We had just finished celebrating the Easter season, and the feasts of the Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of the Lord.
We were just getting back into the routine of methodically reading St. Luke’s Gospel Sunday after Sunday when, on the 13th Sunday of Ordinary time – June 30th – we heard that Jesus was “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”
There, in Jerusalem, Jesus knows that he will suffer and die. He knows that from here on out, on that journey to Jerusalem, his life is going to be far from a picnic in the park.
And he wants his followers, which includes all of us, to know that if we choose to follow him, life can get a little messy for us, too.
The Catholic author Flannery O’Connor has a saying that kind of captures the spirit of this Gospel. She says: “The truth – will make you odd.” The truth, will make you odd – make you stick out, make you different, make you unlike those around you. . .
Jesus knows that what he preaches – and asks of his followers --- will cause division. Not everyone is going to be willing to eat with tax collectors and those known as sinners.
Not everyone is going to want to love the unlovable – address injustice – suspend judgement of others – and forgive those who have done them wrong.
Jesus message of love of God and neighbor WILL separate family and friends. For those who follow the truth – Jesus, who is the way the truth and the life – the truth will make us odd.
Now, as then, it is often easier to ignore the truth of the Gospel. Temptations to do that can surface as simply as this:
-Just go along with it, don’t make any waves.
-Those people live half-way around the world – why should I care about them?
-Don’t bother telling him why you are angry – he’s a jerk and won’t listen anyway.
- Let them spend our tax dollars on abortions, and executions, and fighter jets – there isn’t a thing we can do about it.
-Why not gossip at the card party – we’re only talking, we’re not hurting anyone.
-Let the kids play Dead Space and Mortal Combat – it will keep them quiet and give them something to do and certainly won’t harm them – they’re just games.
-Why shouldn’t I pick on him at recess – everyone else does.
-Sure I cut corners on getting the job done – how else am I supposed to make any money?
-Don’t give her credit for getting it done -- just let everyone think it was you who did it.
All of these statements reveal values that ignore the Gospel message of Jesus. And to challenge these values – would involve speaking a truth that counters the culture and demands commitment to the Gospel.
To challenge these values – means struggling to sort out the complexities we face daily – figuring out what Gospel truth requires – and then speaking and living that truth with compassion --- even IF it means a division between family members and friends. . .
For you see – Jesus never intends on those divisions lasting very long. For he also says in the Gospel:
If the same person sins against you 7 times 70 times – and asks for forgiveness – you must forgive them.
And he tells us to “do good to those who hate you and bless those who curse you.”
Compassion, forgiveness, understanding, and mercy – are all Gospel values. And the work of the Gospel always invites dialogue – to reconcile differences – so as to witness to the power of God’s healing love.
May we be blessed with the courage and the faith to do this – whatever the cost. Even if it does make us a little odd.
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