In today’s gospel there is one word that caught my attention. It says that some people “ridiculed” Jesus.
Has anyone ever ridiculed you? Made fun of you? Made fun of your dreams? Mocked your plans? Told you that you are not smart enough to do something?
There is a helpful kind of criticism from people who love us. And then there is ridicule. What did Jesus do about the ridicule? He ignored it. He ignored it.
One day a young man, age 22, was fired from a Missouri newspaper. He was criticized as “not being creative enough.” That young man was Walt Disney. He went on to win 32 Academy Awards. I guess he ignored the criticism.
There was another young man trying to get into show business who was criticized as “slightly bald and can dance a little.” That was Fred Astaire. He went on to become one of the most influential dancers in film and TV. I guess he ignored the criticism.
There was a band that auditioned for a recording compact with Decca records. They were rejected. The personnel said, “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is onthe way out.” That was 1962. The band was the Beatles. I guess they ignored the criticism.
There was a young aspiring actor from the Bahamas. After his first audition, he was criticized by the casting director, who told him,“Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” That aspiring actor was Sidney Poitier. He became the first black to win an Oscar for best actor. Apparently he ignored the criticism.
Aristotle said, “The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”
Jesus was bound to be criticized because he chose to do something, say something, be something. Indeed he was more than ridiculed. He was spit upon, and crowned with thorns.
How did Jesus handle all this negative assault?
Well, for one, he expected it. He knew the Scriptures. He knew how the Old Testament prophets were treated. He knew what he was up against and he was prepared to deal with it.
Secondly, he knew who he was. At his baptism in the Jordan the voice from the cloud proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” No matter what harsh names anyone would call him, he knew he was the Beloved of his Father. That realization stiffened his backbone for any opposition.
Thirdly, Jesus also knew what he was supposed to do -- serve his Father. No criticism, no negativity, no objections would stop him. He was focused. He was not concerned about pleasing anyone else.
What are the lessons for us?
Well, for one, we too need to expect criticism, expect it and be preparedfor it. When we stand up for truth, strive for justice, work to protect life, show compassion for the immigrant, we need to be prepared for ridicule.
People will say,
“Who do you think you are?
That’s a dumb idea.
You can’t do that.
It’s not your responsibility.”
Like Jesus, we need to ignore all such remarks. Otherwise we end up going through life doing nothing, saying nothing, being nothing.
Secondly, we need to know who we are. At our baptism, the words apply to us also: “This is my beloved, adopted, son/daughter in whom I am well pleased.” By baptism, each of us becomes a beloved of God. That realization stiffens our backbone for any opposition.
Thirdly, we need to be committed to doing God’s will. “Thykingdom come, thywill be done.” Mass is where we say, “Into your hands, Father, I commend my life.” “I am here to serve you.” Like Jesus, we are focused. No ridicule will deter us.
There is a fourth lesson. We need to ignore self-ridicule, negative self-talk. Words like, “I can’t.” “I’m no good.” “I’ll fail.” “Who am I to do this?”
Moses was asked by God to go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of slavery. Moses said, “Who am I to dothis? The Lord answered, “I will be with you.” (Cf. Exodus 3:11-12)
Jeremiah was asked to be a prophet. He said, “Lord, I am only ayouth. I do not know how to speak.”The Lord answered, “I am with you.”(Cf. Jeremiah 1:4-8)
Gideon was asked to deliver God’s people from harm. "Pardon me, my Lord," Gideon replied,"but how can I save your people? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." The Lord replied, “I willbe with you.”(Cf. Judges, 6:15-16)
In today’s gospel, Jesus was with the synagogue official and his daughter. Jesus raised the dead child to life. That was a physical death.
There are other kinds of death.
Many dreamshave died because of ridicule.
Many hopeshave been buried by ridicule.
Many great deedshave never come to life because of the fear of ridicule.
As follows of Jesus, we can ignore ridicule.
We can resurrect big dreams,
We can bring to life greathopes,
We can live to do great deeds,
…because the Lord is with us...right here…right now.