Our Need for the Patience and Goodness of Jesus

09-30-2018From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

When we don’t like people, we can usually find a reason to justify our thoughts. The current controversy of the process of investigating Judge Kavanaugh as a candidate for our Supreme Court is a clear example of that. One side is convinced that he is guilty of some kind of sexual indiscretion in his past, while those who support him are convinced that he is innocent. Where is the truth? That kind of situation is seen in today’s Gospel. The disciples complain to Jesus that someone who is not part of their tight-knit group is doing what they want to do, he is driving out demons in Jesus’ name. What is Jesus’ response? He simply says that anyone who is driving out demons in His name is doing good.

Jealousy has blinded His disciples to the healing and joy of those who had the demons driven out of them. What we have seen in today’s Gospel passage, as well as the ones from the past two Sundays, is Jesus dealing with the ignorance and closed minds of His disciples. In the Gospel two weeks ago, Jesus told His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem where He would be crucified. Peter’s response was, “God forbid!” Everything was seemingly going well at that point. Jesus’ response was, “Get behind me Satan, you are thinking as man does, not God.” Jesus did not chase Peter away nor did Peter walk away in shame or disappointment. We know that Peter would deny he knew Jesus when he was questioned about his association with Him during Jesus’ mockery of a trial before Pilate. Yet Jesus never gave up on Peter. In our day, Peter would probably be condemned as a loser. But Jesus did not respond as man does, He responded as God does. In that process, we once again have to be amazed at the patience, mercy, and love of Jesus. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8)

In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus once again spoke of His approaching arrest and crucifixion. The disciples did not question him. Instead, they started arguing among themselves as to who was the greatest among them. Jesus knew their conversation. He did not condemn them or give up on them, He simply told them that the greatest among them is the one who serves the rest. By placing a child in their midst He made His point ever more clearly. By doing good for a child you are doing good for someone who cannot repay you. That means you are doing good not to look good and be well thought of, but to truly enrich someone else simply to enrich them. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8)

Another inspiring example of Jesus raising someone from ignorance and antagonism toward Him is St. Paul. Perhaps today St. Paul would be classified as a terrorist. He sought out the followers of Jesus to imprison them. When St. Stephen was martyred the scriptures tell us: “They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him. The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:58) Yet years later St. Paul would be the one martyred for his faith in Jesus. What turned him around? He listened to the voice of Jesus and not only repented, he became a zealous disciple. We are part of the multitudes that have been enriched and strengthened by St. Paul’s letters. “While we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8)

Surely our world and country today need the patience and goodness of Jesus. We get so bogged down by what we do not like in others that we become angry, condemnatory, and divisive. The words ofJesus, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Luke 12:48) are skewed to say, “Much is required of the one I expect something from.” At times we are so far over the edge with our demands that we would not even accept Jesus. I remember at one point when we were evaluating candidates to be the principal of our school I said to the board, “You are so rigid with your concerns and demands that I do not think Jesus Himself would be an acceptable candidate.”

What is graciously life giving is the patience of Jesus with us. His outstretched arms nailed to the cross proclaim, in the midst of great pain and injustice, “I love you this much and much, much more than you can imagine.” What keeps us from not only experiencing this love but, even more importantly, being moved, inspired, and renewed by it? If you are reading this column you have probably come to Sunday Mass. That is one of the prime places to be fed by Jesus and His love and mercy. As we begin Mass we call to mind our sins and hear the words, “May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” We do not dwell on our sinfulness, but sincerely acknowledging where we have not been faithful, go on to be fed by the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The key is to be focused and attentive. Who among us does not want to hear, “I love you,” “You are precious to me,” “I give you myself,” “You can trust Me.” Jesus comes to us not to overpower us with demands or fear, but to fill us with His very self in the Eucharist. How good it is to take a few moments to thank Him when He is literally in our very bodies. Our purest response to those who love us is, “Thank you!”

Another solid way to experience the love of Jesus is to go to the Sacrament of Confession. His forgiveness humbles us with gratitude and inspires us to do what we pray in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The more we sincerely open our minds and hearts to God in the Sacraments, the more life giving the words of St. Paul: “While we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8)