A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

“Revolution” or not?

I have seen many representations of Jesus.  For example: on the cross, nativity scenes, Da Vinci’s painting of the last supper.  But I never would have imagined Jesus carrying a placard saying “Join the revolution.”  At least that is the impression one gets from the Gospel reading for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  (Luke 12:49-53)

The Gospel reading seems rather depressing.  But what is that Gospel reading actually telling us?  It has to do with “choice”  One has to choose for Jesus, his message, and lifestyle–or not.

Jesus’ whole life has been somewhat controversial.  When he was brought into the Jerusalem Temple soon after birth, Simeon  said of Jesus, “This child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed….”  (Luke 2:34)  So, throughout his life anyone “choosing” Jesus’ message and staying with it would be problematic for that person. Nevertheless, there were others who did not choose Jesus’ teachings.

It seems to me that one of the classic examples of the “choice” for/against Jesus is the example of the woman taken in adultery.  (John 8:1-11).  Some Scribes and Pharisees wanted to entrap Jesus to see if he was for or against the Mosaic Law.

They brought such a woman to Jesus and asked him, “The Mosaic Law says that such a woman should be stoned.  What do you say?”  If Jesus said “yes,” then he would be accepting the Mosaic Law which didn’t allow for mercy and compassion which would then reject his own teaching of mercy and compassion.  If Jesus said “no,” then he would be rejecting the Mosaic Law, which was at that time the only law for Jews.

Jesus looked at them, and said, “Whoever among you who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”  The Scribes,  Pharisees and others looked at each other and knew that there were thieves among them.  So, one by one, they dropped their stones and left.

Jesus said to the woman, “Has no one condemned you?”  She said “No one.”  Jesus replied, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go, and sin no more.”  We have here a key example of “choice.”  The letter of the Law which deals with action only, versus mercy and compassion which deal with motivation as well.  I suspect that Jesus made at least one friend at that moment.

Now we may ask how this Gospel reading affect us.  How do we make a choice for Jesus?  Well, throughout his life Jesus has been controversial.  So, being a disciple (as all baptized Christians are) will mean that there will be people who will be against compassion, justice, forgiveness, understanding, and the like.  There will always be opposition.

Some questions we will always have to face.  But I think the basic question will be, “Do I take seriously what the Gospels say about Jesus and the way he dealt with others in terms of justice, compassion, understanding, forgiveness?”  If the answer is “yes,” then I have chosen for Jesus.”



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