That my Lord came to this earth “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4.18)
And yet we who call ourselves Christians because we wish to follow him, do the very opposite.
We get into our ivory castles where we are beyond reproach, and from the safety of this castle we throw stones at those who are not like us in religiosity, in piety, in following the letter of the law.
We are in fact, following the Pharisees rather than following Jesus.
In a recent homily, Pope Francis exhorted that we ask ourselves the reason the doctors of the law (the Pharisees) did not understand the signs of the times and invoked an extraordinary sign. And he proposed several answers:
The first was “because they were closed. They were closed within their system, they had organized the law very well”. It was “a masterpiece. All of the Jews knew what one could and could not do, where one could go. It was all organized”. But Jesus caught them unprepared, by doing “curious things”, such as “going with the sinners”, and “eating with the publicans”. And the doctors of the law did not like this, they found it “dangerous”, putting at risk “the doctrine which they, the theologians, had been making for centuries”. This happens, said the Pope, when you forget that you are people on a journey:
“when one is on journey one always finds new things, things one does not know. And in the law, they had to accept these things in a heart faithful to the Lord”. But, also in this case, “a journey is not absolute in itself, it is a journey toward an end point: toward the definitive manifestation of the Lord”.
For this reason, Pope Francis explained, Jesus defined them as an “evil generation”, inasmuch as “they did not understand that the law they protected and loved was a pedagogy toward Jesus Christ”. Indeed, “if the law does not lead to Jesus Christ, does not bring us close to Jesus Christ, it is dead”.
And this is why Jesus scolds the members of that generation “for being closed, for being incapable of recognizing the signs of the times, for not being open to the God of surprises, for not being on a journey toward the Lord’s triumphant finale”, to the point “that when he explains it, they think it is blasphemy”.
We who live in ivory towers, closed to the signs of the times, need to reflect on Pope Francis’ words:
“Am I attached to my things, to my ideas, closed? Or am I open to the God of surprises?”.
“Am I a stationary person or a person on a journey?”.
May we lose no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope, in setting captives free, and doing the ‘curious things’ that Jesus did as we follow our Master and not the Pharisees.
“A heart that loves the law, for the law is God’s”, but “which also loves God’s surprises”, for his “holy law is not an end in itself”: it is a journey, “a teaching which leads us to Jesus Christ”.
Excerpts (re-arranged with comments) from a homily by Pope Francis on 13 October 2014 on the God of Surprises.