Friday, January 19, 2007

Saturday in the 2nd Week of Ordinary Time (I)
The Passion of Christ

Readings: Hebrews 9:2-3, 11-14; Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Mark 3:20-21

It’s probably quite clear to most of us that religious fanatics have given and continue to give religion a bad name. We continue to be saddened and distressed by the almost daily news reports of the handiwork of jihadists and suicide-bombers, even as we smile with a mixture of pity and irritation at the bible-thumping Christian who might occasionally accost us in school or on the street.

And we may well congratulate ourselves for not being fanatics. No, we are far more level-headed, prudent and moderate in the ways in which we express our faith. We’re far more respectful of others. We don’t wear our religion on our sleeves. We’re not crazy like some others are. We have far better things to do with our time. There’s no danger of people thinking of us as over-zealous, let alone fanatical. And that’s a good thing, right?

Perhaps. And yet, do we not also have to be cautious not to slide too far towards the other extreme? Do we not need to avoid simply going through the motions of our faith, professing a pale and bloodless Christianity that never ruffles any feathers? After all, is it really possible to live an authentic Christian life without passion? On the contrary, isn’t it written somewhere in the bible that God will spit us out of his mouth if we are lukewarm (see Revelations 3:16)?

But surely Jesus was no fanatic, was he? Probably not in the way we might think. And yet, in the very brief gospel passage of today, we are reminded that Jesus was so taken up by his ministry that his family actually thought he was out of his mind. Indeed, Jesus was nothing if not passionate about fulfilling the mission for which he had been sent. It was this Spirit-inspired passion that saw him walking resolutely on the road to his passion, death and resurrection. It was this same passion which saw him penetrating the veil of which the first reading speaks, bringing with him his very own blood, passionately poured out for the salvation of us all.

Obviously, especially in the highly volatile climate of our day, we need to be extra vigilant against even the tiniest hint of fanaticism. We need to go out of our way to respect the beliefs of others. Inter-religious understanding, dialogue and collaboration require our closest attention. But can we really achieve all this by being indifferent to our own faith and its implications for our lives? Or rather is it not only to the extent that we are passionate as Jesus was passionate that we can find the motivation and the guidance that we need to combat the scourge of fanaticism?
How is our Lord leading us through the veil of his passion today?

1 comment:

  1. The line between fanaticism and resolve is fine and often blurred. I mean, when does resolve morph into fanaticism? It is really hard to tell. I will hazard a guess.

    Jesus was resolute in His mission on earth and His obedience to the Father and yet, he was careful to balance this overriding pre-occupation with the welfare of those He met. Never did He put the individual at risk at the expense of the Kingdom. To Jesus, the person was paramount and in His divine wisdom, He knew that all things work for the good of those who hope. He also saw the inherent goodness in everyone, Jew or Samaritan or gentile.

    The polar opposite of resolve is indifference. It is a malaise that afflicts society today, both within and outside the Church. If you ask me, it is even worse than being fanatical because at least the fanatic believes sincerely in his/her cause, misguided though he/she may be. Why are some people more prone to this disease than others? At the risk of pontificating, allow me to offer a few possible reasons. They take things for granted. This, we all know, is a slippery road to calamity, especially in inter-personal relationships. Their hearts and minds are numbed by worries and the attractions (distractions) of the world. Their eyes are not open to the wonders and workings of God in the world around them, indeed in their very own lives. Being able to see with the eyes of faith requires a whole new attitude fortified by grace.

    Lord Jesus, increase our faith and resolve.