Monday, February 01, 2010

Love means being willing to speak the hard truths

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ

Grace and Peace in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in the prophetic power of the Spirit be with you. This Sunday’s gospel is a continuation on last Sunday’s gospel. Last Week, Jesus walked into his hometown and went immediately to the synagogue. He reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” As Jesus sat down to preach, he gave one of the shortest homilies in the history of organized religion, “Today, this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” This Sunday’s Gospel starts right up from that point and focuses on what happens next in the Synagogue.

It reminded me of a somewhat popular show on television now, especially popular among social scientists. The show is called “Intervention” and the premise of the show is that someone has become so addicted to some substance that they need their friends and family members to intervene for them in order to get them so they aren’t addicted. I’ve actually only seen one episode of this show involving someone hooked on huffing aerosol from computer dusting cans. One of the things they did on the show was show you just how addiction changes a person. The addict in the show I watched was a good student who seemed to have her whole life together until she got addicted to this drug. Then, it changed her. She let her whole life revolve around looking for the cans of aerosol and it affected her appearance, attention, speech and every other part of her life. It was hard for me to believe that it took the friends and family of this beautiful woman created in the image and likeness of God so long to do this, that they watched her spiral downward so that she was begging for food until they actually had the intervention.

Jesus in the Temple sort of has to do an intervention for the people there. His fame has spread everywhere as a miracle worker and, as he gets home, he probably thinks that he can start to tell them the central core of why he’s really there. He even goes to the heart of local religion, the synagogue, to do this. But, instead of being surrounded by serious religious folk who wanted to know what was really going on, instead of hearing the same faith statement that Simon Peter would eventually make, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Most High”, they turn to him to keep doing the healings and mighty acts that he has already done. And, when he tells them that he won’t, they get angry and threaten to kill him. Yet, Jesus was trying to tell them about how he had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy by doing those healings, not just keep doing them.

There are times in our lives when we have to speak hard truths to people who would rather just have a good time, times of intervention. And, it’s much easier to just ignore these times and pretend that nothing is wrong. But, when we were baptized, we became part of the body of Christ and were called to be a prophet for the world. The prophetic role is first and foremost one of love, the love that Paul was talking about in the second reading today. It’s a love that is willing to tell a friend that he can’t hit his girlfriend. It’s a love that is willing to tell someone who has had too much to drink that she shouldn’t drive. And it’s a love that asks for the help of counselors, family, and friends when someone is addicted to drugs and alcohol. It’s not easy and, as we saw in the gospel, we can probably expect anger on the part of the person who needs the intervention. But, to paraphrase what St. Paul said in that second reading; When we were children, we used to talk like children, think like children, reason like children; when we became adults, we put aside childish things. Part of being an adult, part of being a prophet is being willing to lovingly help someone whose life is out of control.