Nineteenth Sunday, Year C, 7 August, 2022: Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Luke 12:32-48
As Jesus invites us to change, watching for a future as yet undisclosed, he addresses us from a dynamic central to Judaism’s engagement with the living God. Stuck in a dead end—be it idolatry, bondage in Egypt, exile in Babylon, Roman oppression, Christian antisemitism—God delivers his people…but the process doesn’t end there. Later, for example fifty days later, after Passover at Mount Sinai—Revelation crowns the dynamic.
We see that same dynamic in the death of Jesus—the dead end; his Resurrection—the deliverance; and fifty days later, Pentecost—the Revelation.
Revelation isn’t icing on the cake; it is where God’s initiative meets our receptivity, our engagement with God, generating new life in us. Revelation may be given at Sinai, in celebrating annual feasts, in prayer, in lectio divina, in celebrating the sacraments…
What happens if I try to stop at deliverance? My only concern would be saving my hide, and I’d remain stuck in the dead end of my self-absorption, my same old patterns, not engaged, not committed, a mere spectator of God’s initiative.
Jesus, by contrast, is inviting me to expectation, vigilance, open-endedness. It’s not a question of preserving unthreatened the status quo, but waiting—patiently waiting, straining to stretch my capacity to become something I’ve never been before. That is risky and unimaginable. For good reason Jesus urges us: Do not be afraid. What he offers us demands courage, not defenses or fear.
Every summer we wonder at the caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly. The caterpillar literally sheds its face, losing its protective skin, and under a newly hardened membrane, literally digests itself, reconstituting those same, vital building blocks to reemerge days later as a totally new creature. Can you imagine the vulnerability of that metamorphosis? That for days it is really nothing? By midpoint there’s a change, but to stop there would leave the creature nowhere. It would be no identifiable thing. The unfolding must continue; there’s no other way to become what the caterpillar was hatched to become.
Isn’t Jesus inviting us, by passing through our nothingness, to a totally new life, to divine life?