Jesus sounds so confident in this gospel. He is God’s Messiah, the one who will initiate the loving human community God has always wanted for the world. He is going to end injustice, bring about peace and make human suffering a thing of the past. What a wonderful vision. What a life to look forward to. What a gift to make of one’s self! Then things begin to fall apart.
Gone is the confident Jesus of the early days when, nearing the end of his career, he cries in frustration and grief over Jerusalem, the center of his people and his faith, for refusing to listen to his message (Lk 19:41). How different from confidence of his early days is the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane where begs his disciples to pray with him as he asks God to find a way for him to avoid his inevitable execution (Lk 22: 39).
Last week I listened to President Obama’s inaugural address and I saw the movie Lincoln. A central theme in both was the realization that change comes as people change. Usually that is slowly. We have to accept our responsibility to make things better even though we can’t make things perfect. It is a realization at once troubling, humbling and liberating.
Those of us who read these thoughts do our best to cooperate with God’s loving service to the world as best we can understand it. Sometimes we see results. Often we don’t. It’s difficult to keep going when we can’t point to sure progress nor glimpse the goals for which we long. It helps if we realize that even Jesus discovered that others would have to carry on his work – even if the full realization of this came only after his resurrection.
The life of faith is to do what we can, to take joy in the work and to thank God for the opportunity. It’s an act of faith.