This Sunday, we will be celebrating Bible Sunday. It is not only a time to get down to reading the bible, which I am sure some of you are already doing or have done. Maybe, there is something more, something deeper. Maybe, it is a time of reviewing what God has been doing throughout salvation history and how we are called to be a continuation of this story in our times and in our lives.
Jesus came to bring the reign of God to us. But what is this reign? 2000 years ago, among the Jews there was great oppression of the poor and weak, sick and widowed. The peasants who were mostly farmers were forced to give up the best of their crops each harvest to the government. The people had to pay high taxes and tithes and each family had to be extremely cautious to avoid being in debts and their lands taken over by the larger landowners. The Pharisees were also oppressing the people and putting huge burdens on them with all their rules and beliefs.
Jesus saw the sufferings of the people and He came to tell us who God the Father truly is. Merciful, compassionate, generous, and most of all, a God who hears the cry of the poor. And He has already been working among humankind to bring about a world in which God’s victory is arrived at in each person, each creature. Jose Pagola wrote in Jesus – An Historical Approximation: “Jesus did more than denounce whatever is opposed to God’s reign. He also recommended a way of living more in accordance with the Father’s will. He sought more than individual, personal conversion. He was trying to introduce in the towns and villages a new model of social behavior… He’s not talking about a miraculous intervention of God, but a change of behavior that can lead to a fuller and more secure life for all… Jesus was proclaiming the reign of God as a reality that requires the restoration of social justice.” Jesus Himself lived a life in which God reigns. This is how we are called to live too. And this is the work we must continue as disciples sent on this mission. Giving sight to the blind, setting the captives free…
There are many people around us who are suffering oppression of some kind. Many who might not even be aware that they are oppressed. They do not have sight. Even in our offices, workplaces, by superiors, fellow colleagues, etc. People who are pressured to work overtime either by an unrealistic workload or by peer pressure. The need to look as if one is so hardworking in order to maintain a good reputation as a worker. While all other aspects of life are affected as a result. Like it or not, we oppress ourselves too when we judge and belittle ourselves in the very subtle messages we send to ourselves unknowingly each day.
There are also many roles that we can play in helping the oppressed and working, like Jesus, to restore social justice. There are passive and active roles, and we have been given different gifts. In the Gospels, not much is being said about Mary during Jesus’s ministry but it is not hard to think of her as playing a very passive supportive role in all that Jesus was doing. Supporting Him in ways that would free Him up and help Him focus on His ministry. Mary of Magdala used her wealth from her business to fund the expenses of Jesus’s ministry, while at the same time, being herself very involved in what Jesus and His disciples were doing. Other women would have helped by doing the cooking and seeing to the chores. But these tasks were very much according to the gender culture of that time.
It is a good time this week, then, to discern – individually and collectively as a legion praesidium – how we are called specifically to restore social justice in our world, in our lives. Collectively, if not as a whole group, perhaps even in pairs. Have a grace-filled Bible Sunday.