Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
November 21st, 2008

Roc O'Connor, S.J.

Rector and Jesuit Community
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

Does the gospel selection for today rule out the sorts of sales events that crop up in the vestibules or gathering spaces of many parishes today? Are the local Girl or Boy Scout troops damned for selling Christmas trees or magazines or candy? Do the Knights of Columbus risk eternal damnation for selling tickets to their auction or pancake breakfast? And, what are we to say about Bingo!

It seems to me that Jesus speaks to you and me through the words of Luke about the mystery of self-defense. Why self-defense? I want to suggest that self-defense differs from the usual suspect, “selfishness.” Self-defense, as I understand it, not only precedes selfishness, but also flies under our radar, leaving it operative yet unnoticed.

Self-defense describes our capacity, our skill, at warding off whatever information, facts, details, or even truth that we don’t want. Notice how the Lucan passage fulfills what the prophet Malachi said,

Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me; and suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner's fire, or like the fuller's lye. He will sit refining and purifying (silver), and he will purify the sons [and daughters] of Levi, Refining them like gold or like silver that they may offer due sacrifice to the LORD.

Does it seem like the chief priests, scribes, and leaders of the people respond appropriately to the cleansing of the Temple? Does their intent to kill Jesus seem fitting?

No, not unless we keep in mind how the passage from Malachi sets the context for Jesus’ action. Part of what’s at stake is the claim that “the LORD” comes to the Temple. The chief priests, scribes, and leaders of the people were strict monotheists.

But, I think, more than that. It seems to me that the threat to these leaders of “being purified” could be enough to draw forth their “inner guardian” who threatens murder in order to defend his/her turf. So, please consider for a moment: To what lengths will you go to defend against purification?

Here’s a hard thing to consider. Sorry.

We stress service and justice here at Creighton University. Part of that involves asking students and colleagues to “see Christ in others.” And people report how consoled they are when they see Christ in helping others. This is good.

I also wonder…

I wonder whether we can see Christ in those whom you and I crucify by words, attitudes, or unobserved deeds. (Ouch!) Can we see Christ in those we persecute or want to threaten with death (implicitly or explicitly).

I’m writing this the day after the national election. But, think back to the day before the election about attitudes toward the opposition, attitudes often based in self-defense. See Christ?

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