Jesus: “Why are you trying to kill me?”
Crowd: “You are possessed! Who is trying to kill you?”
Jesus: “I performed one work and all of you are amazed because of it.”
Stare at that for just a bit. See John 7:19ff. And this deadly death-mongering over-amazement in the all waaaaay toooo interesting Jesus was common. Can you think of other instances where Jesus is said to be possessed or delusional or paranoid, where He’s called names? It was common in His day. And it’s common today.
Here’s the deal: Jesus just said it like it was, and people said, effectively, “To hell with you, you damn preacher-man. We’re going to kill you. No one is trying to kill you! But we’re going to kill you.”
Interesting. Jesus is the most interesting Priest in the world. Kill Him!
Anyone who is at all trying to be at least a little bit faithful to the Most High should recognize this lockstep dynamic in his life and, because of that, in our lives.
I remember a scene at the Pontifical Josephinum Seminary up in Ohio some years ago when, sitting with a half dozen of the seminarians for lunch, someone asked a question which, to answer, I recounted an anecdote that went right to whatever point it was that was being made. Half-way through that historical account, one of the seminarians, to the embarrassment of the others, stood up and, with arms flailing, eyes wide, complained really quite loudly that this was all just too much, too impossible:
“No one can have that many experiences in his life. It’s just not possible. You’re making all that up.”
And here I thought that that particular account was really pretty boring, whatever it was. Anyway, off he went, effectively killing me off, so to speak. I then told the remaining seminarians something which I have repeated a thousand times to others:
“You’ll all have a wildly interesting life, from one moment to the next, if you are always faithful to goodness and kindness and justice and truth and mercy. If you don’t compromise Jesus, if you don’t spit on Him so as to think you are protecting yourselves in all of the damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations you will certainly come across almost on a daily basis, He will take care of you. There is always a third option besides compromising non-negotiables in one direction or the other. That third option is being faithful to Jesus.”
I mean, examples are rife, and can be had in daily rounds to Catholic hospitals for instance, all damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations, not because of doing anything special, but because others among one’s fellow priests have given in, compromised in non-negotiables of life and death, of goodness and kindness and justice and truth and mercy. “How dare you not compromise! How dare you simply do the right thing!”
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t situations are the usual fare that our fallen human nature puts before all and sundry who might simply be faithful to the Most High, such as Jesus and all the rest of us who are drawn to Him in friendship, knowing His forgiveness. That friendship puts an edge on all interactions, providing us with grace that we might be instantaneously indignant that we would be asked to compromise doctrine or morality for the reason that such compromise would be offensive to Mary’s Son, Jesus.
This is so true and it happens so frequently – quite a constant really – that one could easily blurt out with Jesus – “Why are you trying to kill me?” – to which exclamation, of course, the bewildered response would be: “You are delusional, paranoid, possessed! Who is trying to kill you?” And then they go on in their blurred existence to marginalize and damn whoever it is that is simply trying in some way to be faithful on the non-negotiables, such as goodness and kindness and justice and truth and mercy. One’s situational awareness comes to expect the worst while believing the best, an oft betrayed naivete in which one rejoices, the cause of laughter, you know, with Jesus, who loves the humor. Situational awareness concerning the damned if you do or don’t crowd is consonant with love:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 nab).
Situational awareness concerning the damned if you do or don’t crowd is consonant with light:
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be” (Matthew 6:22-23 nab).
But to the compromised, love and light seems to be delusional, paranoid, possessed, dark, suffering, distressed. Um…. no.
“But what do you do in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation? What do you do? What do you do? What do you do? This isn’t right! We’re entitled! We have rights! We’re… we’re… we’re… you know… us!”
There is always a third option. Be faithful to Jesus. And then rejoice that you are said to be delusional, paranoid, possessed.
For myself, I never would have had any care about damned if you do or don’t situations, ever, in life, had I just compromised, had I just ignored situations. But that is soooo boring. I would rather have a wildly interesting life following the most interesting High Priest ever, Jesus, Divine Son of the Immaculate Conception, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire, delusional, paranoid and possessed that He is. Amen. Hah!
There are many times that commiserators or Job’s friends would think are occasions of distress and sorrow and darkness and confusion, but don’t realize the enthusiasm and joy by which one stands next to Jesus, gaping with Him at whatever damned if you do or don’t situation has come up on whatever given day, and then elbow Jesus in the ribs (watch out for the wound though), and ask Him how He’s going to deal with this most absolutely impossible situation, only to watch Him ably turn the tables, every time. Every time.
I remember one particularly absolutely impossible situation and, with a smirk, was doing just this, asking Jesus how He was going to deal with this situation, thinking this was wonderful entertainment which He was happy to provide. He’s always the one and only Priest, happy to be the Priest for us in whatever situation should we want Him to be there. But this was an absolutely impossible situation. Hah! I was really enjoying it. What happened is that the person forcing the impossible situation implicated himself (a bishop of a far-away place, actually), smacking himself down, and then cleared the way to a solution in which the angels could rejoice. And you don’t want to offend angels! I am amazed to this day, but not tooooo amazed. Jesus is the One. He’s the only One. It’s all about Him, He who is delusional, paranoid, possessed. Thank you, Jesus.