Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Just One

By Colleen O’Sullivan

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright:  “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord.  To us he is the censure of our thoughts: merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways.  Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”  These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them, and they knew not the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.  (Wisdom 2:1a, 12-15, 21-22)

So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, “You know me and also know where I am from.  Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.  I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”  (John 7:28-29)

Many are the troubles of the just man, but out of them all the Lord delivers him.  (Psalm 34:20)

There’s a great deal of truth in the old saying “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”  Granted, 21st century Northern Virginia is vastly different from Alexandria, Egypt, in the first century B.C., when the Book of Wisdom is believed to have been penned.  The author’s head would spin if he could see the changes time has wrought: many more people in the world, clothing styles he could never have imagined, McMansions and high rises, cars, traffic on the Beltway, etc.  But after a while, I think he would say there’s one thing that never changes and that’s the human heart.

Let’s face it; our hearts are often fickle.  We profess our love for God, but our actions may reveal greater love for things other than the Lord.  The Scripture readings the first three Fridays of Lent have led us to self-examination with regard to worship of false gods, jealousy that can lead to bitterness and hatred, and the hypocrisy inherent in performing pious acts while holding onto anger toward our brothers and sisters.

Today we’re asked to consider our reaction to just and righteous persons.  You’d think we’d be drawn to them and would want to emulate them.  But this is where the Evil Spirit comes in.  Liking nothing better than twisting good into evil, the Evil One worms his way into our hearts and comes between us and what is good and of God.  Suddenly, that desire to be close is usurped by the fear that our own sins and failings will be magnified by contrast.   The Evil Spirit then works a little harder.  Now it seems like the only way to deal with the situation is to reject and put down what is good.

That’s exactly what we see going on in the Gospels.  Jesus is the human face of God.  Everything he does speaks of the mercy, compassion and kindness of his Father.  But those who know their lives don’t reflect that sort of love feel threatened.  They begin by putting him down, and they end by nailing him up on a Cross.  He’s gone.  They can feel good about themselves again.  At least for a few days, but that’s a story for another liturgical season.

We’ve never killed anyone, we say.  The writer of the Book of Wisdom exaggerates, we protest.  But when you think about it, any time we gossip about someone or demean them, we are killing them by degrees.  When we trash someone on Facebook or cyberbully them, we are responsible for a death of a sort. 
The flip side of this is how people react to us when we are following in Christ’s footsteps.  They may well despise us or think we are foolish.  In other parts of the world, they may literally kill us.

Take a few minutes to reflect on good and just people you know today.  What is your reaction to them?  What is the reaction of others?  

How do your family, friends or strangers react when you witness to your faith, whether through words or actions? 

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