Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday in the 9th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Square Peg Round Hole

Readings: 2 Timothy 3:10-17; Psalms 119:157, 160, 161, 165, 166, 168; Mark 12:35-37

Picture: CC Queen Kaughan

In a foreign language class, the teacher divided the students into groups and asked them to draw up lists of occupations using the letters of the alphabet. One of the groups had a little difficulty with the letter Q. So they made up a word that stumped even the teacher. What does this mean? Jellyfish doctor. And what is that? Err… someone who treats sick jellyfish? Everyone had a good laugh. Part of the reason for the amusement is, of course, the fact that there is no such thing as a jellyfish doctor. Indeed, if someone were truly to have such an ambition, s/he is likely to face not just friendly laughter, but even ridicule. And this likelihood results from the particular way in which we usually go about choosing a career. The process is something like trying to fit a peg into a hole of the right shape. We look around for a shape that resembles our own and then we try to fit ourselves into it. But what happens if we don’t quite fit into any of the existing slots? What happens if, in a world that recognizes veterinarians and marine biologists and undersea explorers, someone decides to embrace the rather specialized vocation of a doctor of jellyfish? Probably something needs to be done to make another opening of the right shape.

This seems to be what Jesus is doing in the gospel today. The passage is one that even the experts find puzzling. In it, Jesus seems to deny his identity as a descendant, a son, of King David. And this flies in the face of what the rest of the New Testament recognizes to be true. So which is it? Is Jesus or is he not a son of David? Perhaps there is another possible answer aside from yes and no. To accept the title of Son of David would likely have meant that Jesus had also to accept the expectations that came along with it. Restoring the earthly kingdom of Judah/ Israel might have been one of these. But Jesus was not that sort of king. Son of David or not, he was of a different shape from the various holes into which people would have liked to slot him. And he resisted their efforts. It was as though he wanted to be a jellyfish doctor. And he paid the price for it.

In like manner, we who profess to follow Christ are also called to resist being forced into holes that do not fit. In a world in which violence and retaliation still prevails, we are called to love even our enemies. Among many whose concern rarely goes beyond the self and perhaps a small circle of immediate family and like-minded friends, we are challenged to let our lives revolve around God and the service of others. Whereas some may focus their efforts on the anxious accumulation of, and clinging to, resources of different kinds, we find ourselves invited to continually learn to let go. Like the One we profess to follow, we are also called to be, in a sense, jellyfish doctors in the world today. And we too will likely have to pay a price. In the ominous words of the first reading: anybody who tries to live in devotion to Christ is certain to be attacked…

To choose to be a jellyfish doctor in the world today is likely to invite misunderstanding and ridicule, contempt and opposition. But that is a price that we dare not withhold. To do so would be to betray our very own identity as sons and daughters of a loving Father. What is necessary is for us to examine how we choose our careers – the ways in which we live our lives – in this world. In addition to carefully considering the available slots into which we might fit, it is imperative that we also remain conscious of the identity, the particular shape, of the One whom we profess to follow. For it is only by remaining in touch with him that we can find the courage to resist being forced into slots of the wrong shape.

How are we being invited to be jellyfish doctors in the world today?


  1. How are we being invited to be jellyfish doctors in the world today?

    I really wonder how indeed! In a world inhabited by narrow-minded people, someone who wants to be a jellyfish doctor could well be considered mad!

    That was exactly what Jesus' relatives and the scribes thought of him (Mark 3:21-22):

    "When his relatives heard of this (that he appointed twelve to be with him and to send forth to preach and drive out demons), they set out to seize him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'

    "The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said, 'He is possessed by Beelzebul,' and 'By the prince of demons he drives out demons.' "

    Does this mean that we are to continue to be bold in being true to ourselves and be ready to be crucified like Jesus? :-p

  2. Hi, Fr Chris. The title of this post says, "Thursday in the 9th Week of Ordinary Time (II)". Shouldn't it be "Friday in the 9th Week of Ordinary Time (II)"?

  3. Oops... Thanks, for pointing that out, Anonymous. :)


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