Saturday, October 2, 2021

I did it my way or God's?


This post is based on the readings selected for the Twenty- Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B, especailly the gospel of Mark 10: 2-16. 

The other readings found in the lectionary on that Sunday are as follows: Genesis 2.7ab,15, 18-24; Psalm 128; Hebrews 2:9-11

The gospel reading concludes by saying: The Gospel of the Lord! which can be translated as some priests and deacons say: The good news of Jesus Christ! So what is this good news that we should have heard?

Simply put, the good news is that through Jesus Christ the Reign of God has drawn near. But the kingdom that Jesus is ushering in is neither a political or earthy reality nor an interior or spiritual realm. It is an invitation to leave the comfort we have with the status quo and  cooperate in the work begun by Jesus. As long as we remain comfortable with our opinions and our interpretation of things, we will never experience the Reign of God that Jesus inaugurated on earth.

Here is a light story that might help us understand how our opinions can make us deaf to the truth.

An elderly man who was concerned with his wife’s hearing called the family doctor to make an appointment for her. Since the appointment wouldn’t take place for two week, the doctor suggested he use a few simple tests that will help him later to determine the loss of hearing the man’s wife is experiencing. 

Here is what the doctor suggested. When you are home, speak with a normal conversational voice to see if she hears you. Begin by standing 40 feet from her, if she doesn’t hear you, go to 30 feet, then 20 feet, and so on until she responds to you.

So when he got home, his wife was in the kitchen, so he stood in the living room about forty feet from her and said: Honey, what’s for supper? Hearing no reply, he moved to 30 feet, asking again, Honey, what’s for supper?  Again, hearing no reply, he moved to 20 feet, and asked again, Honey, what’s for supper? Still no response, he moved to 10 feet, and asked again, Honey, what’s for supper?  Hearing no response he went and stood right behind her and asked: Honey, what’s for supper? She then said: “For the fifth time, Chicken.

I shared this story because it illustrates what’s going in the gospel today. The Pharisees set out to trap Jesus with a clever worded question. If he says, yes then he is agreeing to their way thinking; if he says, no, then he is denying the law of Moses that prescribed a man could divorce his wife. The Pharisees, like the husband that diagnosed his wife as deaf, were unable to hear the truth Jesus taught.

Jesus answers their question by framing a question that draws on the teaching of Moses which shaped the Pharisees opinion about divorce. He asks: What did Moses command you? They said, a man could write a certificate of dismissal and divorce her?

Having clarified their question, Jesus takes the opportunity to put Moses’ command into context. He explains that Moses wrote this command because of the hardness of heart that generation had. These people needed some form of legalism or prescription to guide them. Then Jesus drew on the creation story that we heard  earlier and taught them that marriage is sacred, what God has joined together, let no one separate. Within this teaching about the sanctity of marriage, Jesus is also rejecting the Pharisees patriarchal thinking that claims only the man has the right to ask for a divorce; the woman has no rights. By putting Moses’ teaching into context with support of the creation story, Jesus is saying in the reign of God everyone is equal or as Saint Paul would later write, in the reign of God there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3.28)

Jesus not only taught his generation about the Reign of God, he also lived it. For Jesus knew that firmly held opinions can prevent us from treating others fairly and equitable. Examples of how Jesus lived his life are found in various gospel passages. For example, he did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but offered her another chance to a new life.  (John 8). He did not avoid the Samaritan woman, who was considered unclean because she had 5 husbands and now living with another man; but welcomed her, an experience of hospitality that changed her into a person who eagerly brought the good news of God’s love and mercy to her village, which led to their conversion.  

The Reign of God has drawn near. It is in our midst but are we open to hear it.

Consider the story of a man who was stopped by the police late one night. The officer asked him. “Where are you going?” The man said:. “I am on my way to a lecture about alcohol abuse and effects of it on the body, as well as smoking and staying up late.” The officer said: Really? Who is going to give a lecture at 2:00 a.m. The man replied: ”That would be my wife.?

This man knew the consequences of his life choices. Like the Pharisees his opinions of his life style made him deaf to the lecture he would hear when he got home.

Jesus came to inaugurate the reign of God, which all people are invited to dwell. The only admission ticket required is a willingness to acknowledge we don’t have all the answers, only Jesus is the truth, the way and the life.

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