Reflection for Monday, March 22, 2004: 4th week in Lent.
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Rodriguez, Luis, S.J.
There are several gospel passages, where Jesus -who "is not yes and no" [2Cor. 1:19]- appears to be saying NO and YES at the same time. At Cana [Jn. 2:1-10] Jesus tells his mother "my hour has not yet come" -read NO, but then he changes the water into wine -clearly YES. When a gentile woman [Mt. 15:21-28] asks Jesus to heal her daughter, he tells her that he has been sent "only to the lost sheep of Israel" -read NO, but then he tells her "Let your desire be granted" -clearly YES. Right after the Transfiguration [Mt. 17:14-18], as a father asks him to heal his son, he tells everyone present "Faithless and perverse generation! ...How much longer must I put up with you?" -read NO, yet right away he continues "Bring him to me" and he heals the boy -clearly YES. Today, as a royal official pleads for his dying child, Jesus tells him "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe" -read NO, but then he tells the persistent father "You may go; your son will live" -clearly YES. It seems like there is a tension between Jesus' head that spontaneously needs to make the right statement of principle and his heart that cannot resist helping those in need. In the end his heart carries the day. As Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked, "what you do speaks so loudly, it doesn't let me hear what you say." For myself Jesus' clear yes does not let me hear his apparent no.|In our experience there is often a parallel tension, a tension between what we feel or say on a first impulse (our "gut reaction") and what we end up doing on reflection. I think this is what Jesus was addressing in the parable of the two sons asked to go to work in the vineyard [Mt. 21:28-32]. The son who said "Yes, sir!" never showed up at the vineyard, while the son who said "No way!" did go the vineyard. As we know, Jesus praised the latter. I am afraid that at times we judge ourselves too harshly, as we detect within ourselves "gut reactions" of antipathy, of reluctance, of an urge to get even with someone. Such reactions are really pre-moral. It is what we do with them, once we recognize them, that has moral import. Our intentional deeds should not let us hear what our unreflective spontaneous reactions are saying.|In one of the Jesuit communities where I lived quite a few years ago Brother Marcos was in charge of the laundry and clothing. If you ever asked him for something, he would invariably "bark" at you with all sorts of objections and complaints and then, also invariably, he would do punctually everything you had asked him to do for you and he would even do it with a sheepish smile on his face. One day another Jesuit brother, Brother Mateos, told him wittily: "Marcos, you have neither a good word nor a bad deed." Brother Marcos' deeds never allowed us to hear his words. I can certainly live with people like him.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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