Rejection and Persistence to Love

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The WORD in Other Words (2022) by Fr Eduardo Guarin SVD (Villa Cristo Rey, CKMS, Quezon City)

Thursday 30th Week in Ordinary Time

Image source: Wikimedia Commons, Christ Carrying the Cross

The picture that comes to mind after reading the Gospel is Jesus’ rejection. It’s not quite inevitable, but almost so. The ego—particularly the collective ego—is largely fictional, but it has a terrible clinging power; it is deeply entrenched, and it survives two opposing techniques: clinging and rejection. We give ourselves a sense of existence when we cling to what makes us feel strong and reject everything else.

Love is the opposite; in love we give up our controlling power and find ourselves at one with things and people. The ego doesn’t know how to love. When we lose ourselves in something, we step, even if only for a moment, beyond the grip of ego. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of love, and it is hard to attain. It is not hard in itself —it is a gift freely given—but it is hard because of the ego’s tenacious grip.

The Pharisees had a piece of advice for Jesus: quit! Herod wants to kill you, they told him. It is debated whether the warning was sincere or a ruse to get Jesus out of the area. Whether or not their advice was sincere, Jesus was not for quitting. He was not clinging to anything, not even to his own life, so he had no fear of Herod. He would stay in Jerusalem. Prophets perish in Jerusalem—that was the lesson of history—and his ministry would continue to the death.

A bible scholar writes: “But even though Jesus is headed for death, the tragedy is not his. It is Israel’s.” Notice the intense prophetic lament of Jesus, who cried out for the nation and its capital city: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…” Its life story had been to stone and kill the prophets.

Speaking for God and using the first person, Jesus reiterated how God has longed “to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.” (Luke 13, 24) Here is a tender portrait of God’s mothering love. God has desired to love and protect his people. However, in their rejection of Jesus, the Jewish nation suffered dispersal, another exile, at the hands of Rome.

All this can have a vivid symbolic meaning for us Christians. To reject Jesus and his challenge to love is to be laid open to dispersal, to alienation from our true identity, and to be abandoned in the ego’s world of clinging and rejection: greed and anger. Beware: our moral compass has deteriorated, and we have become so divided as a people because of political colors or affiliations! Let the ‘prophets within us’ re-emerge towards healing and reconciliation.

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