Thursday of the Third Week of Lent
A fine, contemporary theologian recently said that many of us in church leadership today – preachers, teachers, and hierarchy – are comfortable giving eloquent answers to questions people aren’t asking!
Today’s readings again challenge us to grapple with another of the difficult sayings of Jesus. Rather than working up a lather of self-righteous indignation over issues that are not relevant for people, perhaps we are asked to listen to real concerns. The Gospels are replete with many hard sayings of Jesus… and while Jesus doesn’t’ intend for us to pluck out our eyes or sever our hands when facing temptation, we are called to struggle with our propensity towards sinfulness, just as Jacob had to wrestle with the angel (Genesis 32).
Where do I find myself in this "cauldron of transformation" each day? The mature believer must steer between 1) Catholic fundamentalism (the pope or the Bible or the Catholic Catechism said it, and so it’s true… according to my interpretation), and 2) a facile dismissal of anything problematic, whereby I structure my own narcissistic response to the Gospel challenge. Even though the "battle imagery" in today’s readings may offend the non-violent disposition of some, all of us are called to a dynamic tension – between good and evil, God and mammon.
Although I prefer the kind and gentle form of Jesus’ saying in Mark’s Gospel (if we aren’t against Jesus, we’re for him), here in Luke’s version, it is the other way around. If we are not actively pursuing the Kingdom of God, we’re working against it. And maybe that’s the point. The Bible is not an answer book, it’s a question book. Sacred Scripture is not scientific or historical narrative per se, it’s a chronicle around right relationship, an invitation into greater intimacy with God and creation. The Bible is not some barometer we impose on others to determine loyalty, even less is it a tool to weed out the "less desirables"… hopefully allowing me to better respond to questions others are asking!
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.