October 11, 2021
by Tom Lenz
Creighton University's Department of Pharmacy Practice
click here for photo and information about the writer

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 467

Romans 1:1-7
Psalm 98:1bcde, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
Luke 11:29-32
Praying Ordinary Time

Today’s story in the Gospel of Luke seems to have many messages. And, I must admit, I read it a few times to see if I could wrap my arms around all that is there. But, as I continued to read and reflect on the messaging from Jesus, one particular part stood out that I did not pay any attention to during the first couple of reads. The first two words that Jesus is quoted as saying in today’s Gospel are, “This generation…” I think the reason this stands out is because he did not say, “You are evil, and seek a sign…” He says, “This generation is evil, and seeks a sign…” He does not call out individuals as evil or bad. Rather, he calls out something larger. He uses “This generation” as language to tell the people to wake up and look at the corporate, the system, the establishment, the bureaucracy, and the status quo. This is place to look for the disconnects between evil and good.

This message resonates with me because today’s culture (much like during Jesus’ time) tends to only focus on individual needs, wants, desires, outcomes, and achievements. But, at the same time we are so heavily influenced by our social structure and experiences in a way that doesn’t allow us to make the connections between our individualism and our collectivism. We tend to be so focused on our individual issues that we ignore “the system” issues that seem to drive our individual behaviors – and it seems to create a disconnect and confusion about good and evil. For example, it’s okay for democrats and republicans to disrespectfully berate each other, but it’s not okay for kids to do it on the playground. It’s justifiable for a country to send missile strikes into another country, but it’s bad when individual’s within the same country kill each other. It’s okay that institutions cover-up the immoral behavior of its members to protect “the brand”, but it’s bad when individuals steal, cheat, lie, and abuse each other. And, all citizens are expected to have national pride and respect the flag, but personal pride and vanity are criticized.

The messaging is confusing. It seems to be justifiable for the larger “system” to do evil, but not the individual. By addressing the crowd as “This generation” Jesus is asking them to pay attention to the “institutions” in which they as individual’s give permission to behave badly – and perhaps also asking them to reflect on how it influences their individual behaviors. He tells them that “no signs will be given” and also that “something greater” is going on here. It seems that Jesus is telling the crowd that they already have everything they need. Just wake up and see The Real as their guide, rather than the status quo they have become accustomed to following.

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