Saturday, September 30, 2017

Jesus hated borders

by José María Castillo (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Religión Digital
September 26, 2017

A border is the line that separates and divides one nation from another, one country from another, and often one culture from another. Therefore borders separate us, perhaps divide us, and often alienate us from one another. Hence, so often, borders make us oppose each other. It's inevitable.

You'll say I'm exaggerating the negative. It's possible. But no one can deny that history is full of peripeteia and unfortunate events related to what I've just pointed out.

That said, because of my professional formation (or deformation), when I see a problem or a situation like the one we're experiencing right now in Spain, in Europe and the world, I dip into the Gospel and ask myself, "Does Jesus of Nazareth teach me anything that will help guide me in what is happening?".

Jesus gave nationalist signals. When he sent his apostles to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, the first thing he told them was not to go to the pagans or to the Samaritan cities (Mt 10:5). And to the Canaanite woman who asked him for healing for her sick daughter, he said that he had only come for the lost sheep of Israel (Mt 15:24). Scholars of these stories look for explanations for these strange episodes. Because, among other things, we know very well that Jesus greatly valued the Samaritans (Lk 9:51-56, 10:30-35, 17:11-19; Jn 4). And it's that, apparently, in Jesus' mind the "lost sheep" were precisely among his people, in Israel. Hence his emphasis that the apostles attend first of all to those who are lost and astray. Jesus' mentality wasn't nationalist. Not at all. It was a humanitarian mentality.

So it draws one's attention that the first time, according to Luke's gospel, that Jesus went to his hometown (Nazareth), they asked him to do the reading in the synagogue. And nothing else occurred to him but to, when reading a text of the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2), just mention the "year of favor" and skip the "day of vengeance" bit. Which caused the confrontation (according to the most correct translation. J. Jeremias) of the people (Lk 4:22). And the worst was that, instead of calming his fellow citizens, he went on to say that God prefers strangers (a widow from Zarephath and a politician from Syria) (Lk 4:24-27) to his Nazareth nieghbors. That made the people furious and it was truly a miracle that they didn't shoot him down (Lk 4:28-30). Jesus hated borders to the point of risking his life to make it clear that he didn't support borders that separate and divide us.

But this isn't what's most striking. One of the most surprising things in the gospels is that the three most notable compliments Jesus gave about faith, he didn't give to his apostles or to his compatriots or his friends. He gave them to a Roman centurion (Mt 8:10), a Canaanite woman (Mt 15:28), and a Samaritan leper who came to thank Jesus, as opposed to the nine Jewish lepers who were just satisfied with fulfilling "their law" (Lk 17:11-19).

Jesus, on dying, "handed over the spirit" (Jn 19:30). Did he leave this life? Of course he did. But something much deeper: he "handed over" ("paradídomi") the "Spirit". For the 4th gospel, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, everything happened in that moment (H. U. Weidemann). And from that moment, which changed History, the myth of the Tower of Babel, the many languages, our divisions and inability to understand one another and live together as one and in peace, ended. It's the pinnacle of the Gospel. And if the God thing is good for anything, what good is it to us if each passing day it becomes more unbearable for us to live united together? Is it that Spain and Catalonia are more important than the Gospel of Jesus? From what we're seeing, for many Christians and quite a few priests, that's how it is. Or that's the impression they're giving.

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