The power of Jesus’ mystical poetry
A Reflection for Thursday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come,
Jesus said in reply,
“The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed,
and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’
For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”
The kingdom is among you! The kingdom is within you!
Then he said to his disciples,
“The days will come when you will long to see
one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.
There will be those who will say to you,
‘Look, there he is,’ or ‘Look, here he is.’
Do not go off, do not run in pursuit.
For just as lightning flashes
and lights up the sky from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in his day.
But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation.” (Lk 17:20-25)
Jesus is mysterious, he is poetic, he is not easily categorized or understood. Sometimes Jesus makes his words, stories and analogies clear as a bell: the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Good Shepherd. This is what God is like. This is the goodness we ought to pursue.
And sometimes Jesus uses rhetorical sleights of hand to describe the Lord. The Son of Man will flash like lightning in the sky.
Jesus does not make sense. Jesus makes a thousand kinds of sense.
He is not entirely unlike Socrates. The Socratic method—the original one, done by the man himself—was to toss question after question after question at his “interlocutors.” These were the wise men of Athens who ceaselessly interrogated Socrates, and who were in turn interrogated by him. What do you know? he asks them. How do you know it? Where did what you know come from? And where did the knowledge behind that knowledge come from? So many questions that eventually he leads them into a state called aporia. Confusion. Not knowing. Everything they thought they knew has been rendered a mystery. The wisest men of Athens are left speechless.
And so Jesus, in his own way, with his own poetry, renders us into sheer confusion. Where is the kingdom of God, Jesus? The kingdom of God is here. Really? What does that mean? Look for it. Keep your eyes peeled. It is not in the places you think it is. You assume you know where the kingdom is, where God plants himself, and you do not.
Every tidy theological home you nestled yourself into I will rip into shreds. The God you thought you knew, the one whose might was unquestioned, whose ways and means you had fixed in your sights as clear as day: The Messiah of that God will be killed by his people.
And the point of it all? Sometimes the point is that there is not always a clear point. The very fact that God lets his son die at the hands of terrible men is still horrifying and bewildering to us. We still live in aporia.
And yet we listen to the words. We hear their sounds. Jesus tells us stunning remarkable things that capture the mind. What does it mean, this lightning flashing in the sky?
Sometimes it is enough to be with the fascinating mystical poet and just say…yes, I hear you. I like listening to you. I don’t always know exactly what you’re saying, or why, but I just know I want to keep being with you, Jesus, so I can hear more.