Reflection for Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year B. 2018
– By Fr Ugo Ikwuka
Whenever I’m home on holiday, my mum wakes me early most mornings to bless water for her friends and acquaintances that have gathered. My explanations that I am not the village parish priest and that I should be allowed to have my holiday rest always fall on deaf ears. Eventually, I would grudgingly wake to bless the water. Now, I’m seriously considering spending my holidays somewhere else.
Things are however different in Jesus’ family as we see in this Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus had been healing both those with physical and spiritual infirmities to the amazement of the surging crowds.
Moreover, his revolutionary and liberating preaching has turned things on their head. He was therefore on collision course with the influential religious leaders whom he brazenly calls hypocrites.
When Mary and his brothers got hint that things have escalated to the extent that he could not have time for a meal, they went for him thinking that he is out of his mind. Parents want their children to stay out of trouble and are concerned about the kind of people their children hang out with. Jesus failed on both counts as he was also seen with public sinners including tax collectors and prostitutes.
Meanwhile, the religious leaders could not deny that Jesus was exercising supernatural powers; the admiring crowd would have booed them. But he had to be stopped by all means, otherwise, with his growing popularity, they will soon be out of business.
They therefore resorted to ridiculous character assassination saying that he is possessed and that it is by the power of Satan that he casts out demons. Indeed, prejudice can drive people to stoop so low.
With two simple but very powerful anecdotes, Jesus easily flawed their warped submission. First, he points out that what they suggest implies that Satan is at war against itself which is not tenable. That would be self-destruction. We’ve seen that happen in places such as Ireland, Congo, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and most recently Syria, nations that have destroyed and ravaged by civil war.
Then, borrowing from Isaiah 49:24-25, Jesus points out that only a stronger man can enter a strong man’s house and single-handedly bind him and plunder his house. Yes, Satan is strong, but faced with the stronger force in Jesus who has been given all authorities in heaven and on earth (Mt. 28:18), there is no contest. Jesus has the full power to hold Satan down and evict him from demon-tormented souls.
Taking offence at their wilful and malicious unbelief Jesus places them under judgment with the declaration that people can be forgiven of every sin and slander but not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit which is eternal sin.
There have been mixed opinion on what exactly constitutes the sin against the Holy Spirit but it is surely not murder; Moses was a murderer but he is certainly not in hell. It is also not adultery; King David committed adultery and God forgave him. It is not divorce; the woman at the well had multiple divorces and she was forgiven.
Going by the context in which Jesus made this declaration, it is wilful unbelief or knowingly resisting divine truth as the good old catechism teaches. And the simple reason why it won’t be forgiven is that by its rebellious nature, the person who commits it will never ask for forgiveness otherwise he wouldn’t be resisting. Hence, if you are worried that you have committed this sin then you have not, otherwise you wouldn’t even be bordered.
But Jesus was not crazy as both the family and the religious leaders insinuate. He was simply outside the comfort zones of some people.
After the death of Steve Jobs the founder of Apple, an Apple commercial from the 90s went viral on YouTube. It was an attempt to rebrand Apple products with the slogan “Think different.” The commercial showed a collection of photographs and film footage of people who have made a difference in life, people who have inspired and impacted the world positively; the singer Bob Dylan, the pioneer aviator Amelia Earhart, the renowned boxer Muhammad Ali, the scientist Albert Einstein, the master artist Pablo Picasso, the activists Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi among others.
As their images rolled by, a voice read this poem: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. But the one thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
On the family who came looking for him, Jesus asks: “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? Then, looking at those seated in a circle around him he says: “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Far from being anti-family as some fundamentalist denominations preach in their bid to have total control over their converts, here, Jesus rather establishes the common brotherhood and sisterhood of all people of goodwill.