Many insights can perhaps be drawn from this text. Certainly insights about Jesus and his ministry and insights into the ministry of the baptized who, in union with Jesus, are filled with the Spirit of God to announce good news to the poor and to set captives free. But one that struck me today was the importance of not closing off the possibility of God using any messenger God selects to speak the Divine desire to our hearts. It is a classic ploy of literature to use the least likely messenger to communicate the most urgent message of grace. But if our hearts are closed to the messenger – convinced that he or she is stupid, ordinary or just plain wrong headed – we may miss the power and goodness of the message.
I recall vividly working with a young priest when I was also quite a bit younger. This newly ordained gentleman had both a newly minted academic degree and the oils of ordination were barely dried on his hands and head. Further he seemed to me to act in a manner that could fairly be described as arrogant. The truth is, he could most likely have said the same about me, but I didn’t have as clear a sight of the plank in my eye as I did the splinter in his. Our working relationship was a bit challenging to say the least. At the time we were preparing parish workshops together and discussing the content and who would present what. In this context he spoke one day about the understanding that he had of the power of Jesus’ resurrection. I do not remember what he said, or even what we were talking about beyond that sort of general topic – but I do remember the jolt of lightening-like grace of insight that I received that very nearly knocked me over. It was a theological insight so powerful and so simple. And I had been straining toward this wisdom, without knowing what it was I was yearning to understand. All kinds of connections fit together and made sense of what had been seemingly random fragments of data. I recognized it vaguely at the time as a Fourth Week grace of the Spiritual Exercises – a deep appreciation of the Resurrection as it transfigures everything else.
It was not until a couple of days later that I acknowledged to myself that his “authority” was a great grace for me – and my attitude toward him changed significantly. It taught me a great deal about Paul’s insight that the Spirit prays within us even when we don’t know what to pray for, and it taught me to appreciate the prophet from the local community – who won’t be adequately appreciated by his own. That day, the Spirit of the Lord was upon the last person I wanted to hear from, and the first person I needed to hear from – and they were one and the same. Somehow, since I have had the grace to remember this event, I suspect that I am not now listening to someone I should be paying more attention to. Hmm . . . just who is it that is annoying these days . . . .?
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