Jesus dies for us sinners. That is how the God of unfathomable goodness proves his love for us as petty and stingy as we are.
Our petty desires for gain, power and security hinder the revelation of truth. And not knowing the truth leads to people’s enslavement. There is nothing more opposed to the way of Jesus than this.
He is not soft on powerful people. His announcement of the kingdom of God already indicates his opposition to the Roman Empire.
And associating the word ‘legion’ with the devil, Jesus suggests besides that there is need to expel Caesar. Keep him out with his coins and petty flatterers. And do not let believers in God, who made them in his image, have anything to do with Caesar.
But the Teacher rejects clearly the Roman regime as he instructs his followers not to behave as do the rulers over the Gentiles (Romans). These rulers lord it over their subjects. But it should not be so among the disciples. They must imitate the one who came to serve and give his life for all.
And, of course, Jesus confronts religious leaders. He upbraids them for their careerism and petty selfish motives. He recites before them a litany of woes.
Without mincing words, he moreover warns the chief priests and the elders. They, in particular, need to repent. Those they belittle are entering the kingdom of God ahead of them.
Showing himself courageous and free of all craving for petty power and splendor, Jesus speaks the truth to power.
He came to give witness to the truth, and those who belong to the truth listen to his voice. The truth will also set believers free.
And echoing this Christian teaching is Timothy Snyder (On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century). He urges the reader:
Believe in the truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
And the tenth lesson points to the twentieth that teaches:
Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny.
Dying for the truth, Jesus saves us, frees us. He freed St. Vincent de Paul, yes, from worrying about getting “an honorable retirement” (SV.EN I:15). Eventually, the saint would speak the truth to Richelieu and Mazarin.
Fill with grace, Lord, those who recall your passion at the Eucharist. May this pledge of future glory encourage us to remain in the truth and not look out for our own petty interests.
1 October 2017
26th Sunday in O.T. (A)
Ez 18, 25-28; Phil 2, 1-11; Mt 21, 28-32