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    • #2081
      Forgiving Victim

      3.10 Reading for mercy

      When Jesus tells the Pharisees “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’”, he is giving a reading lesson: “Go and sit under this word, and allow it to become the interpretative key to your approach to your fellow human beings.”

      Receiving a new story

      Share ways in which you have noticed the content, questions or insights from the previous Module showing up in your lives.

      The road with Jesus

      Share your thoughts about the following questions from the point of view of the role you have chosen to play:

      • Which of the other people on the list would your character feel most comfortable with?
      • Which of the other people would arouse feelings of anger or resentment? Please explain why.
      • Are there people on the list who arouse feelings of disgust? Why?
      • How might the others interact with you based on what they think they know about you and your situation? Might there be someone who shows resentment or disgust towards you? Why?
      • How do you feel about Jesus?

      Food for thought

      • In the story from Luke of the woman bent over for 18 years, when the synagogue leaders react angrily to Jesus healing the women, Jesus accuses them of cherishing their anger.
        • Why would someone cherish their anger?
        • What benefits are derived from doing so?
        • Have you ever cherished your anger?
      • Imagine how the crowd following Jesus felt about Zacchaeus when Jesus chooses to go to his house. Have you ever felt similarly, as if someone underserving of attention was singled out for praise?
        • Does Jesus’ interaction with Zacchaeus help you interpret your reaction?

      Wrap-up question

      • What are some mundane, everyday examples of times when you have felt angry or resentful towards others?
      • What would change if mercy was the key to our approach to others?


    • #5967
      Tony Z

      I’m seeing these stories in a different way. Before, I would have more likely dismissed the Luke story of the woman healed who had been bent over for 18 years as Luke’s attempt to impress the reader with an account of Jesus’s miracle working. But they way James explicates it, the point of the story is not to establish Jesus as an authority to look up to, or to look down on, but as a figure who unveils the logic of how the crowd scapegoats or casts out outsiders (this unveiling is going on in the Zacchaeus story, too). I suppose my previous dismissal treated Luke’s Jesus the way the synagogue leaders in Luke’s own story tried to treat him! I can see now that the story is meant to set the reader free, like Luke’s Jesus does the woman healed. I hadn’t paid so much attention to the reactivity of the crowd to Jesus before, which is an essential part of each of the stories.

      • #5969

        Yes, indeed Tony. James tells us that we have a choice; we can interpret Luke’s account of Jesus actions in such a way as to create mercy, or in such a way as to create sacrifice. James has an extraordinary way of making us realise that Jesus’s words and actions amount to Him offering Himself as the interpretative principle for reading the Scriptures and, for our way of living.

    • #46823
      Rich Paxson

      In the Discussion Forum of this unit, share ways in which you have noticed the content, questions or insights from the previous session showing up in your lives?

      Sheelah, thank you for your kind words. I’m getting back to ‘life as usual’ after the stent procedure. ‘Life as usual,’ however, always seems to go off in many different directions at once, like T. S. Eliot’s “ribbon roads” metaphor in ‘Choruses From the Rock.’ However, I know the vision for this life comes alive only as I remember Jesus’s presence at its center.

      The Forgiving Victim course disciplines me to return my gaze toward Jesus’s loving presence. And in that turning, I find the freedom and strength to grow into a living conduit of His presence. Jesus’s forgiving companionship is not just wishful thinking but reality incarnated in the chaos, retribution, and violence of daily life. Foolishly like a child, however, I look away from my center thinking Jesus disappears if I can’t see him. But no head-turning nor any other impediment can cut off God’s present and alive love in my life.

      • #46824

        So glad to know that you are recovering well Rich. I don’t know if you follow the “Jesus the Forgiving Victim” Facebook which I monitor, as apropos of your latest post, I added something today which I found very touching. Perhaps you will too, so I include it.

        The mystics of all the great religions, along with classic literature like Homer’s Odyssey, intuited that life was a journey involving completion of a first half and transition to a second half, sometimes called “a further journey.” Yet most of us were given the impression that life was a matter of learning and obeying the rules; and those who obeyed them won. Many of our pastoral problems and the foundational alienation from religion in Europe and North America stems from the lack of initiation and depth. Mainline Christianity does not seem to be giving people access to God, to the soul, or to the joy and freedom promised in the Scriptures. Christianity is not doing its primary job well–moving people from the first to the second half of life.
        At some point along the journey, if you’re honest and open, you will realize there’s more to life. This experience is hardly inviting or encouraging, and so many of us turn back. In “The Inferno: Canto 1,” The Divine Comedy, Dante describes the human experience: “In the middle of life, I found myself in a dark wood.” If you’re letting life happen to you, you will be led to the dark wood where you have to ask: “What does it all mean? Why am I doing this? Why don’t I feel fully alive or that my life has meaning? What am I doing wrong?” Most of us have bouts of immense self-doubt and even sometimes self-hatred at this point.
        This is why Jesus says, “By faith you will be saved” (Luke 7:50, 18:42). It is only by a foundational trust in the midst of suffering, some ability to bear darkness and uncertainty, and learning to be comfortable with paradox and mystery, that you move from the first half of life to the second half.
        Novelist Robertson Davies writes, “One always learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence.” The word innocent comes from the Latin for unwounded or not harmed. The innocent one hasn’t yet learned from his or her wounds, and therefore doesn’t know his or her full reality yet. Human life only develops in the shadowlands, never inside of pure light or total darkness.
        When you’ve stumbled–and the guilt, loneliness, and fear come to assault you–if you don’t have at least one good friend, or if you have not developed a prayer life where you know how to find yourself in God instead of in your own feelings, you will simply retrench and reassert your correctness. You’ll learn nothing and remain in the first half of life, maintaining your container and supposed identity. This explains why most people are stuck in the first half of life. This is especially true for people who are highly successful or have been able to avoid all suffering. If you only move from success to success, or you never live in solidarity with the suffering of others, you normally know very little about your own soul.

        Richard Rohr Daily Meditations

    • #46825
      Rich Paxson

      Sheelah, thank you so much for sharing Richard Rohr’s meditation. His quotation from Dante’s Inferno and from Jesus resonated with me, ” By faith you will be saved.” Here at Forgiving Victim I am learning about the gift of faith in the midst of my woundedness. I think my response to this lesson’s Discussion Question reflects a lot of ‘dark wood’, but also the discoverable lightness of God’s laying-on of His Healing Hand.
      “Imagine that your character is among a crowd of people who have been following Jesus. The group includes many characters as well as Jesus himself. You have been listening to Jesus’s teachings and been witness to a healing miracle. Now share your thoughts from the role you have chosen to play.”
      I am a poor man. I try to be good, to treat the people I know fairly. I attend synagogue when I can, but I don’t always make it. Getting to synagogue is hard, so when I do make it, I feel I deserve some credit just for being there. I’m going to tell you about the bizarre side-show we had at synagogue last Saturday.

      First of all, I made it to synagogue last Saturday. That’s good, but there was a different Rabbi teaching – what a bummer! When I do make it to synagogue, I want the usual prayers, not something new, especially not from someone I’ve never seen before who brought a whole bunch of strangers with him. They called them Jesus Groupies. I’d heard about these Jesus Groupies. They’re no good, let me tell you! No good at all. They’re just a bunch of losers and leeches living off the hard work of the rest of us. Jesus and the rest of his crowd should be kept out of synagogue because their kind defiles its holiness. They’re no good folks, no good at all. Let me tell you!

      OK, so here’s the ‘big deal’ that happened last Saturday in synagogue. A bent-over, scolding, and vicious woman walked up to where Jesus was talking. No reason, she just ‘cripped’ up there. So he stopped talking to us and began talking to her. Like, we’re not here? I thought. Then he tells her she’s healed, and she stands up straight. What a joke! Are we supposed to believe this? Give me a break!

      And yet, could I have been healed too? Could I have walked up there and asked Jesus to heal the sores on my body? The ones I never talk about that are so bad they barely let me sit down to rest? Ah, I don’t think so. And yet, this Jesus, if only I … … …

      But, our rabbi put him in his place. He told Jesus that he should not do this kind of nonsense on the Sabbath. He’s got six days in the week for his charades. He needs to keep them away from the Sabbath and the synagogue. It’s a holy day, for crying out loud. Enough! And these morons Jesus drags around after him, they hooted and hollered when the fake old lady stood up. They’re a dirty, disgusting bunch of stupid idiots. We need to keep them out of our synagogue. From now on we should just let the local people, people we know and trust, into our synagogue. That means no tax collectors! All they do is steal our money. We don’t need their kind in our synagogue. We’re the ones trying to do what’s right; we’re the ones trying to follow God’s holy laws – anyway, most of the time.

      Jesus finished his ‘show’, and the whole rotten crowd pushed their way out of the building almost knocking me over. Good riddance, that’s what I say. They’re just a bunch of ungrateful whores and lepers and phony rich people who don’t give a damn about us workers. It’s our taxes that keep the Romans off their backs. Do I ever hear one word of thanks from a bunch like that? No way. The rabbis should have locked up the pack of them. I hope we never see that Jesus and his ilk in our synagogue again!

      Editorially speaking, I enjoyed writing this. The takeaway message emerged from my character’s longing, emerged from within the angst of an unquenchable thirst for personal healing:

      “And yet, could I have been healed? Could I have walked up there and asked Jesus to heal me? Ah, I don’t think so. And yet, this Jesus, if only … … …”

    • #46844

      I very much enjoyed your “poor man” and his attendance at the Synagogue Rich! How often have we all felt like this, or heard it from others in our circle. I think that Jesus is again interpreting the Scriptures for us and again becomes the host rather than the guest at the home of Zacchaeus. He is, again, the living interpretation of the text. He gives us four absolutely essential ways in which we may achieve self healing by choosing mercy over sacrifice. These are:
      a) Whenever you interpret anything, you can read it two ways: in such a way that your interpretation creates mercy, and in such a way that it creates sacrifice.
      b) When Jesus tells the Pharisees “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice’”, he is giving a reading lesson: “Go and sit under this word, and allow it to become the interpretative key to your approach to your fellow human beings.”
      c) Sacrifice is not only what goes on in the Temple, but the act of creating goodness over against others who are then judged, condemned as guilty and treated as sinners.
      d) “Learning what this means” is not about getting the rules right, but about taking responsibility for your interpretation.

    • #46845
      Rich Paxson

      Sheelah, I’m glad you liked my ‘poor man’ reflection. It wrote itself reminding me how often I am that ‘poor man’ longing for redemption but afraid to ask.
      In the 1990s I put an Episcopal Church bumper sticker on my truck’s rear bumper. In addition to the Church logo, the bumper sticker said: “Share God’s Love Today.” I would forget the bumper sticker was there until after I made some particularly aggressive driving maneuver! In today’s digitally enabled world, a ‘smart bumper sticker’ could display my “Angry Denials of God’s Love Today = ??? times.”
      Why would someone cherish anger? Because it covers over the responsibility to learn (as you wrote) that Jesus is the interpretive key “… to your approach to your fellow human beings.”
      Anger is secondary. First, we feel – fear, or loneliness, or sadness, or significant loss; feelings one may perceive as untenable and then deny by projecting them onto another person, or a human condition, or perhaps a cultural taboo turning primary emotional energy into anger, perhaps even rage. The subconscious mind implements the projection freeing the conscious mind to cherish the arrangement, which for a time the individual may experience as freedom from the intolerable.

    • #46849

      Your summing up of the reasons for our anger seems very accurate, Rich. A psychiatrist friend once told me many years ago that anger is a good friend, as it informs us that something is terribly wrong. This does not necessarily help in restraining us from projecting it onto others as you say! True self knowledge is a long, hard road to hoe.

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