Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday in the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time (I)
He Da Man!

Readings: Colossians 1:15-20; Psalms 100:1b-2, 3, 4, 5; Luke 5:33-39

It may just be a sign of having reached a certain age (sort of like when one starts needing reading glasses), but some time ago I began having trouble understanding some modern colloquial usages in the English language. For instance, take the phrase You da man! Or another variation: You da main man! What does it mean? Is it meant to be derogatory or a compliment? According to Wikipedia, while the term the man can be used with both good and bad connotations, in more modern usage, it can be a superlative compliment indicating that the subject is currently standing out amongst his peers even though they have (sic) no special designation or rank...

We preface our reflection today with this brief note on slang, because the phrase in question summarizes very aptly what today's readings are all about. As we have had occasion to note in the past, our daily existence in this world can be filled with much struggle. Whereas we seek tranquility and peace, we often find only pain and suffering. And, especially for us who profess belief in a God who is all-powerful and all-loving, these experiences provoke the painful and angst-filled question: why?! Why does God allow these things to happen? Various answers are possible, answers which can then become the different ways we use to cope with painful reality.

If, for example, we believe that the fault lies in us, that we suffer because we have been bad, then we may cope with the pain by remaining in a perpetual state of guilt. And we may try our best to do things to assuage our guilt, to purify ourselves, to make ourselves more worthy of God's love. Like the scribes and Pharisees of today's gospel, our whole spiritual life can centre around the pious practices -- including prayer and fasting -- that we undertake to achieve this. Or, we may also react by trying not to think too deeply, but just to focus on getting on with our lives, on moving continually from one task to another. Different though they may be, these responses are similar in that, in each of them, the focus remains only on us and on our own efforts.

But our readings today offer a radically different approach. They remind us that to the question why?! God really only offers one answer. Ultimately, for us who are Christian, Jesus is the only adequate response -- God's response -- to all the difficulties that beset us, all the questions that trouble us. For, in the beautiful words of the letter to the Colossians, in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the Blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

If this is true, then the Christian's first reaction to the questions that this world might provoke in us is to look to Jesus, da man. And can we not but be reminded here of that poignant scene in John 19:5? After Jesus has been scourged and mocked, Pontius Pilate exhorts the onlookers in these words: ecce homo (behold the man!). Are our readings not inviting us to do the same? Do they not invite us, in good times and in bad, to continually gaze upon Jesus, to contemplate his life, death and rising? Instead of letting Jesus be only a peripheral concern in our life, like a piece of scrap sown onto patchwork quilt, are we not being exhorted to acknowledge Jesus as da main man, the bridegroom, the one who makes all things new (see Rev. 21:5)?

How might we continue to allow Jesus to be da man for us today?

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