuk´s passage? What does it say to us to day? Where is the unjust who has a swollen soul? Where is the faithful just? The reading of the liturgy is very short. To deeply understand it, it is necessary to read the text and its context. Besides, a catechesis is necessary: The vision on tables.

4.- Prophet Habakkuk, worried due to the injustice and the violence, confronts the problem of history and God´s action over it. Years 625-621 b. C. are in course. In other part of the Bible, Habakkuk appears (we don’t know how) in Babylon, carrying food to prophet Daniel (Dn 14,33-39), who suffers in the lion´s pit the paw’s strokes of power. 

5.- Habakkuk´s prophecy is a dialogue, face to face, with God: in first place, the prophet´s complain, who denounces the violence and does not understand God´s silence (Hb 1,1-17); in second place, God´s answer, that announces the end of the unjust and assumes the complains of the oppressed peoples against the oppressor empire (Hb 2,1-20); finally, a faith confession and a prayer, where it is said that God himself fights to put an end to the arrogant empire (Hb 3,1-19). It is a matter of time.

6.- Denouncing violence after violence (he must shout!), the prophet talks to God and presents a complain to Him: Yahweh, how long will I cry for help while you pay no attention to me? I denounce the oppression and you do not save. Why do you make me see injustice and wish me to look on tyranny? All I see is outrage and looting. The Law has been put aside and just decrees are no longer issued. The wicked overrule the upright and nothing is seen but crooked laws (Hb 1,2-4). Where the empire says: justice!, the prophet shouts: violence!. Besides, he does not understand why God impassibly contemplates the hard reality: Dominion of injustice and overrule of the right, that the law should guarantee.

7.- The prophet asks God to explain to him his strange way of governing the world: Is that violence called justice? He cannot believe that God´s work, that which nobody will believe although it is narrated to him, is precisely this: I am going to call the Chaldeans, that terrifying and violent people who raid to the ends of the earth, to seize the lands of others. I call a terrible and dangerous nation who obeys no other law but their own will. Their horses are speedier than leopards, fiercer than wolves on the plain; their riders gallop on and come form afar, they swoop like the eagle descending on its prey… This people make fun on kings and laughs at princes; they make light of fortified cities, for they build up an embankment and seize them. Thus they come and go like the wind! Their strength is their god! (Hb 1, 5-8).

8.- Does a people unjust and violent come to deliver justice? Instead of right it brings violence. Besides, that people is divinising its military power: Its strength is its god. The prophet presents his complains to God. He is stricken by the merriness with which this great power seizes the nations and he is afraid that the situation go on indefinitely:  Do you treat human beings like the fish in the sea? This nation catches all on his hook, pulls them out with his net and piles them up in his dragnet, pleased and delighted… Will they continue, then, to constantly empty their nets, slaughtering nations without mercy?(Hb 1,14-17). Men, who have been made to dominate over the fishes of the sea (Ps 8,9), are submitted to a unnatural relationship of dominion and power: is this God´s will?

9.- The prophet stays expecting, like a sentinel. He hopes God´s answer, what answers to his complain. And the Lord answered: Write down the vision, inscribe it on tables so it can be easily read, since this is a vision for an appointed time; it will not fail but will be fulfilled in due time; if it delays, wait for it, for it will come and will not be deferred. The proud will never possess my favour, the upright on the other hand, will live by his faithfulness (Hb 2,1-4). The unjust, swollen by his ambition and arrogance, will die. But, the upright, who does not apply force and is faithful to God, will live.

10.- The oppressed and exploited peoples prophesise the fall of the aggressor empire: Woe to him who amasses what is not his… since you have plundered so many nations, all the remaining nations will turn on you… Woe to him who raises his house on unjust profits and fixes his nest so high that he thinks he can thereby escape misfortune!…;  Woe to the one who builds a city on bloody foundations and sets up a town by means of evil! Has Yahweh of hosts not willed that the work of the nations go to the fire?… ;Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbour and drugs them to make them drunk so that everyone looks at their nakedness!… the cup turns over in Yahweh´s hand and pours out onto you: disgrace will swallow your glory…;Woe…! Why do their makers trust them and produce mute idols?(Hb 2, 6-20). The mute idols do not speak. Nevertheless, the lord of history denounces the violence and assumes the woes of the oppressed peoples: Woe to the empire!

11.- Habakkuk´s prophesy ends with a faith confession and a prayer  (Lord, I have seen your action, act!): I have heard, Yahweh, of your renown; I stand in awe of your work, in the middle of years make it known; in your wrath even, remember mercy… Yet I wait confidently for the day of distress, when we face the people coming against us. For though the fig trees blossom not, nor grapes be on the vines, though the olive crop fail and the field produce no food, though the flock be lost from the fold, and the herd be gone from the stalls, yet in Yahweh will I rejoice, in God my saviour will exult; my Lord Yahweh is my stronghold, he makes my feet as fleeting as the hinds, he steadies my steps upon the heights. (Hb 3,2-19).

12.- In the midst of the world commotion due to the outrage of the 11th of September, the Rafael Alberti terrible verses, written in 1980 during his visit to New York were recall. The Twin Towers were just built. The verses are these: “Here the wind does not come down,/ it stays there on the towers,/ in the long heights,/ which one day will fall down,/ beaten, stricken in its own pride./  Fall down, city with terrible shoulders,/ fall down from yourself./ What a bulk/ with closed windows, / with crystals, with plastics,/ with subdued, bent structures. / It will then go in,/ the wind will be able to come down/ until the bottom level/ and from then on it will not exist/ neither up nor down” (ABC, 24-9-2001).

13.- The National Audience magistrate, Baltasar Garzón, had courage enough to denounce the answer with weapons like an attempt against the legality: In front of the terrorism, the right, not the weapons: “It is a worry, he says, that countries like France or Spain do not raise their voice in a clear way to say no, to negate the violent answer like the only possible one, to reveal the big lie of the “final solution” against the terrorism. Legality is predicated and, at the same time, it is not taken into account, adducing the need and the urgency to eliminate the danger presented by the terrorist organization, and demanding equally the acceptation without any condition of the “existence” of proofs that, curiously, are being analysed by the politicians, and not by the judges, and, on that basis, the “guilty” and those who are not, are sentenced”. (El País, 2-10-2001).

14.- The Afghanistan taliban regime denounces the death of 1500 civilians in the first three bombardment weeks. The Pentagon admits mistakes and collateral damages. The bombs demolish quarters, villages, one old people residence, Red Cross stores with humanitarian help assigned to widows and mutilated, a pond affecting the survival of thousands of families… The use of fragmentation bombs, also named cluster bombs, increases the risks of civilian casualties. The CIA studies the possibility of selective murders. B-52 planes bomb lethally the Kabul front and anything existing in the attacked zone is pulverized. The Pope puts out “anguish and preoccupation”, he prays “so that innocent lives can be saved and also that the international community delivers an immediate and efficacious help for the many fugitives”. According with UNICEF data, ten years after the Gulf war and the US embargo, 500.000 infant deaths are counted. Aside from this, the war impulse the Exchange Market: in coincidence with the beginning of the bombings, the markets recover the level they had before the 11th of September outrage.


* Dialogue: What do we see on the tables?