10th June 2018

posted 12 Jun 2018, 06:35 by Parish Office   [ updated 19 Jun 2018, 01:55 ]

Homily for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (9 & 10/6/18)


Imagine you are living in first century Palestine.  You’ve heard people speaking about this person called Jesus, but what do you make of Him?  Some people say He is a prophet, some say He is misleading the people; others say that He is in league with Satan and wants to destroy our religion.  Who do you listen to? 


One of the answers might be, of course, to go and listen to Him yourself, or wait for Him to come and visit the village.  But even then, you might still be undecided.  Is He a great man, maybe a prophet or something greater?  Or is it the case that He’s a deceiver?  Yes, He said all those wonderful things, and cured a few people and expelled a few demons whilst He was in the village.  But the scribes and Pharisees say that He doesn’t understand the Law given us  by God and that He’s probably using some sort of magic or in league with demons to perform all these signs and deceive the people.  Shouldn’t these people know – after all, they spend so long studying the Scriptures and debating their interpretation?


C S Lewis, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe examines a logical puzzle which we can apply to this situation.  The two older children, Peter and Susan, go to the professor because they think that their youngest sister, Lucy, is behaving strangely.  She claims that she has walked through a wardrobe into a place called Narnia.  She also said that their youngest brother, Edmund, also found his way to Narnia through the wardrobe as well, although he later claimed that it was all pretend.  Peter and Susan tell the professor that they believe Edmund, because what he says seems to make more sense.  But the professor gets them to use a bit of logic.  Who is normally the more truthful out of the two?  They agree that the answer is Lucy, which is why they think that she is not lying, but maybe she’s gone mad.  But the professor points out that you can tell she’s not mad by the way she behaves.  So in this situation there are three possibilities:  either she is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth.  They know she doesn’t tell lies and they can tell that she’s not mad, so the only option left, unless any other evidence turns up, is that she is telling the truth.  It’s a derivation of the argument that either Christ was a liar, or He was mad, or that He is God:  the “bad, mad or God” argument.  St Thomas More argued that “surely, if he were not God, he would be no good man either, since he plainly said he was God”.


The scribes in today’s Gospel say that He is either bad or mad.  “Beelzebul is in him … It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.”  They are so obstinate in their belief that He is not the Messiah, that they try all sorts of excuses to give them a seemingly good reason for opposing Him.


So who is the more trustworthy, and who is the more upright, moral and honest:  Jesus, or the scribes and the others who opposed Him?  From the Gospels, it seems that the answer has to be Jesus.  Both Jesus and John the Baptist pulled up the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees on various occasions for distortions in their faith and practice.  We can think of the argument about declaring anything they had “Corban”, i.e. dedicated to God, so that they were then forbidden to use anything they had to help their parents.  But some may want to argue that the Scriptures perhaps don’t let the opponents of Jesus go into detail in their arguments to give us a balanced argument.  We haven’t got enough information to make a decision.


Today, though, we have the reverse situation.  Various opponents of Christ get to publish their ideas in newspapers, on-line, speak on the radio, appear on TV, write books, produce documentaries and so on, in their attempt to tear the Gospels to shreds.  When there is news of some new “discovery” about Christ or the early Church, I often wonder what they are going to come up with next.  But it’s a bit like when Christ was brought before the Sanhedrin:  various supposed witnesses came forward, but their testimony did not agree.


In Genesis, Adam and Eve were presented with a similar dilemma about the truth:  who is telling the truth and who do we listen to?  The serpent is lying, but crafts his argument in a way that is appealing.  As a result, Eve and then Adam become biased in favour of listening to the serpent.  They want what he says to be true, and so they deceive themselves into doing what he says.  And we know what happens next.  I sometimes wonder whether some of those who claim to reject Christ do so for similar reasons:  it seems more desirable to follow the crowd, and avoid ridicule and the struggle of living a good, moral life, so they listen more favourably to the arguments against Christ.  Hopefully we aren’t guilty of the same mistake.