A few retreat seasons ago, I gave a retreat talk about the sufferings of Jesus, and how they relate to our own sufferings. I not only mentioned the great physical pain and mental anguish that Jesus endured, but also some of the emotional distress He suffered as well. In our Gospel reading for today, we see how misunderstood Jesus was.
To the ones who are against Him, Jesus cannot do anything right. Even when He displays great power and compassion by driving out demons, they accuse Him by saying: “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” You have to really be against someone to think like that! But it is not only those who are against Him that do not understand Him. When Jesus’ relatives hear that the crowds have become so big that He can’t even eat, their conclusion is that He’s gone mad, and they decide to get Him and bring Him home. They don’t know what to make of Him, either. So when the crowds tell Jesus that His relatives are waiting to see Him, Jesus speaks about broadening the idea of who belongs in His family. And as I read between the lines, Jesus is also telling them He can’t go back home with them.
I think most of us know what it’s like to be misunderstood. It can be frustrating and downright hurtful. If I were in Jesus’ place, I would have lost my temper numerous times. But just as we understand what it means to be misunderstood, do we feel called to understand those who are “other?” In response to those who attribute His healing power to Satan, Jesus says: “Amen, I say to you, all sins and blasphemies that people utter will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of everlasting sin.” This can be jarring to our ears, especially when we remember Jesus’ words of forgiveness from the Cross. But I wonder if we find ourselves looking at the sins of others to see if they fall into the category of “everlasting sin,” rather than being cautious about how we sin. Are we too ready to see the sins of others as unforgiveable? And in our righteousness, then, do we see any effort to understand the “other,” (Pick your group here: Muslims, LGBTQ, people of color [especially NFL players], or from another side, Trump supporters and corporate executives, among others) as a waste of time? It is a lot easier to just look to blame someone else (Look at Adam and Eve in our first reading from Genesis).
At times it does seem futile to take the time to try to understand the other. Some people can’t be reasoned with, can they? They must be defeated, or even destroyed. Is that not the hard reality of our world? Maybe so. But it seems to me that Jesus is calling us to see with a lens other than worldly wisdom. I’m not talking about rose-colored glasses, or the lens of denial. Jesus invites us to see with His eyes: “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
In the hymn “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace,” based on the Prayer of St. Francis, the third verse says, “Oh Master, grant that I may never seek/ so much to be consoled as to console/ to be understood as to understand/ to be loved as to love with all my soul.” May that prayer come true for us, as “we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen.”
Fr. Phil, CP