Commentary on the Gospel of

Andy Alexander, S.J. - Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry Office

When I read about Jesus' stating something that has been true for so long in the journey of faith - that prophets have been universally persecuted - I felt sad. I think of a prophet like Dom Hélder Câmara (1909–1999) a Brazilian archbishop, who said, "When I feed the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." I think of some of the opposition Pope Francis is experiencing within the Church.

There is sadly, too often, so much division among us that it is difficult to tell who is prophetic - speaking the message of the Word of God, the Gospel - and who isn't.

It is not easy to discern the various spirits or movements within us. St. Ignatius' rules for the discernement of these spirits can help. Ignatius notes that when we are moving in the right direction, it is characteristic of the Holy Spirit to offer us consolation, peace, joy, and unity. It is characterisitic of the evil spirit to try to deflect us from the path of our progress by offering us doubts, confusion, division and conflict. Of course, when we are moving in the wrong direction, it is the evil spirit which is comforting us in our movement and it is the Holy Spirit which is challenging us.

I find that my greatest help with discernment is to stay close to the heart of Jesus. When I'm staying close to the experience of Jesus' merciful love for me, it is easier for me to stay close to Jesus. The process Ignatius describes - seeing him more clearly, loving him more dearly and following him more nearly - begins to happen as I appreciate Jesus and become more attracted to him and his ways. It is easy to fall in love with someone I'm attracted to. I find that ideology and my hostility to others tends to fall away when my heart becomes more drawn, with affection, for the compassionate way, the tender heart of Jesus. At that point, we are not simply moved by his message, but are touched by who he is. In that place of affection for Jesus, we can hear prophetic messages from the Gospel, or from the Holy Father, or from a prophet representing the Gospel.

I like to imagine that there is more harmony, more peace, more understanding, more compassion, more fraternity among us when we are each moving closer to Jesus. We can more easily, together, hear the call to self-sacrificing love for others. We can more easily hear the message that calls us to accompany the marginal. We can be moved by the prophetic message to advocate for the poor, for those in need among us, for the urgent call to work together for the saving of our planet and those who suffer first and worst from what is happening to it.

There will always be differences among us. We'll hear things differently - often from the perspective our backgrounds. But, I want to believe we don't have to be so tribal and brutal with each other. And, the closer we let ourselves fall in love with Jesus, the more we will think like him, feel like him, respond to those in need like him, mercy like him, and die to ourselves like him.

Reconciliation leads to healing. Healing leads to the ability to embrace each other's brokenness. And, Jesus' prayer the night before he died might come closer to reality, "Father, may they all be one." (John 17:21)


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