Thursday in the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Eccl 1:2-11; Lk 9:7-9
There is a curious sound heard on university campuses these days: the voices of a growing number of faculty members crying “Foul!” “No fair!” But the real surprise is at whom this charge is leveled: not police, not the government, not university administrators. This accusation is being made by faculty members against students. In an interesting reversal of roles, teachers today find themselves more and more strictly accountable to students for what they say in class, and even for what students think they heard them say in class. Specifically, young people today are identifying what they call instances of “micro-aggression”: a word, an image, a story, a casual joke, any bit of speech that might be construed as denigrating or excluding another person. Especially challenging is the task of teachers responsible
for imparting Christian doctrine. Quite apart from the relationship this doctrinal content may have with revealed truth, if the teacher’s words strike a student as an instance of micro-aggression, the teacher may be held accountable, and even silenced, with the result that teachers are beginning to complain the exercise of free speech in the classroom is threatened.
It is an interesting and thought provoking problem: this idea that the proclamation of the good news of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death, might, to a sincere person, be experienced as an act of aggression. Is this a completely new phenomenon? Have we seen this before? One cannot but marvel how in today’s gospel, Herod, a powerful head of state, is perplexed and unhinged by hearing Jesus speak. Herod is a king. How is it that he is disconcerted and troubled by the words of a nobody from Nazareth? “I be-headed John”, Herod says, “Who is this man?” I wonder if Herod’s question is the answer to how the good news proclaimed by Jesus Christ can be experienced as an act of aggression, it is because it is the truth. We are bound by the truth; our freedom is conditioned by that truth of which we are not the authors and which we cannot change. More importantly, Jesus proclaims that it matters less what the truth is than who,finally, we believe is authorized to speak the truth, and Jesus himself tells us who is authorized. Jesus tells Herod and any college student willing to listen, exactly who he is. Jesus does not say: “What I teach you is the truth.” Jesus teaches that truth, is a person. Jesus says: “I am the Truth.”