Aggravate does not mean to injure or start something hurtful, but rather to re-injure or pick at something already hurtful. To say that a person aggravates us means that there is already an existing ouchy.
In truth, life has supplied us all with scars, bumps and bruises about which we can lose contact until just that one word is spoken or one thing hurts our sense of self and we experience aggravation big time. Others might not know our history of hurts and so are surprised at our reactions; maybe we are as well.
As we walk toward our next Eucharistic gathering, we might pray with such physical and emotional reactions. We can pray with what scabs are being scraped, what memories are being tormented. From our earliest days our egos and our knees have been bloodied and when they are brought up again, we can pray for the healing which comes from and through a faith that leads through and, past the past. We come to the Eucharist with all that we are, some of which is not so pretty.
In the Book of Isaiah there are four poems or songs about a special “servant” of the Lord. In our First Reading for this liturgy we hear the Servant speaking about himself. He has been given a life’s mission of speaking as well as suffering. For both he is given the assurance that God will accompany him through it all.
After describing all the physical harm that will come to him, because of his being faithful to his call, he celebrates, boasts, of the fidelity of the calling God. At the end of the reading, there is a strong invitation to any who would be against him to come to court for resolution. God is faithful and the servant is prepared to trust him through it all.
When Jesus speaks to the disciples after putting Peter in his place, Jesus is using the “shame and honor” system of His times. Peter’s plan is about the honor of Jesus’ victory over the Romans whose domination is so shameful to the Jews. The “cross” is a perfect symbol of shame and yet Jesus invites His followers to embrace the “cross” and become losers for the sake of the gospel. Honor was both a personal goal and a collective necessity. Jesus is speaking to each of His followers and to the early Church as a group. Shame needed to be avoided both personally and culticly. Peter “rebuked” Jesus in terms of honor; Jesus spoke to Peter giving a new sense or definition of honor which still seems strange to us as it did to Peter and the disciples.
This is all more of the “upside-downedness” of Jesus’ ways. Honor was everything for the religious Jew; even more than it is for us today. We would love others to like us, but if they don’t, well that’s their problem. In Jesus’ time, to be looked down upon by others for your behavior or that of your family members or friends would be shameful. Lost honor would take lots of time to redress, but it would definitely have to be redeemed, often through violence. It is almost shameful to be human. We have some of this in our cultural and religious experience today.
The “cross” Jesus invites us to pick up and carry just might be the times of super-ego shame. Hearing aids are to be hidden, because perhaps they are a shameful sign of growing older. Teeth have to be straightened very early in a child’s life, because of the importance of “the smile”. This afternoon I went to the dentist for a root canal! Before the friendly and smiling torture-master drilled away a large part of my tooth, he and his assistant matched the color of the original surface with various shades of white. For your information, I am a C-2. My new tooth will be the exact same color as the others, because “the smile” is honorable and crooked or off-color would be a shame. How human it is and when there is discoloration or crookedness in our humanity, Jesus’ embrace of us and what can seem shameful, is allowing the cross to redeem our shame.
We don’t like to lose. Players hang their heads, some refuse to shake hands with their opponents, because losing is a negative description of the self. Jesus is telling His followers that He will look like a loser and so will they, but being faithful through it all will result in winning or “saving” their new kind of lives. Being people of the Gospel might cause some embarrassment. Not surrendering to negativity or paralysis, because of our not being perfect, and not letting what others think of us, just might be the call to the new honor and bring a smile to God’s face.
“O God, how much we value Your mercy! All mankind can gather under Your protection” Ps. 36, 8
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