We pray this week with a man in conflict, not within himself but with those who hear him as new and different. The Pharisees and their scribes, as the religious leaders of their times, were being faithful to their ancient and well lived traditions. They were well trained in their scriptures and the art of searching them for their depth of wisdom and meaning. Jesus rises from the same religious traditions and enters the discussions with the Pharisees with a new way of interpreting those same scriptures. Jesus is seen as a rebel and a disturber of the people. It is their fidelity’s meeting that personal fidelity of Jesus that causes the tensions that lead so frequently to Jesus’ being confronted in the pages of the Gospels.
We could easily pray with such opposition to Jesus’ teachings in our own lives. During these past weeks we have prayed with the history of our resistance to his ways. This ongoing tension between our ways and his will always form the drama of our own following of him.
This week, it is more appropriate, however, to pray with Jesus as a peaceful and self-accepting man of God. Ignatius moves us to contemplate the freedom that Jesus possesses stemming from his having heard and having believed who he is in the eyes of his heavenly Father. He knows who he is and he knows too the holiness of the ancient traditions and practices that his teachings build on, yet challenge. We are watching and listening to a person of fidelity both to himself and to his conflicts.
He is free to hear the arguments against him and his ways. He desires the engagements with his opponents as he was eager to engage the sick and needy around him. Fidelity is not being stubborn. Jesus fearlessly stays open to the dialogue and even to the threats. Rather, the word is passionate. For Ignatius, the word passionate means a fiery openness to whatever is offered. We consider this man of passion, of intense, open-hearted, open-handed availability for him to be reverenced as well as offended.
In watching and listening to Jesus this week, we ask God for that kind of self-acceptance that frees us from both the inner conflicts and the fears of being rejected by those who may fear us and our freedom. Self-acceptance is more than a psychological conclusion. We are invited to accept the created, the redeemed, and the blessed and sent self who has found acceptance in Christ. In this sense and in the eyes of the world, we too, then, would join Jesus in being new and different, rebellious, and a disturber to our culture as he was to his.