It’s an interesting thing, being human. As children, we begin our journey with such optimism and enthusiasm – trying new things and experiencing so much of the diversity the world has to offer. And as we travel through life we pick up our habits and idiosyncrasies, and develop our tastes and desires. As time has passed, and as I’ve grown, I’ve become increasingly satisfied with my style, my place, and my routine (you could easily read “set in my ways” there…).
The problem begins when we become too comfortable with our ways. When anything foreign or different, anything new or challenging comes along, we tend to immediately reject the experience. It’s almost as though we live in a tomb we’ve built for ourselves out of fear and laze. And when we do that, we end up closing any possibility of whatever good experience and grace that new thing has to offer us. It’s as though we turn blind to the good for fear of the bad. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be able to relate to that immediately.
The people in our first reading must have felt that way.
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us… He styles himself as a child of the Lord. His ways are different; he is a hardship for us… With revilement and torture let us put him to the test. Let us see what will happen to him. Let us condemn him to a shameful death.”
See Wisdom 2:1a, 12-22
Reading that, it would be easy to mistake it for having been written by one of the four evangelists in the Passion narratives. It seems that it may be exactly what those who plotted Jesus’ death would have said as they tried to rationalize the horror they were about to inflict upon him… the shame, the blood, the hurt, the death.
Yes, Jesus would suffer that same fate outlined in the first reading. “How inconvenient it is to be better people. Let’s kill him – that’d be easier.” It’s true, his ways can seem pretty inconvenient. Let’s look at just a few of his teachings.
“Our Father” This means that everyone is my brother or sister? Everyone???
“Love one another” I have to treat everyone with love? Everyone???
“Thy will be done” I don’t get to have my wants done? But I know better…
The passage from Wisdom we hear today ends with this:
“These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them.” Wisdom 2:21
It would be so much easier to turn a blind eye and willfully ignore the things and people that are challenging to us. Who is it that you are hiding from? The friend that hurt you? The homeless person on the freeway off-ramp? The single father hurting after a brutal divorce? An autistic child? The Christian who is openly proud of their faith? The convict? The military veteran suffering the aftereffects of gruesome battle? The young mother now living in a wheelchair? How about the child with cancer? The Muslim family running from their homeland in search of a peaceful life? The aging friend now forced to live in a convalescent facility? A former friend who told you they’re gay?
All of the above?
How often are we blinded by the mission of another? How many times have we killed the unfamiliar and challenging? And how many graces and blessings have we lost as a result of that attitude?
With just two weeks of Lent 2017 left, let’s make a renewed effort, you and I, today, to break open the tomb of our own making. To live Jesus’ example of care, love, acceptance and joy. To be God’s light in our corner of the world. This is our call and who we are as Christians – the Body of Christ.
Dear God, thank you for the gift of every blessing you offer us. Please, grant us the grace to live inconveniently. Amen.
Paul Puccinelli is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Rita Parish in Sierra Madre, CA, and a member of the Retreat-Team at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center.