Friday, April 11, 2008
Friday in the 3rd Week of Easter
Blinded Unto Revolution
Readings: Acts 9:1-20; Psalm 117:1bc, 2; John 6:52-59
Picture: CC Meffi
There was a time when people believed that the earth was flat, just as there was a time when the earth was thought to be the center of the universe around which all other heavenly bodies revolved. How did we come to believe differently? In his classic but controversial book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), the late historian and philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn describes the process in terms of what he calls paradigm shifts. A prevailing theory, used to explain the way things are, becomes more and more inadequate. There is then a sudden shift to another theory, another paradigm or way of looking at the world, which explains things better. The idea, for example, that the earth is the center of the universe is replaced by one favoring the sun. Of course, not everyone will welcome this radical change of perspective. Some will continue to cling stubbornly to the former theory, however inadequate. Indeed, Kuhn himself seemed to think that scientific revolutions could take place only when those who subscribed to the old theory died out and were replaced by those who preferred the new.
So much for the field of science. But aren’t there also similar revolutions to be negotiated in the realm of the spirit, paradigm shifts that we know as conversions? And don’t we see some of these taking place in our readings today? In the gospel, Jesus continues to present a radically provocative and scandalous teaching: unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you shall not have life within you… Even to begin to comprehend this shocking teaching, let alone to put it into practice, requires that Jesus’ listeners first put into question their prevailing understandings of flesh and blood, of nourishment and life.
And is the revolution that is taking place in the life of Saul in the first reading any less radical? At one moment, he is mounted on a horse, zealously upholding the law, fearlessly fighting on the side of God, or so he thinks. Then, in a blinding flash, he is lying in the dust, accused of persecuting the One who is the embodiment of the law, the Son of God himself. And what of Ananias? Isn’t he also being asked to negotiate a paradigm shift of sorts? To the dangerous demon from whom he and his fellow Christians are anxious to flee, he is sent as a ministering angel. Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine…
How, if at all, might such spiritual revolutions, such pastoral paradigm shifts, truly be negotiated? Unlike Kuhn, our readings don’t seem to require that we wait for some people to die and be replaced by others. But they do call for a dying of a different sort. To negotiate the revolution, to undergo the conversion, to which they are called, Jesus’ listeners must first die to their prevailing prejudices regarding who Jesus is and what he says. And, even if to different degrees, both Saul and Ananias must forsake their respective understandings of where God is to be found. Part of this dying process will involve a willingness to submit to being blinded, if only for a time, and to entrusting oneself into the guiding hands of Another.
What revolutions are we being invited to negotiate today?
Posted by Fr Chris at 9:50 am