Most of us love to see the movie villain get his or her comeuppance. There is a palpable sense of glee and satisfaction in the audience, sometimes even erupting into applause. Be honest: how many of us have fantasized about having our own enemy — whoever it might be — right where we want them? I think that is probably a common experience.
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Feb. 11 (Jeremiah 17:5-8; Psalm 1; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26)
Is trust in other people such a bad thing? Couldn’t our world use a bit more trust and less suspicion and cynicism? At first glance, the passage from Jeremiah seems to defy common sense. But if we read carefully, it is clear that trust is not the real issue. It is this: what is the source of your inspiration, power and strength?
Where do visionaries, reformers and prophets get their courage and perseverance? Their diaries and writings often reveal that they are quite ordinary people, with all the fears and weaknesses that are part of humanity. Many of them struggle with self-doubt, loneliness and fear. And yet they go on — they stand up for justice and compassion despite the opposition of the world and often their own co-religionists.
When Dave waved hello I thought, as usual, what a strong, friendly face he has. Today, those good looks were obscured by haggard gray gauntness, somewhat incongruous under the curly hair and jaunty boyish cap. He asked me how I was, flicked his cigarette, and nodded: "I'm OK. I'm back on drugs, but it's all good."
The readings from Isaiah and Luke illustrate the ambiguous attitude many people have towards the sacred and the holy. On the one hand, we claim that we yearn for God's presence, and we complain that God seems so distant. But on the other hand, we are petrified at the thought of an encounter with the divine or holy.
The Israelites were unaware how far they had strayed from the path of God. Although the prophets hammered at them unceasingly that their exile in Babylon was due to sin, their actual transgressions had perhaps remained unclear in their minds. But they are ignorant no longer, for the public recitation of the law has hit them hard.
Physical injuries can be easier to overcome than shame and disgrace, for the latter can cut deeply into the heart and soul. The people of Israel considered themselves disgraced before the nations: they had been abandoned or punished by their God and reduced to slavery.
We should not be dazzled or deceived by appearances, glamour or power. Great things and great people come from humble beginnings. This passage from Micah spoke to the people of the eighth century BC, who had suffered destruction and deportation.
Second Sunday of Advent (Year C) Dec. 10 (Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 126; Philippians 1:3-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6)
It is always a struggle to remember the past, for there are so many ways of remembering. We can remember with bitterness, anger, fear or even shame. This was probably the situation of the exiles in Babylon for whom this prophecy was given. The horror of the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation to Babylon was still a vivid memory. And then there was the sense of helplessness and degradation that results from being captives.
Some questions seem to be our companions for life. I used to think they would get answered and go away. Now I'm less surprised to hear people of 25, 35, 45, 75, asking what I'd thought was the proper concern of the 15-year-old: "What am I supposed to do with my life?"