“Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” – Jn. 7:46
“This crowd, which does not know the law, is accursed.” – Jn. 7:49
During the 9 years I have been involved in young adult ministry, I have had two very memorable encounters with people in the Church who have accused me of not being ‘qualified’ to minister. And while I am grateful that there have only been two instances like this, I’m not going to hide it: both encounters hurt. It hurt that these people did not take the time to see my heart. It hurt to be accused of not being qualified. But what hurt the most was that they criticized me of being ‘wishy-washy’ in the faith because I was choosing to stand with people who they described as ‘living in sin.’
As I read today’s gospel, I begin to wonder if Jesus felt some of this hurt when he was accused of not knowing the law. I also wonder how the crowds felt when they were called ‘accursed’ by the Pharisees. I know that accusations like these seem to be a part of every religion, but it doesn’t erase the pain. This gospel compels me to ask Jesus a simple question: “Lord, how did you learn to see those who diminished you through the eyes of compassion?” Teach us all Lord how to humbly accept those who do not want to accept us. Teach us all Lord how not to judge those who judge.
I have come to experience that Jesus is always inviting us to gather people, not necessarily ‘convert’ them. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our faith needs to be defended, that somehow we need to provide answers to the world. But that is the trap of the Pharisees. Rather, Jesus calls us to do one thing before all others: to stand with the marginalized no matter the cost. Sometimes this may cause some hurt. Sometimes this makes a big mess. And sometimes this may even lead to death.
Lord, we lift up to you right now all those people around the world who are being persecuted because they are choosing to stand with you.
Reflected by Tony Cortese