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
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?