Wednesday, September 20, 2006

24th Wednesday in Ordinary Time (II)
Defense and Offence

Readings: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Psalm 33:2-3, 4-5, 12 and 22; Luke 7:31-35

The gospel passage of today reminds one of an axiom that many of us have probably heard before: the best defense is a good offence. Why do the men of this generation hurl abuse at John the Baptist – he is possessed – and Jesus – look, a glutton and a drunken, a friend of tax collectors and sinners? Isn’t their eagerness to give offense a way by which they hope to defend themselves against the implications of what John and Jesus have to say? Aren’t they denigrating the teachers to make it easier to reject the teachings and the radical change that those teachings imply? It doesn’t matter then whether the teacher appears austere – like John – or indulgent – like Jesus. They reject him all the same. The aim? To maintain the status quo. To resist change.

What might be a good defense against this offence? While this is not the place to give a teaching on the subject, it is useful to recall at least two points. First, resistance is a natural part of the spiritual life, and an opportunity for growth. Second, what might be a more effective way of dealing with resistance than either denial or a desperate exertion of raw will-power is a process that begins with becoming aware of the resistance and then bringing it to God in prayer. In the gospel isn’t Jesus hoping to begin this process by highlighting their resistance to the people concerned?

What is the aim of such a process, if not to allow God to gradually convince us of what we hear in the first reading today? Through this process, we are gradually brought to see that Paul’s description of love is really a description of what God is like. And this loving God is on our side, is worthy of our trust. Our feeling of being under threat is thus diffused. We also come to appreciate that our attempts at trying to maintain the status quo are misguided because the knowledge that (we) have is imperfect. Rather than the status quo we are trying to defend, there are really only three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

What is our experience of resistance? How do we deal with it?

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