In both of our readings today we hear about “stiff-necked” people. In our first reading, God reminds the prophet Jeremiah that the people did not obey or pay heed to what God had told them through the many prophets that were sent. In fact, God tells Jeremiah that the people will probably not listen to him either.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus drives out a demon that had been making a man mute. There were some there who said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he drives out demons.” These people seemed to simply refuse to believe in Jesus, no matter what Jesus said or did. Just like Jeremiah, Jesus encountered stiff-necked people.
One thing that occurs to me about these encounters is that even though both Jeremiah and Jesus encountered stubborn opposition, they still went ahead with their mission. I find it interesting that even though God tells Jeremiah that the people would not listen to him, God doesn’t tell him to stop speaking the Word! And even though Jesus could not convince some people, it didn’t stop Him from proclaiming the kingdom of God to the people.
We may encounter people who are not interested in our witness to the Good News, but we are still called to do it. What we need to be careful about in these politically charged times is automatically judging the “other side” as the stiff-necked ones without taking a look at ourselves. Perhaps it could even be said that a part of listening to God may be listening to those who have different stories to tell from our own.
Whatever the situation, our testimony to the Good News of Jesus Christ has to be done out of love and compassion. We need not judge others, but remain faithful to our call as disciples.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.