The gospel for today can be a bit shocking. We see Jesus in a bit of a rage. He was disgusted with the way the religious authorities allowed the sacred space of the temple, the house of God, to be turned into market place for the selling of animals and the changing of money. Jesus takes it upon himself to clean up the temple and return it to what it is meant to be, a house of prayer and praise.
The final words of today’s gospel are interesting. We’re told that during his stay in Jerusalem many believed in him because of his miracles but Jesus knew them all and did not trust himself to them, he himself knew what was in the human spirit. He knew what was in the human spirit because that human spirit was in him. Scripture tells us that God sent his son to the world not to condemn the world but to embrace the world, to embrace the human condition. St. Paul insists that Jesus became as we all are and that he is capable of feeling our weaknesses because he too was tempted in every way that we are though he did not sin. Paul tells us that Jesus has been through temptation and so he is able to help others who are tempted.
In my first year in the seminary we had to study Greek. Our teacher came to class one day and told us he was reading one of the Greek Fathers of the Church who claimed that Jesus never laughed. Because he was God Jesus knew everything, nothing surprised him, and nothing caught him off guard. We say something ‘breaks us up’ when we are surprised by an event or a remark and we laugh. According to this Greek Father this never happened to Jesus, he was never broken up, nothing surprised him because he knew all that was going to happen. He never laughed. He was always in control because he was the Son of God. This was known as ‘High Christology.’ It is a theology that denies the human experiences of Jesus.
Maybe in our troubled prayers we are tempted to say to Jesus – you don’t know how it feels; you don’t know what it is like to be depressed, frightened, and confused. You don’t know what it is like to wonder if it is all worthwhile. You don’t know what it is like to be cheated on; you don’t know what it is like to struggle with sexuality; you don’t know what it is like to face the reality of cancer; you don’t know what it is like to realize your memory is failing bit by bit each day; you don’t know how it feels when you’ve spent years working for a degree and can’t get a job. You just don’t know.
But remember the old Negro hymn, No body knows the troubles I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus? This is true Christology. There is a saying, “nothing that is human is alien to Jesus.”
Jesus knew the love and loyalty of family. He experienced the joys of close friendships. He enjoyed a good meal, a wedding banquet. He knew the satisfaction of hard work. He marveled at the beauty of creation. He knew the value of peace and quiet and spending time in prayer. He rejoiced in his God given gifts, his ability to preach the word of God, his wonderful God given gifts to heal both body and soul and call people back from death itself. His prayer was,” I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth.’
Jesus grieved at the death of his father Joseph and other members of his extended family. He wept at the death of his dear friend Lazarus. He wept over the city of Jerusalem because it did not know, it did not appreciate who he was and what he offered them. Jesus was dismissed as a nobody from nowhere. He was frustrated at the inability of his closest friends to get what he was trying to say. He tired of the squabbles among his apostles as to who would be number one. In his final days he was stung by the betrayal of Judas, saddened by the denial of Peter and the scattering of those closest to him. He was falsely accused and unjustly convicted and sentenced to death. On the cross Jesus felt the absence of God in his time of struggle.
Nothing that is human is alien to Jesus.
Every Sunday we pray for those whose pains are known only to themselves – themselves and God. Each one of us brings to this Mass some pain, some concern, and some anxiety. There can be times when we are certain Jesus has no idea what we are going through. Not so. Nothing that is human is alien to Jesus. Hold on to that truth and trust in his great love for you and trust his promise, ‘I am with you always.”