My eight-year-old nephew has taken to creating imaginative games. There are whimsical dance battles, intricate webs of hide-and-seek, and fanciful games in which everyone must do what they’re told. Because he’s often making up the rules of these games as we go, there is little room, in my nephew’s mind, for improvisation on the part of participants. Try doing something different and (more than likely) the game is over.
The same, it would seem, is true of those Jesus encounters in today’s Gospel. In their eyes, Jesus didn’t play by the rules. Like John the Baptist, Jesus challenged assumptions and pushed boundaries. What they had imagined the Messiah to be, Jesus wasn’t. He wept in sorrow and rejoiced with outcasts. He was fully human and utterly divine, a mystery beyond their—and our—wildest dreams.
This is the mystery of devotion Paul writes about in his letter to Timothy. This mystery is not some game we master but someone we come to know: Jesus the Christ. “Manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit,” Jesus invites us into mystery, to grow in relationship with the unknowable and to bend our rules toward mercy. Our devotion demands that we reimagine what we think possible, embracing the unexpected and adopting the wisdom of Christ. This wisdom calls us into union with all—the rule makers and the rule breakers, those who suffer under our assumptions and those in whom we find the kinship of Christ—so that together we might become the Church of the living God that Christ calls us to be.
[CREDIT] Sr. Colleen Gibson, SSJ, from the September 2023 issue of Give Us This Day, www.giveusthisday.org (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2023). Used with permission.