Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday in the 15th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Submitting to the Scan

Readings: Isaiah 1:10-17; Psalms 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23; Matthew 10:34-11:1
Picture: CC MacRonin47

Let’s suppose there’s a person who consults a doctor for some mild physical discomfort. The doctor is concerned and advises him to go for a scan of some sort. The person is reluctant. Apart from the slight discomfort, he’s actually feeling fit as a fiddle. But the doctor insists. So he goes and, sure enough, the scan uncovers something serious. An operation is scheduled. Now the person is really anxious and upset. His earlier calm is shattered. Thankfully, however, the disease is detected early. The operation is successful. And the person is restored to health.

A situation such as this is not uncommon. And it may help us to get a deeper insight into Jesus’ shocking words in the gospel today. Contrary to all our expectations – as well as those of his listeners – Jesus proclaims: It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword… Yet we also know that in another place Jesus tells his disciples: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you… (John 14:27). In order to reconcile this apparent discrepancy, it may help to recognize that in that last passage, Jesus also says that the peace he brings is not as the world gives. The peace that the world can offer is often that of a superficial kind, an absence of conflict that is the result of ignoring, or even deliberately denying, the difficulties and differences that may be present. Like that person we spoke about earlier, we may experience discomfort, but we prefer not to pay any attention to it.

In such situations, Jesus’ presence, his words and his activities, act as a kind of scan, which uncovers the dust and debris that we may have swept under the carpet. And when that happens, the apparent calm that was there at first is shattered. Anguish and anxiety, as well as other negative emotions, may be experienced, but only as a necessary step towards a deeper reconciliation, a more lasting peace.

What Jesus the Physician does in the gospel, Isaiah the prophet does in the first reading. Here, on the surface, the people appear pious and at peace with God. They carefully observe the various feast-days, offering prayers and sacrifices in the Temple. But the prophet scans their hearts and their lives and finds serious inconsistencies. He shatters the calm of their complacency and arrogance by proclaiming: Your hands are covered with blood… For although their religious rites may be pious, their business practices are exploitative. They ignore the cry of the oppressed, the needs of the orphan, the plea of the widow. Their outward show of good spiritual health is illusory. Their illness is serious. An operation is needed.

And what about us? How truly peaceful are our relationships? How truly just are our business practices? What lies beneath the surface calm of our lives?

What might a scan uncover in us today?

1 comment:

  1. Yesterday's Straits Times carried a report of a new Customs non-contact full body scanner for air travellers who prefer not to be pat down. The scan shows up every minute detail, anatomical or inanimate.

    As Catholics, we have the Sacramental Scan called Reconciliation but while I understand the merits of the Sacrament, I have difficulty submitting to the scan. I guess my problem lies in being a passive participant in the procedure. In MRI scans, the physician and technician do all that is necessary to set up the machine and to settle the patient down in position. You only have to lie still in what must be the most uncomfortable 15 to 30 minutes of your life. In the Sacramental Scan, you are in charge. Gulp.

    To me, the most poignant and indicting scan is by the Divine Scanner Himself. When the Holy Spirit scours the inner-most depths of our being, nothing escapes His attention. Like the new airport scanner, every minute detail shows up - and we can see them for ourselves!!! For a well-formed Christian conscience, there are no if's and but's, just silent mea culpa's.


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