March 15, 2015
LENT IV (B)
There once was a newspaper article about why a pigeon walks so funny: to see where it is going. While in motion, it is unable to focus clearly. It literally must bring its head to a complete stop between steps in order to refocus. Thus, head forward, stop; head backward, stop.
Perhaps we could take a lesson from the pigeon & learn how to do a pigeon walk! We need to pull up from the maddening pace, stop, & refocus to see where we’re going with our lives. We need a clearer view of the presence of Christ within & around us.
First, we have a mystery: Jesus came healing people, forgiving people, comforting people, bringing the good news that they are infinitely precious in God’s eyes, that new life is possible. Yet the religious leaders, the educated people, the leading citizens rejected Him. What was the source of their fear, anger, & hatred?
WE hear a lot today about “hardening of the arteries.” There is also such a thing as a hardening of the emotional, intellectual, & spiritual arteries. When Jesus looked at people suffering from this condition, Scripture tells us that He was “grieved” at their hardness of heart.
The reason why so many were (& still are) opposed to Jesus is self-centeredness. They are unwilling to acknowledge that God could have a further word of enlightenment & so fearful of anything that seems a threat to self-image & self-confidence, that any idea of change coming into one’s life is repugnant. So in their fear & anger they lashed out, determined to destroy Him.
There is a real sense in which we live in their shadow. Threatened by the challenge the Gospel makes to our comfortable status-quo, we consign it to the dustbin of our lives. Mass? Something of a bore. Confession? Who needs it? After all, sin is an outdated notion. Baptism & Confirmation? Just rituals marking certain stages in life. Heaven forbid that we should let go of certain values we’ve been conditioned to conform to.
Notice: we no longer react with violence, just indifference. Here is an excerpt from a poem of what happened when Jesus visited the city of Birmingham in England (it could easily be our own):
When Jesus came to Golgotha they hanged him on a tree. They drove great nails through hands & feet, & made a Calvary; they crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds & deep, for those were crude & cruel days, & human flesh was cheap.
When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by. They never hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die. For men had grown more tender, & they would not give Him pain. They only just passed down the street, & left Him in the rain.
Still Jesus cried, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do,” & still it rained the winter rain that drenched Him through & through. The crowds went home & left the streets without a soul to see; & Jesus crouched against a wall, & cried for Calvary!
Jesus asks for commitment & we shun Him. We even run from Him, much like His friends did on Good Friday. As the Blessed Apostle put it, “He was in the world, & the world came to be through Him, but the world did not know Him. He came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him” (John 1: 10-11).
It is crucial to know what is true in our lives. Only by taking up our cross daily & following in His steps will it be clearly seen that our deeds have been wrought by God. We cannot embody what is true merely by keeping a holy, just & good law. We cannot do what is true merely by disciplining ourselves to be as good as the next fellow. We can know & do what is true only by faith. By living in the conviction that God is good & trustworthy, that He cares about us, & that His promise of eternal life is real!
Come to the light: not to be burned by it, but to be freed & saved & redeemed by it! There is still some time during Lent to stop & refocus our vision so that others may perhaps clearly see that God is indeed trustworthy, that He cares, & that He keeps His promises. AMEN!