Seek Mutual Understanding
Monday January 14, 2022
Sixth Week of Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saints Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, Bishop
by Fr. David M. Knight
Mark 8:11-13. Year II: James 1:1-11; Psalm 119:67-76.
Mark tells us some Pharisees came and “started a discussion” with Jesus,” asking him for a “sign from heaven.” But they were not really looking for a reason to believe in him. They just wanted “to test him.”
This is an attitude believers frequently encounter today, both from non-believers and from people who, like the Pharisees, are believers in God or even in a partial Christianity.
Is the last sentence an insult to Protestants? With no offense intended, it is just a fact that, in general, the Protestant churches can be defined as “Catholics minus” whatever Catholic doctrines or practices they do not accept. There are a few things some Protestants believe that Catholics do not, such as predestination, or being “saved” forever and irrevocably by a single act of faith. But Protestantism began as a “protest” against things in the Catholic Church that the reformers rejected (the papacy, Eucharist, priesthood, devotion to Mary or the saints, etc.), so each new group can be identified fairly accurately by how much in the old Church they reject. Naturally, if what some denomination rejects should be rejected, then they have authentic Christianity, and Catholicism is Christianity plus add-ons.
Today the more historical Protestant churches and the Catholics are trying to get together in mutual understanding. Mutual respect is already a fact. Fruitful dialogue is taking place. The problem is not with them. The problem is with those both inside and outside the Church who start discussions, not to arrive at understanding or truth, but just to “test” believers as the Pharisees “tested” Christ: not “scientifically,” to learn from the results, but only to prove him wrong. If one gives an answer they cannot refute, they do not accept the answer; they just change the question. This is just as true of the “Pharisee party” in the Catholic Church as it is of pseudo-intellectual scoffers and fundamentalists. Phariseeism is non-denominational!
Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.’” He knew there was no sign they would accept, just as there are no answers that a questioner will accept if the purpose of the question was only to prove the questioned wrong.
Jesus didn’t argue. He “left them, and… went across to the other side.” It is fearful when God himself shakes your dust from his feet.
Initiative: Evaluate questions. If people are sincere, explain. If not, just leave.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry