1 Timothy 6:13-16
"They may look but not see, and hear but not understand" (Luke 8:10)
I remember the time when one of our teachers looked at our class with frustration, with a look close to despair, and said, "Alright, I am going to explain this one more time, and those who get it, will get it and those who don’t will have to do a lot more work!" Of course, I didn’t get it. And I forget just how much more work I needed to do before I "got it."
Jesus quotes Isaiah in today’s Gospel, Isaiah 6:8, citing words that God spoke to this prophet right after that dramatic moment when Isaiah called out with intense conviction, "Send me!" God told him very clearly that he was being sent into a community with whom God had established a covenant of life, but a community who had lost their way to God, and would hear but not listen, see, but not understand. Nonetheless, Isaiah’s vocation was to speak the truth, whether it was convenient or inconvenient, as Paul says to his disciple, Timothy. (2 Timothy 4:2)
Many of us "preachers" (and that includes everyone who "bosses" someone else around, regardless of age) believe that our words are to be listened to, accepted and believed. Because we say it, we want everyone to believe it and accept it. We can get very upset when someone doesn’t listen to us or believe what we say. That is when we should begin to suspect that this spirit of righteousness, of explosive anger and rage, and even of malicious hatred and absolute disrespect is not from God. We can easily delude ourselves into thinking that just because we know the truth, we can tell lies to get our point across and we can dehumanize the other as stupid and crazy and unworthy of our respect.
We certainly have had many examples of this kind of behavior over the last few years. We have seen it over and over again on TV "news" shows, and we have heard it over and over again as "debates" take place on a great number of issues. We may have even participated in these behaviors to a lesser degree when we have dealt with family issues or relationship concerns. Whether we are screaming at the kids for doing something we have told them a thousand times not to do or tearing down a coworker because he or she does not agree with our religious or political "truth," we are the ones who just don’t "get it," "look, but do not see, hear but do not understand."
What Jesus is doing with his disciples (and with us) in today’s Gospel is helping them and us to be good teachers. Jesus is inviting us to take a deeper look into the mysteries of life and to find meaning where there is a lack of understanding. Jesus is inviting us to help people discover the Goodness of God, since God truly desires a rich harvest when the Word of God is sown upon good soil. A few Sundays back, we heard the testimony of people who witnessed Jesus’ work: "He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak." All four Gospels give us dramatic accounts of Jesus curing the blind. There are 185 references to the word "see" in the Gospels, 96 to the word, "look" and 37 to the word "blindness." If we think that we are not the deaf and blind ones and those who need Jesus to make us whole, then we just don’t "get it."
Our vocation as followers of Jesus Christ is to preach the Gospel of peace and understanding, a Gospel of enlightenment and insight, a Gospel of love and compassion for every human being on earth, indeed, for all of God’s creation to everyone who is in relationship with us. If people don’t "get it" the first time, then we do this over and over and over again. There is no limit to God’s patience. For this, we are deeply grateful. And so we pray, "God, help me be a patient teacher and preacher." May we preach the Gospel always, and use words when we have to.
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.