Pursuing the Destiny of the Just . . . and Bringing Others Along
“If you’re not a thorn in somebody’s side, you’re not doing Christianity right.” ~ Mother Angelica
Today’s 1st Reading (Wisdom 2:1, 12-22) goes out to anyone who has ever been persecuted for their acts of faith and obedience to God, those who “hold aloof from the paths of things impure.” (2:16). If you’re reading this, I suspect you have fallen into this category at some point. For some, perhaps due to an overly secularized workplace, a term that in and of itself is most likely redundant, or an unfortunate family situation, it may very well be an everyday way of life.
Those who strive to be faithful in teaching, preaching and living the fullness of truth are oftentimes condemned for being divisive or inflammatory. Sometimes they are even criticized and deemed to be problematic within their own Church. I can say with full and total confidence that Jesus would not be allowed to teach in a number of Christian Churches today. He would instead be enrolled in sensitivity training.
To that point, today’s Gospel (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30) captures yet another encounter wherein Jesus’ life is in danger, merely for committing the crime of preaching the truth, all for want of giving those in his midst a “new heart and a new spirit,” replacing their hearts of stone with a heart of flesh to loosely quote one of my favorite scripture passages (Ezekiel 36:26). Clearly Jesus’ suffering did not begin with the Passion of the Cross.
In tomorrow 1st Reading we will look in on the resilient and intrepid prophet Jeremiah (11:18-20) as he urges the Israelites to turn away from themselves and back to God. It was not the message the Israelites wanted to hear and as such, they continue on in their obstinance, ignoring Jeremiah and his message of repentance and redemption. The results were disastrous. God wanted to save them from the consequences of their actions but they refused. This is an underlying theme all throughout Scripture: God loves us despite our sins, but he certainly does not want us to stay in sin. On Monday we will read John’s account of the woman who was on the verge of being stoned for having committed adultery (John 8:1-11). Although the underlying lesson in this seminal passage is one in which we are called to refrain from judgement, it’s important to note that Jesus encourages this woman to “go forth and sin no more.”
God would not leave the Israelites, this despite their total rejection of Jeremiah’s message. Through this dark passage of time, this deprivation, they would come to learn anew and grow in their wisdom and understanding. The Commandments would become a way of life, not a list of stringent rules and regulations designed to constrict and restrict them; they were just the opposite. Psalm 130, chosen for the 5th Sunday of Lent, reminds us that God “will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.” God comes to the assistance of the Israelites ~ and all of us ~ not because we deserve it, but because he loves us. Profoundly. Passionately. Despite the turning of our collective backs to his constant overtures of grace. He knows no other way.
This is why we must emulate Mother Angelica, who passed away 4 years ago today on Easter Sunday and whose quote leads off today’s reflection. Yes, this is why we must be a thorn in the side of those who constantly reject God’s grace. The gift is far too good not to share.
“But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” ~ Micah 7:7
We adore you O Christ and we praise you. For by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.