|Memorial of Blessed Joseph Rubio,
Psalms 100:1-2, 3, 5
I remember when I was in High School I once watched a television show about a man who was against war. He got all these people excited about his mission and built a large organization to speak out against the war. Eventually people got tired and gave up on him and the mission. In the last scene of the movie the man is standing outside the capital with an anti-war poster all alone. Someone walks up to him and asks him in a chiding voice if he really thinks he is going to change the world. The man replies: ďNo, but I hope by doing this that the world is not going to change me.Ē
Early in my Jesuit career I received an equal scoff when someone found out that I was a Jesuit and chided me that I could not change the world. The movie popped right into my head and I gave the same answer. This was pretty uncharacteristic of me as most of my movie lines come from the Marx Brothers and W. C. Fields!
Now that Iím older and maybe perhaps a little bit wiser I look back on that great line and can both agree and disagree with it. I agree that itís good not to let the world change one but I also think it essential that we be changed by the world. Iím not sure if there is any semantic difference between those two statements so let me explain based on our Gospel reading today.
Jesus talks about his disciples being hated by the world and being selected out of the world and not being part of the world. Jesus here is speaking of the world that rejects faith, that persecutes belief that hates the good. But letís face it, Jesus did not start a monastic order of men who hid themselves from the world but was actively in the world, preaching, healing, eating, crying and engaging with relatives, friends, and even enemies.
Jesus did not give in to the world. He resisted the temptations in the desert. He did not run from evil but resisted it with his very life. He did not water down his message to make it fit the current ethos better. He did not try to fit the model of Messiah that people expected.
But Jesus was affected by the world and indeed changed by it. He was frequently moved with pity and compassion for the sick, for the crowds, for the widows, for sinners, for Jerusalem. This inner movement spurred him on to action, to heal, to forgive, to feed, to console.
So the gospel is not a call to abandon the world but to abandon the sinfulness that is in the world and that indeed is in us. If we are rejected or abandoned we must still stand as witnesses. When we are criticized we must learn from those criticisms in compassion and continue to be transformed. When we are wrong we must move to right. We cannot do this by cutting off the world but by continuing to seek our way in the world.
Ironically part of the sinfulness of the world today is that which demands complete perfection and overwhelming success. The world today is a place that would destroy imperfection, execute criminals, exile enemies, exclude the different. We as followers of Christ must speak a foolish word of embracing and reconciling imperfection, admitting our own flaws, and growing in grace. But after all, didnít Jesus seek out the sinners and the outcasts rather than become a complete success in the world. Everyone loves a winner, right? Jesus had to lose, to lose the very world in order to eventually win. He asks the same of us.
Oh, one more film quote. Groucho Marx once said ďI would never
join a club that would accept someone like me as a member.Ē Yet we
follow a Master who accepts anyone from the world as a disciple not because
of our perfection but because of His love.
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