We live in uncertainty; economic, political and social conflicts leave us scrambling for some guarantee, or at least some lessened risk of disaster and failure. But our faith gives us one thing we can count on, the one thing we absolutely need. In good times and in bad, good health and sickness, celebration and grief, even when we are inattentive to God, careless about prayer, filled with self-love and indifferent to other people – we have always “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Even when most inattentive, careless and indifferent, I trust with this Epistle that nothing “will be able to separate us” from God’s ever-present Love.
In today’s Gospel, it seems to me that Jesus models exactly that faith, that trust in the Love of God ever-present to him. Warned that King Herod wishes him to be killed, Jesus refuses to be safe, to deny his mission. “I must continue on my way,” he asserts – and we know he does head towards death in Jerusalem – and his Resurrection, and our salvation. Jerusalem, the actual city, is the religious, political and cultural capital for Jesus in the first century, and I think the “unwilling” Jerusalem also represents our religious, political and cultural situations in the twenty-first century.
His other image of longing to gather us like a hen gathering her chicks resonates with an experience of my own. One evening my husband and I were walking in Big Lake Park, across the Missouri River from Omaha, enjoying the water, the sunset, and the geese and ducks around the lake. We watched a large female goose (yes, a Mother Goose!) and four small goslings cross the lawn and paved trail between the big lake and the smaller pond by the railroad tracks. Careful not to get between the powerful mother and her babies, we followed them as she headed into tall weeds. She picked her spot and lifted her wings so the four goslings could scoot underneath; she lowered her wings around them, completely sheltering them for the night. As children and parents ourselves, my husband and I were deeply stirred by the wild bird’s instinct to nurture and protect. Today I connect that memory with this Scripture and God’s loving care.
In this Gospel scene, I think that the Pharisees who tell Jesus to leave are ordinary, practical people of good position in their culture. Naturally they don’t want trouble, or anything that might disturb the status quo. But Jesus knows that he will soon transform the world. I am literally afraid that I would be with the Pharisees, wanting this trouble-making prophet to move on and go away, to avoid not only death for himself but also any significant change in my own life. Oh, I hope that’s not true for me, at least not entirely true! I hope that I want the changes, even the suffering, that the Cross of Christ has in store for me. Today and every day, I want to believe more and love better and to know always “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
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