Just before the beginning of today’s gospel reading Jesus had healed a man with a withered hand and this on a Sabbath. So the Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. Not a very good basis for a rational discussion with them and so, when Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place.
Paraphrasing Eccl. 3:1-8, “there is a time to confront and a time to abstain from confrontation”. Indeed it takes two to argue and Jesus was not willing to be drawn into arguing, not at that time. It was certainly a decision of prudence, but there was more than just prudence to that decision. It revealed also a preferential option on his side. Although Jesus knew how to confront and had more than once engaged in that, it was not his preferred approach. Matthew highlights this by quoting Isaiah’ first Servant Song [42:1-14]: Behold my Servant, whom I have chosen... he will not contend or cry out... a bruised reed he will not break...
There is an uncanny similarity between Isaiah’s words and the words we hear before communion: Behold my Servant... seems to be echoed in Behold the Lamb... Certainly the paschal lamb, but also the non-violent lamb presented in Isaiah’s fourth Servant Song [53:7]: ...like a lamb led to slaughter... he was silent and opened not his mouth... The non-violent Jesus of the passion. A few days ago we heard in the gospel reading: Learn from me... that I am gentle and humble of heart.
We live in a violent society: the massacre at the Sandy Hook school, the marathon bombing in Boston and the ten year captivity and abuse of three women in Cleveland are all too fresh in our memories. All too often, violence ends up begetting more violence. We need to proclaim non-violently the non-violent Lord’s message and also to recognize the absence of a basis for a rational discussion, when such is the case.
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