When reading and praying with scriptures, it’s interesting to me to see where my mind goes – or how the Holy Spirit catches my attention. Sometimes I can put myself into a dramatic scene and identify with one of the people involved… other times, a verse will be impactful. Today it was just one word from that first scripture reading from the book of Wisdom: Obnoxious.
Its one of those words just the sound of it reveals the meaning of it. And it’s not good. We hear obnoxious and we can quickly come up with examples and illustrations that stand out to us – an obnoxious person – an obnoxious sound – an obnoxious odor.
That this reading comes today coupled with this Gospel – and so near to the 5th Sunday of Lent where we enter what is called “Passiontide” – the last two weeks of Lent when the Passion, the Cross and Death of Jesus becomes more the focus of our reflection – the scripture is setting the stage for this ultimate of confrontations – between good and evil. And we’re left with the reality that people will take label, identify Jesus obnoxious.
It’s wildly uncomfortable to consider – even writing and saying those words to me. Uck. As Christians there’s that impulse to defend Jesus, protect Him, fight back against such a gross mis-characterization.
But He doesn’t really need our help. As Jesus demonstrates in the Gospel, He knows that there are forces at work in the world that are coming after Him, that will “beset the just one.” His identity, His confidence in Himself and His mission enables Him to call out that evil intent: You know me and also know where I am from. He knows that people will find Him obnoxious – He knows that will lead to his brutal death. We know that.
So then what’s the point? The readings are meant to cause us to reflect on ourselves, our lives, where we’re at… How comfortable are we in letting Jesus under our roofs? As he pokes around and looks at different corners, closets and rooms and we pause, we hesitate, we try to prevent him from entering in – because we don’t want to acknowledge a weakness we’ve allowed to redefine us; because we’ don’t want to admit that we’ve gotten comfortable with a lukewarmness about our faith in Him, because we don’t want to confront some sinful attitude or behavior that we struggle with (or maybe have stopped struggling with and simply give into). Suddenly, his presence isn’t bringing the peace and joy we expect, wanted or imagined. There’s this realization that either we let go, we finally let go of our inhibitions, our embarrassment, our pride, our ego and let Him so that we can share with Him our weakness, our struggles, our need, and let Him lovingly heal, and transform us as we respond to His call to change, His call to conversion
– or we put up walls, we try to hide like our first parents in the garden of Eden, we repulse at his coming too close, we reject at any light coming into those dark shadows deep within – and suddenly find ourselves looking at Jesus as obnoxious ourselves.