“It will lead to your testimony…for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking.” Luke 21:5-19.
During this year, we have been on a spiritual journey with Jesus from his teaching of the Beatitudes in Luke 6 to the temple in Jerusalem, where this particular passage takes place in Luke 21.
It’s in this passage, just before the Last Supper, that Jesus speaks about testimony and how his people will be challenged, even with their lives, and how they will need the words and wisdom to carry out his mission.
Let’s consider two themes today, that of testimony and wisdom.
Several years ago, I received in the mail a plain white business letter with no forwarding address, so I did not know the exact sender of the message. Inside there was a reprint of an article about public speaking; how those who took a particular course would improve their speaking skills.
More than just a reprint, on the piece of paper, there was a post-it note, with the handwritten comment: “Mike, try it! L.S.”
Um. “Mike, try it?” What could this cryptic correspondence mean? Who is “L.S?” Was someone in my parish or St. Mary’s College be telling me something about my need for a public speaking course?
Ok, people complain, they can’t hear me, and please speak louder! Others have written telling me that I have an underlying political message. Really?
“Mike, try it! L.S.” Or it could be that it has something to do with my college teaching? A cloud of self-doubt descended on me for days. How could a little item like this set me off? So I placed the letter on my desk, hoping that the mysterious “L.S.” would come forward.
Months later, reading an article from the Wall Street Journal, I discovered the source of the mysterious message. The correspondence from “L.S.” – was an advertisement, from a highly sophisticated nation-wide marketing campaign for professionals, and maybe preachers, to buy into a Dale Carnegie type-speaking program. God knows we need it!
And yes, the post-it with the name and slogan “Try it! L.S.” had been individualized for each of the thousands upon thousands of recipients who were sent the same advertisement.
Psychologists tell us that it’s normal to have a fear of flying, or the fear of surgery, or the fear of speaking in public.
But it’s kind of public speaking where you speak up for justice that can get you into trouble. In the case of the disciples and followers of Jesus, it’s the fear of speaking up that is on their minds in today’s gospel.
It’s the truth and consequences of their deeply held belief in Christ. In the early Church, testimony meant martyrdom.
In the moments before Jesus’s passion and death, he told them they would speak, but they would be given wisdom, especially when speaking up for the poor, for the oppressed, for justice, and those in need.
In his day, Jesus was a Jew speaking from within his tradition with moral precepts that respect the sanctity of everyday life, the repair of a broken world, with benevolence and charity, with love of neighbor, and honor for God’s awe and holiness.
The underlying resonance of these troubled and apocalyptic writings, including Luke’s gospel, authored some 70 years after the time of Christ, was the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in the so-called “Roman War against the Jews.” Every Jew felt this peril, and thousands upon thousands of Jews died.
In effect, this newly formed band of Christians were Jews who saw in Jesus, the “new temple” whose death and life would not pass away; rather his “invisible kingdom of the heart” was found not in a building or place, instead of in the moral lives and actions of people of faith.
Today, Jesus is saying – in so many words: “Mike, try it!” Speak up for these precious moral values that need a voice in our present day.
Pope Francis reflected on the teaching wisdom of Jesus, and especially the Beatitudes found in Luke’s gospel, by taking the unusual step to confront the troubles of our age with this mediation. Pope Francis writes:
- Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from the heart.
- Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.
- Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.
- Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
- Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
- Blessed are those who work for full communion among Christians.
These words of Pope Francis help each of us to forge higher bonds of friendship and to give testimony in our much troubled time, where we too are encouraged: “Mike, try it!”
Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.