[Homily: Luke 7:11-17, Sept 16, 2014]
One can meditate everyday for life on the statement Jesus made, “I come to bring life, and to bring it to the full” (Jn 10:10). It is Jesus’ mission statement. For us who are his followers, it is also ours.
Especially for those of us who are fortunate enough to be blessed with the gift of education, or the even greater gift of being part of the educational ministry, this mission statement has to define the core of educated or educational ministry: that we are missioned to the “fullness of life.” We must be deeply committed to understanding what it means in its entirety, but also to practicing what it entails in integrity. The fullness of life is actual not only in an afterlife, but already actualized in this life seeking fullness.
This mission of Jesus – of life to the full – is underscored in today’s Gospel narrative concerning Jesus and the widow in front of the city of Nain. He has come not only to lead us to the fullness of life, but to restore life – especially to such as this widow whose deceased was her only son. Jesus special focus in his mission, his preferential option, was his special care for the anawim – those in special need of the Lord’s care and guidance: the widows, the abject poor, the oppressed, the outcaste.
In the light of God’s word today, I believe it must be possible to say: Jesus’s mission must be felt not only 2000-plus years ago when Jesus walked the earth. It must be experienced and felt today in our lives and the lives of those who are most suffering and most desperate on our planet. This, I believe, would include the Middle East, where Christians, Yazidi, Sunnis, Shias and Kurds are now being scourged by the ISIS. Jesus’ message of the “fullness of life” must be brought to bear against so much inhumanity, so much brutality, so much loss of life.
On the one hand, this would entail that the world community (and not only the US and its allies) come together to pursue social justice in the area – against those who are entrenched in political and economic power built on the oppression of the poor and marginalized, against those who are interested primarily in the area’s oil and take any means, no matter how illegitimate or sinful, to pursue those interests, against those who diminish human life in instrumentalizing religious symbols and sentiments towards enhancing the private interests of certain families and clans in power.
On the other hand, it would entail encountering again the living compassionate God – and letting that encounter re-shape our world. This requires resisting a temptation towards fundamentalism, a temptation which peoples of all religion must face in the interest of authentic religion. Fundamentalism begins when a liberality or laxity in religious doctrine is responded to by a strident declaration of the “fundamental tenets” of faith. This stress on fundamentals of faith, once overstressed to the detriment of truth, becomes fundamentalism.
Fundamentalism responds to religion gone awry, and goes awry in another direction.
Fundamentalism is when convictions about truth “in fundamentals” fall short of truth itself. It is the truth of the comfort zone rather than the Cross of the truth.
Or, fundamentalism is when conviction about truth “in fundamentals” becomes a blinding crippling ideology that disrespects reality – a Procrustean bed.
Fundamentalism is what we all fall prey to when we insist on truth absolutely and fail further to seek truth.
Fundamentalism is what convinces we act with divine truth when we act in bedeviled inhumanity.
Thus, fundamentalism is an aberration of true religion which closes us to the “fullness of life” that the Lord comes to bring. Instead of mediating the generosity, magnanimity and fullness of life before God, it mediates narrowness, oversimplification, dogmatism, irrationality, violence and death through falsified religion.
As responsible Christians today, let us say yes to the call of Jesus to work with him in establishing his Kingdom – even already here on earth – where the mission is to bring life, and to bring life to the full. As once before the walls of Nain, and now before the walls of Mosul and Bagdad, but also before the hardened walls of our own hearts, let us walk with Jesus in his procession of life, and as he labors to restore life, and restores it to the full.