“A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household! “So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.
Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Group thinking and fear prompted Joseph’s brothers to presume the worst in their brother: “Joseph’s brothers became fearful and thought, ‘Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us and now plans to pay us back in full for all the wrong we did him!’”
How often has this dynamic played out in history, in everyday news, in my local community, in my own heart?
French historian and philosopher René Girard developed a concept of mimetic theory, a repeating social cycle whereby a group identifies a scapegoat to expel or exterminate and in so doing feels cleansed. Girardian interpreter Gil Baile considers mimetic theory from a Christian perspective and maintains that the Cross broke this endless cycle of socially condoned violence and provides a new way forward for humanity.
Similarly, St. Ignatius encourages us to put best interpretations on the words and actions of others, and today’s Gospel tells us to put away fear and not be demure about our witness: “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
How can we do this with authenticity?
Gil Baile suggests, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
—John Sealey is the provincial assistant for social and international ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Jesuit provinces.
Lord, soften the hard edge of our heart so we can put the best interpretations on the words and actions of others. Help us to hit the pause button when we feel compelled to assume a less than charitable reason for another’s motive. Help us to be as generous with others as we are with ourselves when attributing a motive to our own behavior. Let mercy and forgiveness blend with honesty and accountability. Let your Spirit grant us this wisdom as we “speak in the light…and proclaim on the housetops.”
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!