Thursday of the Third Week of Lent




- Maciej Rejniak, '11


Today's Gospel, I think, is quite problematic in the history of the Church. Jesus tells the crowd “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. ” Harsh words indeed. Words, that if interpreted in the wrong way, could serve as justification for violence, prejudice, and hatred. One only has to think of the Crusades, the Reformation, the various religious wars, and even today's upheavals to see evidence of this. If you aren't a believer in Jesus, a Christian, a Roman Catholic, then you are an enemy, someone who must be fought and destroyed, to make the world pure. This sounds almost Nazi-like. It also originates from the same man who preached to love thy neighbor as thyself. How can Jesus give us such contradictory messages? How can we believe him?

What I think needs to be determined is: if you aren't with Jesus, then who are you with? If Jesus is God, I think, than the only one who can be opposed to him is the devil. Perhaps this is why Jesus gives such a harsh response to the crowds rumors of him driving out demons in the name of Beelzebul, or the devil, because he wants to draw that distinction. It is as if Jesus is saying that if you do not serve the Lord, then you serve the devil, which does sound very harsh, and very daunting.

 

The question is: how do you serve the Lord? This, from my Jesuit experience, is an easy question to answer: by doing everything for the greater glory of God. How does one serve the devil then? I believe that the answer is turning towards sin and away from God. This seems simplistic, almost too much so, doesn't it? It is worthy of note and remembrance that this is only a bare bones definition, that it would change for every single person, that it would present different challenges and difficulties for each one of us.

Another thing that I think is worthy of reflection in today's Gospel is: what does Jesus really mean by being with him. If it means being faithful to the Lord, of being a faithful and mindful Christian, then I think that modern society largely fails in this part.

At U of D Jesuit, students and teachers have the opportunity to gather together after school in the chapel and pray the rosary together every Monday. Not only is this a good way to prepare for the coming week, it is also a chance to pray for intentions as a group. Every single week, someone mentions praying for Christians that are suffering around the world, especially the ones that are being persecuted. We, a small group of teachers and students, then pray.

To be with Jesus, I think, requires to have a wide horizon. It requires to look at your own life, the life of friends, families, and neighbors, and seeing the graces that God has given. One then must look beyond that, at those who are suffering, from prosecution or illness, at those who are lost in their faith, at those on the brink of death, and realizing, that they too, are with Jesus, and Jesus is with them.

Perhaps this is why Psalm 23 is so popular, why the line “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” is so popular, and such a comfort, even though we may not want to see it. To be with Jesus, I think, requires us to realize that he is there for us, both personally, and as a people, if we only let him, if we only choose to be.

Society makes this difficult, however. It seems we like to have an “us” vs. “them” mentality, that we enjoy the drama that strife causes. One has only to turn into the nightly news to see this. We, as Christians, must not fall into this sort of prejudice. We must always be willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt, to try to at least see the light of God in them. Many great people weren't Christians, but cannot be seen as evil. Ghandi. Oscar Schindler. Countless others. Jesus too, I believe, is with them.

Thus, this Lenten season, let us see how Jesus is with us, and around us. Let us also try to get closer to him. A challenge, I know. Though, I think, that if we open the door, if as today's Psalm puts it “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts ” he will work wonders for us.

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