The Theme and Image of a Leader

06-10-2018Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

This is a wonderful season of the year to attend Sunday Mass, the weather turns so nice these next three months complimented by the Sunday scripture readings helping us to understand our lives and our relationship with God. We listen in particular to the Gospel to hear the words of wisdom and insight that Jesus offers us and to hear and envision his miracles and healings in what they can mean in our actual lives today. We are not following "the narrative of Jesus" as much as we are listening to, meditating upon and pondering the Wisdom Sayings and graced Actions of Jesus. In the readings this weekend, we find the theme and image of a leader. We expect our leaders to have personal magnetism, a clear sense of purpose and an aura of power. We simply presume good intentions. Our readings today highlight the magnetism, purpose, and power of a leader who is all-good. The readings charge us to recognize him and to follow.

The Old Testament reading from the Book of Genesis recounts the consequences of following temptation into sin. Sadly, Adam and Eve now become as strangers to God, to one another, and to the earth. Note clearly that the reading also promises reconciliation. Even in their worst moment, Eve and Adam are also promised redemption. God will save humankind. This means that for us even though we may succumb at times, we have God's word that ultimately we will be able to overcome temptation and its effects because of God's ever promised help.

Our Gospel speaks of Jesus' notoriety because of his miracles and thus he has followers. The Jews believed that the ability to drive out demons could come either from God or from Satan. Because the Jewish religious leaders had already decided that Jesus was a threat to them, they considered Jesus to have come from the devil.

Jesus answers all this with metaphors. First, he points out that if he were a messenger of Satan, Satan would be tearing apart his own kingdom. Satan would not do this. He then goes on to explain that a strong man's house cannot be wrecked, unless the strong man is first restrained. Jesus says he is restraining Satan, the "strong man," and thus taking possession of Satan's "house" - the world, once under evil's dominion. The kingdom of evil is in fact being overcome and displaced by the kingdom of God.

Jesus also speaks to the accusations against him of blasphemy, calling it a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Jesus equates the refusal to accept God's messenger with a refusal to accept God's promised salvation. Jesus accuses the leaders of rejecting him out of hard-heartedness and bad faith. Such stubbornness will not be tolerated.

The Gospel concludes with Jesus apparently rejecting his family but he is, instead, expanding the definition of his family to include "whoever does the will of God" - all those who follow him and accept him as their leader. This is an absolute guarantee of the fulfillment of God's promise that, with Christ's help, we will be able to overcome the power of temptation and sin.

Jesus knew that our efforts against evil would take great strength and constancy. This is clearly why in the Lord's Prayer, Jesus included a petition to help us steer clear of temptation. We know that we are easily tempted, our heads easily turned and our attention easily distracted with our intentions always subject to question. We clearly need direction. This is not to say that we cannot be good followers. Listening to the Word of God at Sunday Mass and following it and also receiving Christ in Holy Communion as spiritual food are two of the best ways to become a good and faithful follower of Jesus Christ.