Sunday, October 18, 2020

Avoiding The High-Beam

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

(World Mission Sunday)

Readings: Isaiah 45:1,4-6; Psalm 95(96):1,3-5,7-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21

Picture: cc Rafiq Sarlie

My dear friends, do you know what you’re supposed to do, if you happen to be driving at night, and find yourself blinded by the high-beam headlights of an oncoming vehicle? Although the temptation is great to do so, the Highway Code suggests that you do not try to teach the inconsiderate driver a lesson by switching to high-beam yourself. Instead, the advice is to slow down, to turn your eyes away from the annoying lights in front of you, and to look instead at the kerb on the left. With the kerb as a guide, you can better keep safely to your own lane, and avoid an unnecessary collision.

I wonder if Jesus might not be doing something similar in the gospel today, to avoid falling into the trap that his enemies have set for him. The Pharisees and Herodians tempt him to say in public something that is possibly in the minds and mouths of many people at the time. They want him to advocate refusing to pay taxes to Rome. By doing this, Jesus would be acting like some leaders do, even in our world today. He would be setting popular power on a collision course with political power, and with explosive results.

But Jesus manages to resist this deadly temptation. Instead of being dazzled by the prospect of increasing his own popularity, he chooses to be guided instead by the truth. And the truth is that even a foreign power can have a place in God’s plan. Just as God can anoint the Persian king Cyrus to work for the benefit of the people, so too might God be using Caesar for the same purpose. Which is not to say that religious leaders should not speak out against unjust public policies. It’s just that we need to be clear that we’re doing it at the proper time and place, and for the right reasons.

By responding as he does, Jesus demonstrates the very thing that St Paul tells the Thessalonians in the second reading. The Good News that they have received – the same Good News we are gathered here to celebrate – is not just a matter of words to be bandied about. It is rather a power to be wielded in the Holy Spirit. A power that gives people both the brain and the backbone to avoid the trap of populism. A power that enables us to keep our eyes firmly focused on the Truth. Giving us the insight and courage, especially in times of crisis, to keep building bridges, rather than to erect walls.

And isn’t this the kind of power that needs to be wielded by leaders today? Not just in the national governments of our world, but also in homes and workplaces, in communities and parishes as well? Don’t we need leaders who are willing and able to do more than simply to say whatever different groups of people may want to hear? Pitting each one against the other for the leader’s own benefit? Don’t we need leaders who can, instead, do what we asked God to help us to do in the opening prayer just now? To always conform our will to yours and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart. Isn’t it also part of our mission to exercise and cultivate such leadership?

Sisters and brothers, as we celebrate World Mission Sunday, are there perhaps some blinding headlights in your life that you may need to deal with today?

No comments:

Post a Comment