The Truth Can Hurt
October 11, 2021 (readings)
- Monday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
- Fr. John Bartunek, LC
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
Opening Prayer: I come before you today, Lord, distracted and discouraged, but eager to receive the grace I need to live this day in a way that will glorify you. You know my weakness. But I believe in your strength. I believe in your commitment to me, and through this time alone with you, I want to renew and strengthen my commitment to you. Teach me, Lord, and guide me along the right path.
Jesus Was Not Seeking Popularity: St. Luke tells us that the crowd following and listening to Jesus was steadily growing: While still more people gathered in the crowd… For most of us, drawing bigger and bigger crowds would boost our self-esteem, but maybe also feed our vanity. We would want to keep those crowds following us, so we would try to please them, to say things that would make them want to come back. Jesus does just the contrary. He doesn’t stroke their self-complacency. He calls them out: This is an evil generation… Why would Jesus speak like that to them? Maybe because what he said was true. The generation he was preaching to, and in a sense every generation of fallen humanity, is evil. We have a strong tendency to be self-centered, self-absorbed, greedy, lustful, insensitive to God’s voice and to the needs of those around us. Only a few members of that growing crowd would faithfully follow Jesus until the end. They were seeking quick fixes for their worldly problems; they weren’t seeking the best way to glorify God and advance Christ’s Kingdom. What am I seeking?
Jesus Made Radical Claims: Solomon and Jonah were towering Old Testament figures. And Jesus, when comparing his listeners to those who listened to Solomon and Jonah, affirmed his superiority to both of them: …there is something greater than Solomon here… there is something greater than Jonah here. We call ourselves Christians, followers of Jesus Christ. And yet, does Jesus Christ have the central place in our desires, thoughts, and plans that he ought to have? Jesus is God! Jesus is the Word incarnate! Jesus is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity! That same Jesus comes to us and stays with us every single day in the Gospels, in the Eucharist, in the gifts of his Holy Spirit. How do we respond when he comes? Do we build our lives around his grace and his will? Oh, how he wishes that we would! What wonders he could do in our lives if only we wouldn’t relegate him to the sidelines!
The Judgment Is Real: Jesus referred to “the judgment” twice in this passage. He was warning us that all our choices in this life will have everlasting consequences. If we choose to hear and heed his voice, it will bode well for us at the end of our lives. If we don’t, it won’t. How often do we think of the judgment that is to come? In ancient times, when life was short and uncertain, people lived with a keen awareness of the fragility of their lives and the closeness of death, the doorway to our definitive, face-to-face encounter with God. In our days, a secularized culture tends to minimize this long-term perspective. But if we can overcome the secular seductions, we will be much better for it. Living our daily lives against the true horizon of eternal life can only bring us greater wisdom, peace, and joy even now, let alone beyond the grave. In medieval times, Christians used to intentionally reflect on their life decisions relative to their eternal destiny, keeping in mind this classic phrase: Quid hoc ad aeternitatem? What does this mean in the light of eternity? If we were to do the same, we might end up avoiding a lot of misery, both in this life and in the hereafter.
Conversing with Christ: You are greater than Solomon and greater than Jonah. You are the Savior, the Lord, God from God, and Light from Light. And you have loved me so much that you have given me the gift of faith, the light to recognize the truth of your presence and your doctrine. Thank you, Lord, for that gift and for all your gifts. I want to follow you. I want you to be the center, the anchor, and the goal of my life. But I so easily get distracted! I so easily forget about you and fall into living my life as if you were not always reaching out to me and wanting to guide and enlighten me! Forgive me, Lord. Help me to live in harmony with what I truly believe. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will go to confession, making a clean break with all the selfishness of my past and resolving to live from now on more intentionally in the light of eternity.
For Further Reflection: Listen to the conference from the Retreat Guide The Tomb and the Pearl on “The Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.”
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