In the second reading of today’s Mass the hymn to Charity insists on telling us that “without love” our best actions are really of no great value. This passage of the second letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians is a favorite of Christians of all time, all around the world. Unfortunately, it is not easy for any of us to practice it consistently. To say that the good folks of Nazareth acted “without love” in today’s Gospel would be a gross understatement. Sure, Our Lord said a few things that irked them. He stated facts, though. He did not fabricate fake news and He did not speak “without love” for His people. Jesus does not argue in order to win at any cost. He certainly does not hate any one of God’s children, so no hate speech will ever come out of his mouth… Yet He did enough to trigger everyone in that assembly. When we read this passage carefully we are utterly amazed at the speed in which Jesus’ countrymen transitioned from a state of admiration (“and he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips”) to one of promoting a violent homicide: “and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff”. This behavior typifies the angry mob.
Brothers and sisters, beware! We are living in a time when this sort of crowd mentality is getting the best of people all across the globe. Feeling triggered by someone else’s speech and “blazing into flames” of justice-fueled outrage is all it takes to play the victim card and be awarded the right to target the “opposition” as the enemy, the one we can righteously hate. The enemy is now something less than a human being; he’s basically a Nazi and we can effectively exclude him from the human race without compromising our own humanity. We are pure, for our reactions are beyond reproach…
One day, a long time ago, Jesus was treated as such a despicable person that he was deemed worthy of being hurled down a cliff head first. A few years later, He was crucified, having been excluded from membership to God’s people and stripped of any human dignity.
For a number of reasons, the world today is extremely polarized and we all run the risk of adopting the type of behavior that I have described above. The anonymity of the internet might have a lot to do with it, but the Gospel shows us that the internet is not the source of this type of thing. In a post-war era, ripe with lessons of grave concern over strong nationalism, we have tried to build a world where our identity is no longer a source of friction with others, let alone send us back into war. That is a dangerous illusion. Jesus has a strong identity and He has “words” to say to people. He will always “rustle some feathers” and there will be very strong reactions to His Words. But, beware brothers and sisters, that we ourselves do not become like this angry crowd we saw today!
Fr Sean Mary