Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me and
he who does not gather with me scatters."
Sometimes it's easy for us to think that whatever Jesus did was simply
understood by the people for whom he did them. That wasn't always the case.
Today's Gospel reading is an example of how Jesus was very much misunderstood.
He had just healed a man who was dumb. Matthew's Gospel, recounting the
same incident, says that he was deaf and dumb. Jesus cast out a demon,
healed the man and he was able to speak and hear. The reaction of the people
was very interesting. His enemies, the Pharisees said, "He must be possessed
himself that he has this power over demons."
He was really misunderstood in Mark's Gospel. He recounts some other
details. When His family heard about this, they came to take charge of
Him saying, "He is out of His mind." The scribes who arrived in Jerusalem
asserted, "He is possessed by Beelzebub." Even the people who knew him
best, his family and friends said, "He's crazy. He's gone around the bend.
He's bonkers. He's a cup and saucer short of a full set. What are we going
to do with him? Maybe if we bundle him off back home to a quiet room for
a while, he'll come to his senses. After all, what is all of this nonsense
that he's preaching about? The kingdom of God is being established? Probably
nothing wrong with him that a little Prozac wouldn't take care of in short
order." He was really misunderstood.
And his enemies misunderstand him even more. "He's possessed" Jesus
with simple logic says, "How could I be possessed? If I'm possessed and
I'm doing this, then you've got a civil war on your hands. You've got Satan
casting out Satan. That isn't the way it is. If Satan is being cast out,
you know that the kingdom of God is in your midst."
That word that we hear in today's Gospel - Beelzebul - Beelzebub in
other translations is an interesting one. Beelzebul, used in many translations,
means "Baal the Prince". Baal was the god of the Canaanites and the Philistines.
His name was synonymous with all that was evil. So they gave Satan the
name Beelzebul. The Hebrews deliberately corrupted the name. Instead of
saying Beelzebul, they put a "b" at the end of the word -Beelzebub. Used
in our reading this morning, it means "Lord of the Flies". Jesus had come
to deal with Satan, with evil. Eventually, surrounded by people who would
misunderstand him, He would defeat Satan once and for all on the cross.
But those who would misinterpret His motives would first of all arrest
him, try him, and crucify him on a bloody tree outside the city gates.
Now that is being misunderstood.
What is it that Jesus could have done to make his message more apparent?
More clear? So that there wouldn't be these misunderstandings? Nothing.
He had come to do the will of his heavenly Father. If it meant at times
that whatever he did was misunderstood, so be it. Probably one of the most
graphic times in which Jesus was misunderstood, we find in the sixth chapter
of John's Gospel. John narrates the teaching of Jesus about the Holy Eucharist:
I am the bread of life which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats
this bread will live forever. And the bread that I will give is my flesh
for the life of the world.
Now you put this to the people during a teaching in the synagogue at
Capernaum and the reaction was predictable.
"After hearing his words, many of his disciples remarked, 'This sort
talk is hard to endure. How can anyone take it seriously?' From that time
on, many of his disciples broke away and would not remain in his company
Jesus didn't go running after them and say, "Wait a minute. You misunderstood
me. I'm only speaking in symbolic ways here." No. His words were truth
and life. "My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink."
You can imagine how low Jesus felt at having been rejected in that way.
Jesus then said to the twelve, "Do you want to leave me too?"
Simon Peter answered him. (Here's one place where Simon Peter gets it
right!) "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe. We are convinced that you are God's Holy One."
A strong act of faith on Peter's part.
Jesus was considered by some to be mad, by some to be possessed. Misunderstood.
If we transfer to our time, we can see that it happens even now. God's
Word is strong and right and true. And yet it can be misunderstood. And
motives can be misunderstood. Motives of ministry. Not only priest's motives,
but people too, because we are all called to ministry and we can be misunderstood.
We endure the pain of that misunderstanding. And it does hurt.
Why is it that something as wonderful, as beautiful as God's Word can
be so easily misunderstood? Perhaps it is because we want to compromise
God's Word. We can't believe that Jesus would be that much in love with
his Father that he would behave in that way. We can't believe that any
disciple could be so enamoured of his relationship with Jesus Christ as
Lord and Savior that He would say and do the things that he does.
You might consider this. When I heard that shortly before his release
from prison Charles Colson had experienced a conversion, I was. to say
the least, skeptical. This was the man that said he would trample on his
mother to accomplish his political ends. I couldn't believe that this man
could have had this kind of conversion. He was probably out there to sell
a book or to make himself look good. Well, it is many years later and he
is still involved in prison ministry. He was authentic. But my judgment
was, "Oh, he can't be that enthusiastic about the Lord." Yes, he was.
A prisoner on death row in Texas about to be executed says, "I forgive
you. I ask your forgiveness for what I have done. I have given my life
to my Savior Jesus Christ." Our thinking is, "He's probably saying that
in order to make himself look good so that he can have his sentence commuted."
It's easy for us to be cynical, isn't it? Why is that? Because we can't
really believe that other people can be that much enamored of Jesus Christ.
Because we aren't. We want to compromise our belief. We want to compromise
what we know. So we say, "That person is crazy. Or he's possessed." How
easy it is for us to do that. No wonder Jesus was so misunderstood.
He used that misunderstanding for a greater good. It was redemptive
for all of us. Now, thank heavens, we haven't very much time left for this
Lenten season. Just another four weeks. But it is ample time for us to
consider our sins and to seek the forgiveness of the Lord for those personal
sins which we have committed; perhaps to submit them to the Lord in the
Sacrament of Penance. It is a season for us as well to examine how we judge
others; what we do with that judgment.
Do we believe that someone can be that much in love with one's God as
so many truly are? Can we believe that? Can we be that way ourselves? Jesus
has shown us the way. He has given us the grace to do it. Let's be a people
who follow the Lord's way no matter what. If that means that we risk being
called crazy - so be it!
Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation.
If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please
credit St. Dunstanís Church and Fr. Sisterman.