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Saturday, 29 January 2022 13:23

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - 2022

Fr Bill Burt head and shoulders 150In Jesus’ day, if  there were reality tv shows in which least popular contestants are voted-off, the chances are he would be the first to get the boot! At least that’s the impression one gets while reading this Sunday’s Gospel. While it’s true that his beautiful words and his ability to heal the sick made an impact on many for much of his short ministry, many others found him offensive, disrespectful, disruptive ... a real trouble-maker. We are told that members of his own family thought he was mad. They wanted to remove him from the public eye, probably to save their own embarrassment.

What amazes me, personally, though, is the fact that stories like this Sunday’s Gospel are actually included in the Bible. As we know, the second part of the Bible which we refer to as the New Testament, was compiled by the first followers of Jesus and their immediate descendants. Those people passionately believed that their leader, was indeed more than just a good preacher and a miracle-worker. They acknowledged him as the Son of God who came into the world as the bearer of wonderful news that could dramatically change people’s lives for the better.

Yet when the Gospel writers talked about Jesus, they didn’t “white-wash” him, but rather presented him, “warts and all”. They didn’t just write about him positively, but rather pointedly, showed him to be someone who wasn’t always liked, who wasn’t always “Mr Popular”, who challenged, and who not always did so in a politically-correct way.

Is there a message here for us, 2000+ years later? I think so ... There are probably many messages… One of these could be for us, as adult Christians, to put aside that beautiful, but childish picture of Jesus that we were given when we prepared for First Communion.

“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon this little child” is a beautiful prayer for a 7-year old. But is the image of the “meek, mild and gentle” Jesus, really suitable for a 17-year old, or a 70-year old?! No reading of the Gospel paints a picture of Jesus like this. We see him as being strong, fearless, and even when his world collapses on Good Friday, his moral superiority never wavers. He is never “sweet”.

The Gospels present Jesus as we need to see him. Jesus had a great respect for children, but he didn’t want his followers to view him childishly. His early followers, our religious ancestors, took care to present him in ways that made sense and touched the hearts of people. They didn’t fantasise about him. Nor did they create fictional stories about how Jesus relates to his followers, giving an attractive but false idea that if someone trusts him then all their problems miraculously disappear.

May Jesus, touch our hearts in ways that make sense to us. May he challenge us when we need to be challenged. Certainly, may we be comforted when we need some TLC. Importantly, though, let’s open our minds and hearts to him. Let him be our educator par excellence.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, the Society of the Divine Word, Australia Province, acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, sky, and community.

We acknowledge their skin-groups, story-lines, traditions, religiosity and living cultures.

We pay respect to their elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Thailand, and Myanmar.

We are committed to building with them, a brighter future together.