Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
(Revelation 10:8-11; Luke 19:45-48)
One day in 1979 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Laureate, gave a talk at Harvard University. People were prepared to hear him describe the atrocities of the Soviet Union. They were not expecting a moral critique of western society. But by then Solzhenitsyn had lived in the United States a number of years and was not edified by all that he saw. He did not equate the American system with the dishonesty and corruption of the Soviet Union. But, he said, America for a long time had lost a core of virtue. In place of justice and courage the United States has given itself to materialism, consumerism, and radical individualism. Solzhenitsyn’s message has the sweet-bitter flavor of the scroll eaten by the seer in today’s first reading and the actions of Jesus in the gospel.
Eating a scroll symbolizes a speaker’s assimilating a message so that it becomes part of him. It is sweet on the tongue as it means learning God’s will. But it is bitter when it settles in the stomach because it demands reform that people resist. This is actually what takes place in the gospel passage. Jesus, acting on God’s word, cleanses the Temple of venal commercialism. Many people praise him for such courage. The religious leaders meanwhile want to kill him for it. Jesus knows this and so prepares himself for suffering.
We are being called to assimilate the word of God and to live it in the world. It will both thrill and cost us. We will find satisfaction in knowing that we are doing God’s work. At the same time we will hear of cynics judging us as we ask others to cooperate in our service. We must not shrink from the task. For love of God and other human beings we have to put into practice the values that Christ has taught.