‘Looking for loopholes’
25 May 2018
Famed American comedian WC Fields was noted for his hostility to Christianity. A friend came to visit him in hospital late in his life and was amazed to find him reading the Bible. He explained that he was “Just looking for loopholes.”
During the Russian Civil War, a group of Christians were secretly gathered in a basement for prayer. A Red Army soldier burst in. “It is illegal for Christians to pray together. Non-believers may leave, Christians are under arrest!” Some of the congregation slipped out. The soldier sat down. “I am a Christian,” he said, “I wanted to know who else was.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus explicitly, clearly, and decisively condemns divorce and remarriage. This is both unacceptable to our increasingly authoritarian culture and difficult to every one of us reading his words. Some, perhaps with no fault of their own, have been abandoned by their spouse; and everyone else knows close friends or family members who have divorced and, at least in the secular sense, remarried. We Australian Catholics are under enormous pressure to ‘find’ loopholes. Others claim to have found ways to ‘contextualise’ (abandon) Jesus’ plain meaning.
In the Russian Revolution story, the true believers stayed because no matter what others threatened, they knew that Jesus’ words are LIFE. In Chapter 6 of John’s gospel, Jesus is so popular that the crowds wanted to make him king. At this point, he claims to be the bread of life. The crowds are shocked and “After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.” However, Peter declares “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
For a long time our culture, like the crowd, has been prepared to follow along with Jesus, perhaps not listening too closely to what he has been saying. Now he is unacceptable. Will we look for loopholes or, if necessary, go underground?