Jesus lived in occupied Holy Land all his life. He does not refer to an occupation. The beauty of his ministry was in revealing God’s love, encouraging people to live good lives, questioning unjust religious authority and bringing comfort to God’s little ones, “the Anawim”.
He was not famous. St Paul, only eight years younger than Jesus, knew nothing about him, nor did Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor. Jesus seems to have achieved very little and his ministry lasted only a short while – between one and three years: there is only one Passover mentioned in the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, but three in John. Then he was crucified.
Jesus rose from the dead (he was raised from the dead. How would you express it? Both terms are used by the apostles). Nearly two thousand years now since all this occurred and the wonderful work has continued.
What didn’t Jesus say? He said nothing about living in an occupied homeland except “render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” nothing about the cruel invasion of that land by Joshua and Israel centuries before, when God apparently wanted the genocide of the people who lived there (do you believe that – God wanted genocide?), nor the hatred that invaded Palestinians felt for their conquerors.
Slavery seems not to have been a problem for Jesus, nor for St Paul, proud to be a Roman citizen and asking for prayers for lawful authority – butchers like the emperors Caligula and Nero.
Jesus said not a word about the Big Bang, the ages of creation, the vastness of the expanding universe, democracy, votes for women, trades unions. You laugh. Of course not. Jesus was human, of his own time.
Would people believe more easily in Jesus if he had explained freedom, justice, the evil of dictatorships, care for the earth, climate change? The Romans created the North African deserts and their soil erosion by the huge waste of natural resources on Roman luxury. The Church has also been slow down the ages in speaking for justice, freedom of peoples, sharing of earth’s resources. It continued to approve slavery and oppose democracy long after the world saw what social justice should be.
Jesus, we ask, should we care nothing about government but leave all power to the wealthy to be inherited and passed on? Should we care nothing about social justice so wickedly lacking in many parts of the world and, sadly, with the co-operation of various religious authorities who know how to butter their bread with the rich rather than go hungry with the poor?
We have longed for, and still do, prophetic voices in the Church – like those of Helder Camara, Oscar Romero, Pope Francis (as archbishop and pope) living with the poor rather than too many bishops and cardinals serving the rich. Where would Jesus live today? Would religious authority again want to crucify him for speaking out in love for justice and peace?
“Leave all responsibilities to us,” say the voices of political and monetary and Church powers, not wanting to be challenged or disturbed. “We must hide and minimise our failures,” say the oil companies and big industry of oil spills and terrible accidents. “Hide our thuggery and abuse of power,” say the politicians and rulers. “Hide our child and women abuse scandals,” say the Churches. And they all send their employees to the same courses on minimising and hiding scandal. The same courses for oil spills and child sex abuse? Mammon and Church oily unholy alliances, protecting the institution when we want the truth to be revealed.
On Tuesday we shall know more about the abuse in our country. Imagine Jesus hiding the truth of the abuse of children: “Better a millstone around their necks and be cast into the sea” he said of those who would hurt a child. We know much and we know we have to know much more.
Jesus’ beautiful message “Good News for the poor, setting the downtrodden free” is our message. If only we gave it and inspired others to share it.
May God guide us,
(8th Nov 2020)