During the last few weeks, I fell frequently and had to use the support of a cane. I became attached and dependent on the cane. It also required all my concentration and limited my output. The cane was helpful but also habit forming. It also drew attention and sympathetic friends and even strangers were ready to assist me. I became apprehensive and it gave we something to think about for the New Year.
Jesus was tired, stopped at a well and waited for someone that could draw some water. A Samaritan woman came and he asked her for a drink and she refused (Jn.4: 4-10). I remember being a refugee on a train packed like sardines and very thirsty. The train stopped briefly and father too got off to get some water and barely managed to get back on the moving train with help from outreached arms pulling him up. Apparently he was being watched and assisted in his effort. Without their help father would had to follow us on another day with a later train. He returned with a pail of water. How thankful we were, especially mothers and their infants for a drink.
Are we getting tired of this endless harping on how bad things are? Is there no more goodness anywhere in this once magnificent land? Have our leaders past and present been that bad? Are they really responsible for the conditions we have managed to put ourselves in? And are our conditions intolerable? Just look who is complaining and who is being bailed out?
Jesus told his disciples before He was crucified: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lays down his life for hid friends" (Jn.15: 13). The Greek is much stronger: "No one has greater love than the one that sacrifices his soul for his friends." The text implies that such a friend will go to hell to save his friends. These were the strongest words Jesus spoke and they indicate how important the soul of a human being is in the eyes of God. Jesus set the example himself and His sacrifice became the heart of Christianity. Christians are called upon to give their lives and not take lives (Mt.16: 24-28).
Jesus once said, "he who is not scandalized because of me, is blessed"(Mt.11: 6). Our English versions have "not offended in me" or "not fall away because of me." John the Baptist may have been offended and may have lost faith in Jesus; but the issue may have been much more serious. It seems to me that John felt he was being ridiculed and ashamed of a Messiah that was not delivering him from jail. He felt that he was being scandalized because he had great hope in Jesus. John had become confused and uneasy to be identified with Jesus.
Our English translation has Jesus tell his disciples: "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt.5: 48). It is a bit strong for ordinary human beings. The two Greek words "teleioi and teleios" are much milder. Martin Luther used the concept of completeness or fullness. The Greek does not mean that man can be as perfect as God is, rather it means that man can lead a whole or complete life that is acceptable to God. Man completes himself in what he does for God. He cannot serve God with his spirit and not with his body. Unfortunately, the body cannot keep up with the spirit.