Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Subversive Lord

25 Sunday  #134

Wis 2, 12, 17-20
Ps 54
Jas 3, 12-4,3
Mk 9, 30-37

September 23, 2102
Peter Maurin Farm
Marlboro, N.Y.

Deacon Tom Cornell

                    In last Sunday’s Gospel we heard Jesus predict his passion and death.  Peter objected.  Then Jesus rebuked Peter, “Get behind me you Satan; you are thinking as men do, not as God does.”  Today we hear Jesus predict his passion and death once again.  The chief priests and the scribes would betray him.  The disciples, who had been with him through his travels, didn’t know what to make of it!  How could that be?  What had Jesus done or said that would turn the Temple authorities against him so that they would turn him over to the Romans for execution?  He had cured the sick, cast out demons, he had done all things well, had made the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.  His words – they were the most sublime anyone had ever heard, or would ever hear, the Sermon on the Mount.  What was wrong with that?  Where is the crime in that?   

                   Plenty!  That’s the point.  The world teaches us to seek power, wealth, influence, control.  The Beatitudes, the whole Sermon on the Mount, turn the world upside down.   Jesus puts forward a little child in today’s reading.  Who welcomes a little child welcomes me, and not me but the one who sent me, God!  Power, wealth are not evil in themselves, they are in fact good if, and only if, they are used for the common good and the relief of suffering.  But how easily we fool ourselves, making necessities out of luxuries!

          In this story, the disciples are mirror images of ourselves.  They failed to see how Jesus was upsetting the apple-cart, until perhaps, he upset the tables of the money-changers and the merchants in the Temple precincts.  The Sanhedrin feared Jesus would bring down Rome on them so they handed him over.  So Rome had to take him down.  The Roman authorities were in fact very liberal in their administration of the provinces of their vast Empire.  They allowed conquered peoples to retain their own legal systems, their customs and religious rites insofar as they did not interfere with Rome’s ultimate control.  But at any sign, at any hint of insurrection or subversion, Rome came down hard and fast, ruthlessly, crucifying hundreds, thousands, to make any example of them.  

          Jesus knew his days were numbered.  His insight into the meaning of the kingdom of God made it clear to him how opposed it was to the kingdom of mammon. But it remained a mystery to his followers how anyone would not love Jesus as they did, even as they failed to grasp the depth of his meaning. 

          Their failures, their unwillingness to understand, prefigure the patterns of future generations of disciples over the ages, people just like you and me, slow to understand the radical message of Jesus, and slower yet to follow.  The Good News of Jesus Christ, the Gospel is subversive, subversive of every pattern and structure of oppression, domination, discrimination and war and the piling up of superfluous wealth when any of God’s children are starving.

           Jesus didn’t give up on the first disciples.  He won’t give up on us either.   Jesus teaches us to stand with the powerless, the marginalized and the disenfranchised rather than seek favor by catering to the rich and the powerful to feather our own nests. 

          They had to kill him.  But they couldn’t keep him dead!  “He rose again on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures.  …. His kingdom will have no end.”  It begins here and now, when we embrace that little child.  W

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