20th Sunday C – Christ the Disturber?
The gospel reading for this Sunday is difficult and unsettling. It’s a preacher’s nightmare. Scripture scholar Kieran O’ Mahoney suggests it may reflect the experience of the early church. It was not easy to be a Christian at that time. Apart from Roman persecution, the early followers of Christ were often disowned and disinherited by their families. Indeed, records reveal that some were killed by their own kith and kin for becoming Christian. Religion can not only de-humanise but can de-civilise us also. By nature we are communitarian and called to be the best.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead documented the first mark of civilisation among ancient people as the discovery of a human femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. A healed femur was evidence that someone had taken time to stay with the one who fell, bound up the wound, carried the person to safety and tended them through recovery. She said that in the animal kingdom if you break a leg you die. Her research led her to conclude that helping someone through difficulty is how civilisation began. Helpers, not dividers from each other is who we are designed to be.
The gospel that Jesus preached was a two-edged sword. He preached love, peace, forgiveness and hope. Herod found Jesus to be disturbing and he was accused at his trial of upsetting the people. Read his harsh words to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. Remember how he chased with a whip the buyers and sellers from the Temple. And he required of those who followed him to leave all and give everything to the poor. That was monumentally disturbing. But his trademark was the healing of those who were broken in any way.
Jesus expected personal commitment from his followers. John Paul II noted that living in a scientific culture tends to keep us in a non-committal mode – at the threshold of faith and deeply hesitant about taking the final step. People today find it hard to commit to marriage, to parenthood, priesthood or religious life. So too, without crossing the threshold into the world of faith we cannot reach what is central to us – encounter with Christ, a relationship with God as Father and a conviction that he came to reveal a new way of living called the Kingdom. Jesus is both welcome healer and unpleasant disturber.
Fr. QQ – 08/12/2022