Be honest…have you ever just wanted to throw someone off a cliff? Did the mere thought bring you secret delight? A smile to your face? Was it something they said to you? Something they did? The way they looked? Even if you do not literally want to throw someone off a cliff (thereby murdering them), did you perhaps want to symbolically throw them off the cliff? Shut them down? Make them go away?
Perhaps a few have answered “Yes” to one or all the questions posed above. The news here is both good and bad since the commonly accepted wisdom of our day tells us to pay close attention to the people, behaviours, and situations that resonate strongly with us because they present an opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth. You know what I mean…these are the situations which immediately evoke strong feelings/emotions that seem to have a powerful energy of their own. Think of a person or situation that really causes you to get your back up or maybe even makes you defensive and irrational. Those feelings right there. The good feelings are important too, but I understand we are supposed to be especially attentive to the arousal of negative feelings/emotions like anger, jealousy, insecurity, or superiority because those places are where fear resides.
It is amazingly simple for me to write that but as it turns out, it is far easier to blame others for how I am feeling than to accept an invitation to inner transformation…especially when I encounter situations or people who make me uncomfortable because they challenge how I view the world.
I know this about myself, and I also know that exactly what Jesus wanted for me was the type of inner transformation that can only occur through love, so you can see my predicament. It is fine for me to say “I will never again, for as long as I live, go down the Kamikaze at Magic Mountain because I am fearful of it,” but it is somehow less fine for me to say “What you said or did has left me feeling deeply unsettled and destabilized so I am fearful of it.” Sometimes what Jesus asks of me involves work I do not want to spend my precious time on, especially with the iPad whispering my name, luring me with the promise of social media, Candy Crush and Words with Friends. Especially when the work involves inner transformation or inner change.
If Jesus was among us teaching in 2019, would we react differently than the murderous Nazarene mob who drove him to the hill brow in this weekend’s gospel reading from Luke? This reading always amuses me because the crowd appears fickle in a grandiose way, not to mention volatile; at one moment loving what Jesus said to them and in the next breath performing a complete 180, so enraged by Jesus’ words that they proceeded to chase after him intent on murdering him. In my imagination they brandish torches, pitchforks, and scythes like a scene reminiscent of the 1931 version of Frankenstein. “Trust the angry mob with scythes and pitchforks,” said no one, ever.
In my experience operating from a space of fear keeps me from flourishing, and is particularly harmful to a living, developing faith. The hard work is recognizing the diverse ways fear presents itself, but this work can be empowering, and may help to avoid dramatic cliff-tossing scenarios in scenic Nazareth.
Office of Youth Faith Development, Archdiocese of Moncton